The best personal trainers in the industry have just a handful of key things they do differently than the average personal trainer, but those things make a world of difference.

One of those differentiators is the ability to keep more clients, and for a longer period of time. In fact, while most average trainers keep clients for 6 months to a year, the best of the best tend to get clients to stick around more than double that timespan.

Why does that matter?

Because it’s not easy to get new clients. And, it’s less expensive and time-consuming to keep a current client than find a new one.

So, the only way to build a lucrative career is to get and keep clients for the long-term. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels without actually growing your impact or your income.

One thing that’s often overlooked by trainers that will ensure better client retention is being professional. However, that’s just table stakes. If you really want to be seen as one of the best, then you’ll need to take your service to the next level.

Not sure how to do that?

Read on to learn three different strategies that help to improve the training experience you deliver and position you as better than the rest.

Give Your Clients Choices

Your clients signed up with you because they believe that you can help them reach their health and fitness goals. However, the way you go about that has a dramatic effect on not only the results, but the experience throughout the process.

Fitness is a long-term game and the best way to get clients to stick with it is to make it fun and engaging. What’s a simple way to do that?

Give your clients choices and involve them in the process. Studies have shown time and time again that when people are given a say in how things are done, they take action more seriously and remain more committed. It helps to shift the perception from “I HAVE to do this thing” to “I GET to do this thing.

What should you let them choose? Here’s a couple ideas:

  • Exercise variations
  • Goals for the week
  • Training indoors vs outdoors
  • Which piece of equipment to use

Of course, you probably shouldn’t let them choose their entire workout or let them run the session. They did hire you after all for guidance and your expertise. So, a good way to integrate this concept might be to ask questions to determine what your client absolutely hates and avoid those things. Or, maybe it’s as simple as saying “We’re gonna do squats next. What would you rather do: goblet squats or barbell back squats?

You might be tempted to think that your job is to make all the decisions, but don’t forget that as a trainer, you’re in the service industry. Your job isn’t just to deliver the medicine, it’s to make the medicine taste good too.

Show Clients You Care

When clients take the leap and sign up to work with you, they aren’t just buying your time. They are buying into your service and your coaching process. Chances are, they only spend a few hours a week with you in person so, if you really want to deliver the best then it’s going to mean connecting beyond your training sessions. 

It goes without saying that you should strive to deliver an amazing experience and coaching when you’re together, but if that’s the only time you communicate you’re likely missing out on building a stronger relationship; which could be the make or break in them staying on track or you losing a client. 

This isn’t just about getting clients to like you more, but for them to know you are truly invested in them as people. This is one of the most effective ways to create buy-in and commitment to the behavioral changes clients need to make on their own. 

Often, clients just need someone in their corner who believes in them and is going to be there to hold them accountable, because when left to their own devices they are more likely to stray from the plan. Connecting with them regularly outside of sessions is the best way to keep their fitness & wellness top of mind as they navigate daily life. 

Best way to deliver on this consistently? Build it into your weekly schedule/tasks.

Here’s a couple ways to go about it:

  • 5 Minutes of Care: Carve out 5-10 minutes a day that you commit to texting and connecting with clients. This is the best time to link up with clients who trained yesterday to see how they are feeling as well as confirm sessions and connect with clients lined up for tomorrow. 
  • Choose certain days of the week: Maybe you would rather go deeper and do check-ins just a few days a week via phone call or messaging. Do whatever feels genuine to you and your clients, the important part is that it happens consistently and isn’t left to chance

This doesn’t mean you need to be on call 24/7, actually quite the opposite. Committing to your own system of regular communication not only keeps the door open for getting great feedback from clients and driving accountability, but also forces you to put some thought into how you best keep people accountable and deliver coaching for clients. 

By having a system, you’ll be able to set better expectations with clients and demonstrate better value than most. Potential clients will be convinced that you go the extra mile to make sure they get results and feel supported along the way. 

*Pro tip: Committing to the practices above can also be a great way to stay in touch with former clients and prospects too. It leaves the door open for future opportunities to come back and train with you or just send others your way.

Be Flexible But Firm

Early on, trainers tend to be real easy going and often let too many things slide. Last minute cancellations, pay as you go sessions, and habitually late clients just to name a few. Part of this is simply due to not knowing any better and some of it might be not wanting to ruffle any feathers.

On the flip side, some trainers make a complete 180 and start instituting policies and procedures left and right with no exceptions. This can be a HUGE turn off for clients and make it seem like you’re too difficult to work with.

So what’s the answer? We think it’s being flexible with the little stuff but firm on your principles.

Listen, we work with humans, not robots. That means that sometimes issues will arise or people will make mistakes. Your long-time clients might need a break from training, they might have to cancel at the last minute, or maybe they just don’t feel like doing another 4 sets of deadlifts. Being too rigid can make it seem like working with you is just not worth it.

Business and fitness are both areas where there has to be a give and take. Sometimes that means bending your rules to maintain a great relationship. Are you really going to charge your client that’s been with you two years for that single last minute cancellation? C’mon.

That doesn’t mean you should let everything slide, though. You need to determine for yourself what is good business and what’s too much. So, anytime you need to make a judgement call, consider your principles. What do you value and what are you not willing to compromise?

There will be times when a client just isn’t a good fit and that’s ok. You have to feel good about what you’re doing and that means sticking to your guns sometimes. If you’re presented with someone that is habitually causing you stress or making you feel like you can’t deliver your best service then you might have to cut the cord.

But whatever you do, don’t act on impulse. Instead, take some time and make sure you are viewing the situation from the other person’s perspective. And, don’t be afraid to have a heart to heart and express your feelings when all else fails.

Being a great trainer doesn’t mean just giving good workouts, but also cultivating great relationships and positive influence. Clients are looking for trainers that are willing to go the extra mile and those that rise to the occasion will never find themselves short of business or great people to work with. By giving clients choices in their program, showing them you care about their success, and being easy to work with, you’ll be on your way to the top.

Want to learn more about delivering great training sessions and keeping clients for the long haul? Click here to check out our hands-on Axiom Personal Trainer Prep Course where we provide all the tools to get started as a personal trainer.