Amber Long by Amber Long

Personal training is a profession that requires both scientific knowledge and the ability to build relationships. Unfortunately, some of us get so caught up in things like assessments and periodization, that building relationships and establishing rapport becomes secondary. Knowledge of exercise science is important, but being able to build a relationship is crucial. It’s what gives clients the confidence that their trainer has the knowledge to effectively help them reach their goals and also cares about them as a person. If you are interested in building better rapport and maintaining a consistent client base, avoid the following five actions or traits, as they will certainly help you lose a client, likely in 10 days or less.

1. Poor communication skills

Clients will first measure your ability to communicate during the initial consultation. You can help them feel supported by demonstrating empathy and using inclusive language like we, let’s, ours and us. These strategies help create a collaborative environment. Be sure to explain the what, when, where and why for every assessment, training session, program or exercise. Keep in mind that this may be new for your client, so be clear with your directions and practice patience if they have trouble with certain movements or concepts. Be available to respond to questions via email, text and phone in a timely manner, and communicate clearly and frequently to help the client feel invested in his or her program. Use the last five minutes of every session to answer questions and make plans for the coming week.

2. Tardiness

In the customer service business, being on time is considered late. Be respectful that your clients have chosen to spend part of their day with you. Always arrive to a session before your client and greet him or her with a smile. If you are out of breath, feeling scatterbrained or have a look of unease, the client will know you are not prepared. To help the flow of your session, organize necessary equipment prior to starting so you do not waste time in transition. Finally, plan at least five minutes between clients so you have time to freshen up and refocus.

3. Negative reinforcement

Never use exercise as punishment. Examples include running sprints because the client missed a workout or using insulting comments that invoke fear or shame with the aim to motivate the client. People typically hire trainers because they need help getting and staying motivated. The most effective motivational strategies are positive. For best results, focus on efforts and behaviors rather than outcomes and performance. Positive reinforcement establishes trust and builds rapport. It also creates intrinsic motivation and confidence, which will support the client in building long-term habits.

4. Hypocrisy

If you live an unhealthy lifestyle, eat fast food, smoke or drink excessively, your clients will soon detect that your words may not line up with your actions. As a trainer you are a mentor, so you must practice what you preach. Your business is personal wellness and you are your own brand. Practice healthy nutrition and stress management, and make time for your own workouts. Clients may see you in the grocery store or out on the weekends—if you are faking it at the gym, your true colors will emerge at the worst times. Your profession is public by nature, and current and potential clients will judge both your shopping cart and your plate, and your workouts will always have a watchful audience. Take care of yourself so you can best take care of your clients. Share your struggles and your strategies on healthy living to build trust and rapport.

5. Lack of professionalism

This category includes anything and everything that may leave your client feeling less than valued. Make sure that the client is your first priority during sessions and maintain a professional relationship between visits. Avoid texting or emailing and don’t eat, drink or chew gum during sessions. Ease intimidation by wearing professional and conservative clothing. Be prepared for each and every session and remember that your business is built on your actions. Avoid talking poorly about clients in public and be certain that you have communicated professional boundaries. The list of unprofessional behaviors is long. If you find yourself questioning an action, it’s a good idea to avoid it.

It’s been said that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Build relationships first and use science as the backbone of your programming. Be consistent in your actions and strive to provide more than the client expects. You will soon find your schedule full and your professional relationships ever expanding.

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