Why You’re a Great Personal Trainer but Can’t Get Clients.


It’s been 13 years since swiping key tags in Bristol, Rhode Island at Roger William University’s brand new athletic center. Between my sister who went to Providence College and myself at RWU at the same time, we had to fight for the largest financial aid packages we could get. That included “Work Study” hours. Even typing “Work Study” makes me “lol”.

Being a biology major and RWU Rugby player made me a perfect fit for working at the athletic center. I applied for that “Work Study” position and received it. There was no way I was going to be left getting the cafeteria work-study position scrubbing dishes. I was paid $40 a week to ask students to check-in before using the gym. You know what costs $40 back in 2003? An 1/8th of swag and that’s what I bought after getting each paycheck (if you don’t know what swag is I’m not going to explain it). Fast forward to sophomore year when I was booked for marijuana possession and given community service. Guess what job I got for community service? Scrubbing dishes in the fucking cafeteria (insert audio of Elton John’s “Circle of Life”).

What’s the point? Well, I consider that work-study job the beginning of my professional career in the fitness industry. Over the last 13 years I have worked in numerous fitness sectors, facilities, and locations. I have met hundreds, if not thousands, of personal trainers. Lots of good ones, lots of shitty ones, creeps, losers, and a few great ones.

If you’re training the general population I believe that the amount of exercise science knowledge can be pretty limited to gain adequate results with clients. As long as your staying out of specialty populations like the unhealthy, or on the flip side, athletes, you can do fine with your run of the mill personal training certificate. The amount of knowledge and accolades never seemed to be the difference maker among trainers and their financial success at their facility. It always came down to their ability to get clients and sell. It was the software that mattered in the end, not the hardware or the resume.

So why don’t all good trainers sell well?

Besides their being absolutely zero sales or business education in Exercise Science programs I think it comes down to the trainer’s fear and sympathy or “niceness”.  Trainers are often extremely caring individuals. It’s a requirement of the job. In some cases you have to care more about the client’s success than they do. The job hinges on human interaction.

“Sales” has the reputation of being sleazy. It’s an “anything for the dollar” game. We think of the insurance or car salesman just trying to close the deal with the best margin for them to benefit. It doesn’t seem

But fear not Personal Trainers. I’m going to tell you to not be afraid of sales. We aren’t car salesman. What you do has personal and internal value. You sell health, not a mini-van that you secretly know needs a new timing belt in 15k miles. People are coming to you for that health, so help them!

I have always loved creator of the Personal Training Development Center Jon Goodman’s quote which goes something like, “Rule #1. Do a great job. Rule #2. Tell everyone about it.” He then follows up with, “Rule #3. Never skip rule #1″. There is no shame in selling personal training packages if you do a great job! Promoting the great job you do is part of the job.

You’re a plumber. You’re the best plumber, actually. But you’re not big on self-promotion and your “niceness” doesn’t allow you to close a deal on a potential client, Client A. Client A then goes to Google and goes with the plumber in the area that pop’s up on the search engine first. He sucks and Client A gets terrible plumbing service. Thanks to your “niceness” and fear of self-promotion Client A is worse off and it’s because you let that happen. That’s not “nice” at all.

I see the same thing happen in the fitness industry. You need to not fear self-promotion and sales. If you’re hesitant remind yourself that you’re good at what you do and the product you get to sell really truly helps people in a way that no other product can. Don’t keep it to yourself. Tell people about your product. Your, unequivocal, sometimes like changing, product.

Don’t judge your level of success as a trainer by your job titles, accolades, certifications, and degrees. Your success is defined by the amount of people you are able to help and reach on another level. Getting over your fear of self-promotion and sales and the idea that selling is “sleazy” or not nice is necessary. Your future clients will thank you for it.


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