The Secret to Gaining Clients in a Commercial Gym

The Current Status Quo

Many trainers enter into a career as a personal trainer with the view of helping people achieve results and making a decent wage as well. However, in the UK the average personal trainer salary is only £16,000 and 43% of trainers leave within their first 3-4 months. This figure rises to 70% at 12 months!

When asked why they leave the industry, the most common reason cited is lack of clients. Having spent 13 years at one of the UK’s largest commercial gyms, I have found the secret to help trainers generate clients and, therefore, reduced this attrition to only 15%.

Our record was two trainers gaining 19 clients in their first five weeks (as of January 2017).

Why Do People Buy?

People buy from individuals or companies they “know, like and trust.” Look at Apple. They tick all three boxes with their consumers and we (me included) spend hundreds buying Macs, and iPhones and watches. So, the big question is: How many of your members KNOW, LIKE and TRUST YOU?

The simple fact of the matter is that the more members that you achieve this with, the busier you will be. The simplest and most effective way to do this is face to face interaction with members in your club. Below I will reveal my three-step process to maximise your effectiveness and turn these interactions into appointments: The ABC Model.

A Is for Acknowledgement

The top trainer in Virgin Active delivered on average of around 200 sessions per month! (40-50 sessions a week). Whenever her manager got a personal training lead, he would contact the lead and ask if they had a preferred trainer. More often than not, this is the reply that he got: “The South African lady, she seems friendly,” or “The South African lady, she smiled at me!”

You would expect them to say they chose her because she got the best results, she was in the best shape or she was the busiest! But no, they chose her because she smiled and said hello. And she did this with every member. At reception, on the gym floor, in the changing rooms. I can’t stress the importance of being friendly and acknowledging them.

Bobby Cappuccio once said that “no encounter is insignificant.” Every time you have a member within four feet of you, that is a potential client of yours and you should always bear that in mind.

B Is for Banter

After acknowledging members, the conversation will naturally move on to a casual chat. That is what we mean by banter, not the kind you have with your mates on a night out. But our instinct as trainers is to want to speak about how their training is going, what results they are getting, etc. These are amazing questions to ask, and definitely should be asked, but they should come later in the conversation.

You see, questions about their training are what we are interested in, not our members!

Rapport needs to be established before we can start to get honest and open answers back from the members. How do we do this?

One of the best trainers I have had the pleasure of managing was a guy called Ollie. When briefly leaving his client to go get a piece of kit for the next exercise, I would hear him say, “Hey Sally, how’s you? How is little Tommy? If you are free we will grab a coffee, I’ll be done in a half hour.”

Ollie knew the members; not their training, but he knew things like what they did for a living, how many children they had, what their names were, what the member liked to watch on TV and do in their social life. Ollie was interested in everyone and consequently, whenever that member made the decision to buy some personal training sessions, they chose him as their trainer. And they chose him because they knew him, liked him, and trusted him! The quote below summarises this perfectly, and I wholly recommend his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

C Is for Coach

The final stage is coaching. Once you have built some rapport with the members and you know a bit about their training, only then can you help them. This can be done in many ways:

  • a new exercise (interactive exercises can be very beneficial here, and FUN too)
  • a different technique
  • some stretches or foam rolling
  • nutrition advice
  • help on training zones
  • overcoming obstacles

Anything that can help the member. This is where you are the expert! By focusing on helping the member, you are seen as helpful. If you focus on selling personal training, you are seen as a salesman!

Believe me, members buy much more from a helpful person than a sales person.

Once you have helped them, I recommend you use the following phrase:

“Would you like to sit down later this week so I can help you more and set you on the path to achieving your goal?”

This will more often than not lead to a “yes,” and an all-important appointment in your diary!


Going out and getting to know your members is key! The more members that know, like and trust you, the busier you will be. For most personal trainers, knowing 300 members is enough to get to full capacity. Focus your lead generation time on speaking to members following the ABC model and watch your diary get full.