3 Things Every Personal Trainer Should Know

Of all the questions I get asked, many are from personal trainers. They want to know how to build their business, get more clients, and charge more money. Indeed, when I give seminars the audience is usually packed with personal trainers that are new to the business. This is a smart move because the quickest way to success is to follow the path that other successful people have paved. Every mistake that you could ever make has already been made by someone else (myself included).

So, in this installment I’m going to cover what I feel are the three most important aspects for becoming a top trainer that clients are looking to build a long-term relationship with.

1. Your personality comes first – The most successful trainers are rarely the ones that know the most about the Krebs Cycle, neuroscience, or any other piece of physiology. I’ll jump straight to the point and tell you that the personal trainers who are always busy are the ones with the best people skills.

Assuming you’re a trainer in any reputable gym, a potential client already assumes that you know what you’re doing. I have three college degrees and in 16 years of training a client has never asked me for proof. Therefore, the next, and most important, step is to show the client that you’re someone he/she wants to spend time around. Whenever new trainers ask me what book they should read to get more clients, my answer always surprises them.

What’s the book I always recommend first? “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. This book is, without a doubt, the paramount text for building your people skills.

I recently attended a Dragon Door kettlebell training seminar in San Diego to show my support for Pavel Tsatsouline, John DuCane, and the excellent staff they have. When I arrived, one of their instructors literally ran up to me and thanked me for recommending Dale Carnegie’s book to him years ago. He said it was the best investment he ever made, and it was essential for taking him to the next level.

Read this book. It doesn’t matter how much you know about force vectors, neural coordination, or lipid lipolysis. If you have the personality of an ass, clients won’t stick with you.

You can find the book at this link:
How To Win Friends and Influence People

2. Stay up on the latest research – I must make it clear that simply reading Carnegie’s book is not enough if you want to be considered an elite trainer. You must know how the body works. Any client who’s willing to pay top dollar for a trainer expects results. And you’ll never transform a client quickly unless you know what works. Research is a great place to start if you’re new to training.

The problem, however, is that there are hundreds of scientific journals that release new pieces of research every month. There’s no way you could read all of them – and you don’t need to. So how do you short-circuit the process and learn which studies are most relevant to your clients?

Let someone else do the work.

If you primarily work with males, pick up a copy of Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness every month. If females make up the majority of your clientele, read Women’s Health and Shape. All of these magazines have a staff member whose sole job is to sift through the latest research and summarize the studies that are pertinent to what most people want: less fat, more muscle, more strength, or better overall health. When you see a study referenced in say, Men’s Health, seek out that study on the internet. Read it and write a short summary of what that study demonstrated.

(Importantly, studies don’t prove anything – they only demonstrate what happens in a certain population under certain conditions. But that’s another topic altogether. The key point here is to be privy to the latest research. This will impress your clients and build their confidence in you.)

So when a client asks why you make them supplement with Vitamin D, you can respond by saying, “Most people are deficient in Vitamin D. A study from the University of Minnesota shows that it’s harder to lose weight when you have a Vitamin D deficiency.”

Once you can give a pithy response to common questions you’re well on your way to establishing a long-term relationship with your client.

With regard to certifications, stick with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). If you have a bachelor’s degree and want to work with athletes, go for the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification. If you don’t have a degree and just want to work with the mainstream population their Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) course is great.

3. Be on-time and flexible with your schedule – No one likes to work with a trainer who’s late. Even the most novice trainers charge a respectable amount of money per hour so you must not make clients wait. Everyone, regardless of their wealth, hates to waste money. Waiting = wasting money. A sure-fire way to piss off people is to make them feel like they’re wasting money. Plus, a huge part of building your business hinges on recommendations to outside clients from your current clients. No one wants to recommend someone they think is going to show up late. The saying “if you’re not five minutes early you’re five minutes late” is excellent business advice.

Not only must you be punctual, but you must also be flexible. Being flexible is absolutely key when you start working with high-profile clients. Pro athletes and celebrities have a plethora of flights, interviews, and obligations that make their schedule change on a minute-to-minute basis. If you can’t accommodate their need for a trainer with a flexible schedule they’ll find a trainer who can.

The good news is high-profile clients will pay for this flexibility, assuming you’ve mastered the first two points. Want even more good news? Pro athletes and celebrities spend most of their time around other pro athletes and celebrities. Therefore, if you’re a likable person, if you demonstrate that you know the latest research, and if you can accommodate their mercurial schedules, they’ll recommend you to other high-profile clients.

Trust me when I say that trainers who have plenty of A-list clients got 80% of those clients from recommendations from their first few high-profile clients.

Remember these three essential points and you’ll quickly build a lucrative business, no matter what your profession is.

Stay focused,
CW

11 thoughts on “3 Things Every Personal Trainer Should Know

  1. Great recommendations Chad, especially the Carnegie’s book its worth 10 times its weight in gold.

    You would not believe it but I found a Spanish copy of that book about 4 months ago in a trashcan. I grabbed it and read it….and I am convinced it was a gift from God (in fact there was also a copy of the Bible in the trashcan next to the book). The book is awesome and really makes you think.

  2. Great advice here for people looking to get in the business. I worked at a small gym (no public area, it was all personal training) as a maintenance man for a few years and always wanted to get into training. I really like the idea of being able to help someone improve their health. I wonder what kind of schooling I’d need to be certified?

    CW: You don’t need a college degree to take the NSCA-CPT, but you need a bachelor’s to take the NSCA-CSCS.

  3. Great info Chad!
    I have 2 & 3 down.Went to Borders today & bought the Dale Carnegie book.Gonna work on #1!

  4. Totally agree on all 3 points.

    Personality: understand your client, every aspect of them and relate. Building a relationship Is the most important aspect between trainer and client. I also like the book “never eat alone” for networking purposes.

    Latest research: they say knowledge is power, but I say that knowledge is confidance. Clients want confident trainers. I’m NSCA with both CSCS and CPT, wouldn’t have it any other way.

    On time: if you are not on time or not prepared. You will lose clients, I promise!

  5. Beneficial info and excellent design you got here! I want to thank you for sharing your ideas and putting the time into the stuff you publish! Great work!

  6. I started off with your book ” huge in hurry” went from 250lbs to 180lbs.
    Since then I had a lot of friends and family wanting to go work out with me
    To point how I did. I have decided to change careers and do something I love.
    Currently doing F.I.R.E program. I thought it was going to be much easier, boy was
    I wrong! This first week was pretty tough, but I feel great.

    Question. I want to get cert as PT, is there
    A reason why should do it w/ NSCA and not NASM?

    CW: Both are good, but NSCA is more recognized.

  7. I’m currently enrolled in the ISSA elite program (nutrition, personal trainer, injury rehab). Does anyone have any feedback as far as creditability for the certifaction?

    CW: I’m not familiar enough with ISSA to comment on it. However, I suspect it’s credible.

  8. Are you doing any seminars in the near future that would be beneficial for new trainers? Also, if Carnegie’s book (great BTW) is your first recommendation, what would be next on the list? Love to read and soak up info!

    CW: Yes, I’m giving a seminar in Phoenix, AZ on February 2-5. This is a rare event with a limited number of people allowed to attend so act fast http://www.staleyperformance.com/events-seminars/staley-performance-unplugged-coaches-series/live-and-rare-coaches-retreat-with-chad-waterburry/

  9. Are you doing any seminars in New Orleans in the future? I have plenty time. Im only 16 but ive wanted to be a personal trainer all my life. I wanna know what steps you took to become successful.

    CW: I’ll be giving a seminar in Phoenix in February, but none planned for NO.

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