Consultation and Motivational Interviewing for Personal Trainers

Nov 16, 2018

By Tim Saye

Following on from our previous article on periodisation in today’s blog we dig into the first step to successful exercise programming.

Due to the lack of focus on client relations and marketing on most PT courses, many new personal trainers often don’t see the link between the consultation process and a successful exercise programme.

Without seeing how your first contact with a new lead translates into achievements down the line, you can’t guarantee results. Ultimately, that’s why your clients hire you. If they see progress, they will carry on training with you and paying you. The lack of in person contact makes the initial communication even more important for aspiring online personal trainers and fitness coaches.

5 Essential Elements of a Successful Consultation Process

#1. Response Time

It’s quite shocking how small business owners in any industry don’t see the importance of replying to enquiries as quickly as possible an important element of eventually making a sale. According to statistics, the first hour is crucial after receiving an enquiry, the odds of being able to contact a new lead after that decreases significantly, especially in the online space.

While it's challenging to respond to emails or calls immediately, every personal trainer should aim to reply as soon as possible.

#2. Managing Expectations

A person who just found your website or social media profile may not know who you are, what exactly you do, where you are based and what you charge. In most cases they would have done their research first, but assuming you need to answer simple questions at the start and making sure that basic information is available for the prospect is imperative.

If you don’t want to reply individually every time, you can create a FAQ section on your website or create a document with those answers that you can easily attach to your answer.

More importantly, making sure that you address every question asked in that initial email, asking questions about the person so they feel it’s all about them is also important. Then you can offer a phone or in person consultation to dig deeper into their fitness goals and get to know them better.

#3. Punctuality

Understand that good timekeeping is a very simple way of showing respect towards the other party. If you get stuck and you know you’ll be late, let them know as soon as you realise. This goes back to managing expectations.

Nobody likes to waste time but if they are prepared that you may be 5-10 minutes delayed, they will likely be more understanding. If they just hang around waiting and nothing happens, you probably lost that prospect, or you need to pedal very hard to gain the trust back.

#4. Listen More, Talk Less

The easiest way to make a person feel special is to give your full attention to them. You want your client-to-be to feel that they are the centre of the conversation and leave with the impression that your services are the right solution for them because you care about them.

Another benefit of paying attention and writing down all the important details will reveal itself when you get to the programme design phase. You will be able to create an individualised plan based on every detail including what time they prefer to exercise, how long they are able to enjoy a session and what type of workouts they prefer.

#5. Follow Up

This element can apply at any stage of the lifetime of a client, but it’s vital at the very start. Until people become familiar with your services, the tools you use, the way you communicate and the exercise programme they are given, they need more frequent nurturing.

This starts with a follow-up email or text after the consultation, ideally within a few hours. Even if everything went very well and they signed up right away, you can send them a thank you note and a short message with the next step.

Not every client will commit on the spot though, following up with these potential clients will show you really care about them, and provide a top quality service. Good follow up will put you in a very strong position to help that client sign up when they're ready. Send them an email to recap what you discussed during their consultation, send any relevant and helpful information that relates to their problem and let them know your packages.

Why Personal Trainers Should Learn About Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing is a concept developed in the 80s and has become a wide-spread method to help patients with substance abuse problems to change their behaviour. There is a lot of evidence to support its efficiency and the fitness industry can use it to help obese and overweight clients overcome the main reason behind their problem.

We can define it as a counselling method with the aim to encourage behavioural change by helping clients identify where they want to be, realise where they are now so they can explore solutions and resolve the ambivalence.

The Principles of MI Applied to Personal Training

You practically aim to see the world through your clients’ eyes and feel what they feel when talking about different aspects of their current situation. It’s easier if you have already been in their shoes but being able to relate to similar experiences in your own life can also help you be more empathetic.

Support Self-Efficacy

Most clients struggle to believe that they can achieve their fitness goals. Helping them to focus on previous successes in their life and strengths and skills they already have that will help them get where they want to be will increase their confidence and motivate them to make those hard changes.

Meet Clients Where They Are

Many people will believe fads or simply follow advice that are not right for them. With the MI approach you don’t create resistance by attacking their views, but instead you roll with it, meet them where they are, help them realise themselves if something is not right for them so they will ask your expert opinion themselves.

Develop Discrepancy

Discrepancy is the difference between where your clients want to be and where they are now. They will have a vague idea about what they would like to achieve, but with the right questions you can help them set specific goals. Establishing their baseline and drawing out a thought process on how they can bridge that gap is part of their progress.

Motivational Interviewing is an approach that all personal trainers could use to improve their clients’ experience and encourage adherence to their fitness plan. In the upcoming articles about assessments and goal setting we will discuss skills and techniques that were developed from the motivational interviewing approach. Stay tuned.

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