Tuesday, November 13, 2012

7 Clues That Tell You a Client May Stop Training

I know judging by the title of this post you probably thought you are exempt from any hindrance in your excellence; however, the true reality is clients don't stay forever. They may stay long...but they never stay forever. And most of us have different definitions for "long". Some consider 6 months a "long time". Others consider 4 years "a long time". For the last 5 years, we have been burdened with fears of a declining economy and housing market --and depending on your target population---those fears are very real and people are adjusting to accommodate for the future. The one way that people adjust is by cutting costs to things that they feel are not "adding" to their lives; but rather, they feel are "taking away" from it. This is a "value" issue. The perception of value is one of 

There are warning signs. As a fitness professional, you have to stay observant, vigilant, and proactive about the possibility of losing a client. The reality is it happens...and you have to stay prepared. If you are a private small business owner, it is paramount that you always have 1-3 prospective client(s) chomping at the bits to train with you for every one client you probably will lose. I'll share with you some of the warning signs I have come across over the last few years and what I have done to try to save the patronage. 

Your client constantly complains about the mortgage, utility bills, and car payments. I put the most obvious up first, but sometimes, this is a false alarm. I'll explain. Some clients look to training as an "escape" from the realities of the real world--so they may complain, but they like the structure outside of the real world that training provides. Their pursuit of their goal is what keeps them away from the harsh realities of past-due bills, and keeps their head afloat. How long can they keep this up is really going to depend on how bad of a situation they find themselves in. Sometimes, when I see a client that mentions how the bills are piling up and they need to cut things out like soccer camp for the kids or the vacation they had planned, I sense that they are over their heads. I never like to see activities cut out of  a client's budget that involves kids or family, so I tend to prepare for the ultimate day when it is time for renewal and I present to them with a discounted offer. Most times, I give a 10-20% off discount on the package but promote it as a "Get Ready for Summer" coupon of sorts. This way, the client is not offended and knows it is a 'time sensitive' offer---and they just feel appreciative and excited that they can continue training.

Your client is searching for a new job out of the area. In this economy, people are either sitting back and complaining or they are taking action. Sometimes, people need to end an employment chapter and start a fresh new one in a whole new city. That's none of my business, but it raises my hairs when I hear my client has e-mailed their resume to companies on the west coast. Or when they are talking about the shores of Long Island Sound or Florida and I am located in central Connecticut! I try to focus our sessions on my  genuine concern for their goals. If we cannot train for the long-term, I emphasize my open-door policy of being a "resource" for them when they look for a new trainer in their new community. Contacting me is easy for all clients and my door is always open should they move out of the area. 

Your client is not seeing results anymore. This is the ugly one because it kinda directly involves you. What can you be doing to help your client continue to achieve favorable results? What can the client continue to do to achieve the ultimate goal? A non-compliant client is not a star pupil. But they are still a customer and they warrant chances before you lose all your patience and cut them loose. As a fitness professional, you can cut them loose as I have explained here. Many times, clients can have un-realistic goals or have high expectations that don't meet a realistic time-frame. Some clients may not follow a meal plan as closely as possible--yet,  they seem to always find fault with the training. Most times a client is not happy with the results of the training, it is a sure-sign that they are more disappointed with themselves and cannot find the value of "keeping a personal trainer" because they are embarrassed or relapsing back into an uncontrollable state of well-being. Here is the perfect time to sit with your client and re-evaluate the progress made. Positive reinforcement and encouragement is crucial here. There has to be an open dialogue and a mutual understanding of the expectations needed from each of you. This is not the time to discount fees...this is the time to really showcase your communication skills and be a professional. Highlight their progress and get them back on track. 

Your client complains of an unsupported spouse/family member. This is a tough one. There is a circle of trust that keeps spouses and family members tight. And this circle of trust is very strong, influential, and emotionally powerful. Face it, as their personal trainer--you are NOT in this circle of trust -especially if your client has only been with you for a short time.


It is very difficult when you have an overweight female client that wants to do everything in her power to lose the excess fat; yet the husband is not supportive of that goal. It takes the wind out of the sails for anyone battling an obstacle that needs professional help. This is uncovered during rapport and session chatter when one mentions how the spouse is disconnected from supporting an exercise program. Personally, I have had this happen to me on several occasions and this is what I did to help the situation: I invited the spouse to "sit in" and view a session in action. I have invited the spouse to call me or correspond through email. I have also given "free passes" to my bootcamp classes to pass along to the unsupportive spouse. The main objective is that the fitness professional has to be open about the training. Most spouses that do not support paid training because they are kept outside of the "training circle". The bond between you and your client should open up to allow the spouse or family members to intervene. Once you have made the offers to involve them; it is up to your client to control the amount of involvement. In this process, your client will hopefully become stronger in confidence and feel better about the attention being given to training.

Your client seems bored during sessions. Okay...so this one does directly involves you! How can you let training get to the point of boredom??! This one is dreaded, but its easy to fix--but it is up to the trainer. Believe me, I am all for some sort of physical adaptation to occur...it is how we measure progress. For instance, you need to continue to bench press to get stronger at the bench press. You have to continue to put in your miles to become a better runner. We can't continue to change those things around simply for the sake of keeping the exercise program fresh. But we can change the assistance exercises around, we can change the order around, and we can change the format around. Subtle changes should keep a client motivated. But the last thing you want to do is continue to do the same thing session after session. This is a sure sign that the trainer is not putting in alot of effort and losing interest in the client. If you need ideas, there are a multitude of resources to help you spice up your program including Moving More Muscles.

Your client cancels sessions frequently. If you have a client that has been canceling sessions lately with excuses ranging from work, kids, or some holiday--rest assured that they are wandering a bit too far from the camp. Many novice trainers will dismiss consecutive session cancellations and simply be happy to forfeit a session so they can get paid to sit around and surf the Internet. But a real fitness professional, spots a red flag and goes into action. Here is where continuous communication through email, texting or phone calls (remember those?) are key. If too much time lapses between sessions, there is a chance your client will drop out because the structure that you built is beginning to crumble.



When there are consecutive cancellations by the client, you need to reorganize the structure including the expectations, goal, and exercise program. By simply reaffirming the plan through a message or mention,  this should keep a client on route--unless they are experiencing one of the aforementioned situations listed above.

There is 7 warning signs. I am sure you can pick up a few more if you are focused on keeping a client committed to training and committed to achieving a goal.

1 comment:

  1. John, all good signs, I have used some reverse psychology in some cases, saying this might be a good time to take a break from training? put the problem on them (where it belongs) this can re-motivate people and keep them coming !!

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