Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Best Way To Attract New Clients

Referrals should be the life-blood of your business.

But I’ll bet that’s not the case.

In fact, I’m betting that you get a couple here and there, are thrilled when you get them, but have no clue how to ensure you keep getting them…consistently and automatically.

Well, we’re going to change that.

But before we do I want to make certain that you understand why referrals are so much better than other prospects.

A referred client does not need to be sold. Unlike other prospects, a referral comes to you 95% pre-qualified and predisposed to doing business with you.

A referred client will refer to you. When a client comes to you by way of a referral, she is much more likely to refer to you as well. It’s a behavioral thing. The best referrers have generally been referred.

A referred client is easier to work with.

In most cases, a referred client is more motivated, more trusting and more loyal. This is a function of the referral process. The referrer most likely said some very positive things about you. The referrer trusts you enough to refer to you. The referral trusts the referrer, that’s why she’s come to you. And now that trust has been logically extended to you.

A referred client can be more profitable. The marketing investment to obtain referrals can be comparatively inexpensive, sometimes even free. Plus they are more likely to refer to you, are generally easier to work with and tend to stay with you longer.

So now that you understand why referrals are the best prospects, let’s work on creating an approach that generates a steady stream of them.

It’s a very simple system:


Earn – Seems simple enough. Do a great job. Overdeliver. Never be late. Send hand-written notes and birthday cards. Know all the details that matter like the name of your clients’ kids, what they do for a living, when their anniversary. Send gifts and show real appreciation for your clients doing business with you.

The more you give, the more you’ll get.

Ask – Let everyone know from day one that they’re required to be a “walking billboard” for you. Educate your clients about what type of person you want as a client (it helps if they fit the mold) and ask them to refer anyone who might be your “ideal client.” Send a newsletter each month, in which you recognize the clients who have referred to you. You might even start a “referral rewards” club. This will help strengthen the referral culture. Ask your clients for names and contact info of people who might be interested in receiving your newsletter – this is kind of a “soft referral.” You can send the newsletter and a free report compliments of the referrer. One other simple way to generate prospective referrals is to gather names and addresses of 3-5 close friends, family members and co-workers on the day someone becomes your client. Let your client know you want this for 2 reasons…you want to send the free newsletter & report as a gift from them and to take steps to educate those around them to facilitate a environment that leads to success.

Reward – You need to reward clients (everyone really) for the action of referring, not just when you close the sale. It can be as simple as a phone call or a card. It also could be a personal gift like a book by a favorite author or a gift card to their favorite store. No matter – the key is reinforcing the action of referring. You might even offer cash (everyone’s favorite gift.) Your clients will soon be referring prospects left and right.

Referrals are like any other facet of business – you can’t be shortsighted. You need to be consistent and ask every client, send newsletters each month and reward every referral. Eventually, you’ll hit “critical mass” and referrals will be flowing t you like water. Your list will grow and you may be forced to accept clients only by referral. Just be patient and do the work. It will pay off.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Retention - Are You Just Hoping They Stay?

Everyone talks about retention, but how many people actually have systems in place to ensure they reap maximum reward from what should be the lifeblood of their businesses?


Probably 10% at best.

Most trainers approach to retention is this: "If I'm getting my clients great results they won't leave." I don't think I'd define that as a systematic approach.

We all know (at least I think we do) that it's much more expensive to acquire a client than it is to keep one. So why so little attention to keeping them and so much to new business?

Well, it wouldn't be fair for me to point out the wrong way without providing an alternative, now would it? So here are some tips for improving your retention:


1. Learn everything you can about your clients. Brian Calkins (one of the smartest trainers anywhere) created a form modeled after Harvey Mackay's "Mackay's 66"- a questionnaire in his book Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. Brian and his staff know everything from their clients' anniversaries to their favorite music. (I'm trying to get Brian to do a product detailing all the things that he does to separate himself from the pack. Cross your fingers.)

2. Use what you learn. Send cards and notes during special occasions. Play client's favorite music when they're training (when you can), mention family members by name. People love special attention. Give it to them.

3. Constant Contact. Dan Kennedy suggests contacting your clients at least 26 times per year outside of the times they are actually doing business. Send weekly email newsletters (Cliff Latham's is awesome...Check it out at, send monthly or at least quarterly "snail mail newsletters, send the cards and notes in just mentioned. Have special client appreciation events. Make them really appreciate doing business with you.

4. Use the "Velvet Rope." Ryan Lee and Jim Labadie really pushed this concepts last year and it's brilliant (wait to see the "buzzword this year...It's going to be worth big $$$$.) Make clients feel fortunate to be able to do business with you. If they don't take you for granted they're less likely to leave.

5. Clients must make commitments. If you're clients are on contracts they are automatically retained. It goes back to the velvet rope thing...Only accept people will to make a commitment. Over 80% of our clients are on 12 month contracts. I believe that Alwyn Cosgrove only offers 3 month and 12 month programs. There is some piece of mind with this approach. If you're not constantly having to re-sell them, you can focus on getting to know the clients and develop a long-term strategy for getting results.

6. Have flexible plans. Develop programs that have the clients with a trainer 3 sessions per week for 2 months, 2 sessions per week for 4 months and 1 session per week for 6 months. You now have a client retained for 12 months. Offer "continuous success" programs where you'll meet with people and provide program design and assessment on a monthly basis. By being flexible you can keep people on board that would typically drop off.

This is probably just scratching the surface, but I think it's a good start. I'll talk about referrals in a couple of days.

PS - Jim Labadie asked me to write an article about systems for his newsletter that went out today. Needless to say, I was very flattered as I am not aware of Jim asking anyone to do that before. I'm certain he doesn't make a habit of it. If you don't subscribe to his newsletter, you're really missing out...It's one of the few that I really look forward to. You can subscribe at:

Talk to you later.

Friday, August 25, 2006

How's Your Back-End?

Back-end offers, regardless of what type of training business you run, are what makes the difference between marginal profits and truly staggering profits. Working your back-end is a snap. You simply make regularly scheduled offers to your client base.

Look, if you've come anywhere close to delivering what you promised to your clients, you've established a tremendous amount of trust and goodwill among them. All it takes to harvest the rewards of this goodwill is an offer from you.

Let me give you a quick example:

Say you sign up a client to train with you or your staff twice a week. Let's assume that you do assessments every eight weeks or so.

Well, when their assessment comes up, you have an offer ready regardless of the progress that they've made. If I were trying to sell our Weight Management program on the back end I might approach it like this:

"Ms. Jones, you've done a great job! You're bodyfat has dropped by 3%, you've lost X number of inches in your waist, Y number of inches in your hips, etc. Now if you really want to keep the results coming at this rapid pace we probably need to really focus on tightening up your nutrition. I would strongly suggest that we enroll you in our 16 week nutritional coaching program to continue to maximize your progress. Would you rather join the morning or the evening class?"

Simple enough. But what if Ms. Jones' results were less than desirable. We might use this approach:

"Ms. Jones, I can see that you're disappointed in your progress. I understand. Well I can attest to the fact that you're doing a great job each time you come to the gym. Your workouts are great, you train hard and I see you performing your cardiovascular work and flexibility work religiously. That really only leaves one variable...your nutrition. I know you said that you try to eat right but what I suggest that we do is to enroll you in our 16 week nutritional coaching program to ensure that you'll start getting the results that you're working so hard for. Would you rather join the morning or the evening class?"

I'm sure that you can say it more eloquently than that, but you get the picture.

One other way (there are many) that you can ensure back-end profits is to lock clients into annual contracts or at least 6 month contracts - then you've built in back-end sales from day one. FYI - over 80% of our clients are on 12 month contracts...So it can be done. I'll elaborate on this underutilized strategy in another post soon.

Remember - acquiring the client is the tough part. Columbia House has made tons of money with their "get ten CD's for a penny" offer because of the back-end. Virtually every informercial you see is based on that same premise. You just have to consistently create enticing back-end offers for your happy clients. You'll quickly see their lifetime value jump. Probably even double or more.

So when you're looking for ways to make more money - start with your existing clients. I might even suggest allocating up to 50% of your marketing budget on internal marketing. I promise, you'll be happy you did.

Before I sign off for today - I want to tell you about my business partner Nick Berry's new blog. I would never say to it his face (I'll delete from this blog ASAP so there is no public record too) - but Nick is probably the sharpest guy I've run across in the fitness industry when it comes to retail and financing. He's been able to stay behind the scenes for the most part, (except when I badgered him into writing a chapter for Fitness Riches) content to allow our company to be the sole beneficiary of his "smarts" - but no more. After some pretty consistent pestering from me he finally launched his blog this week. You can (and need to) check it out at:

Talk to you later.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Would You Like Fries With That?

Quite possibly the most popular up-sell in the world. Pretty effective too. Movie theaters do it (would you like the giant popcorn for just $0.50 more?), electronics stores do it (would you like the extended warranty?), even my neighborhood instant oil change does fact they may be the best of all. They show me this detailed print out of my car's recommended services procedures at certain mileage marks, my dirty oil filter and the benefits of upgrading to synthetic oil. I asked the owner what the "average ticket" is for someone who comes in for an oil change that is priced at $29.99. He said it is approximately $58. (That's about double for those of you who are mathematically challenged.)


So why do so few fitness professionals utilize up-sells? I would assume that they've never given it a second's thought.

I bet that would change if they thought it would double their income.

Let me give you an example of how I used an up-sell just yesterday (yep...I actually do stuff other than type and talk on the phone sometimes).

I had someone sit down and go though a goal assessment. We did all the normal stuff and she decided that she would be interested in participating in our 16 week group weight management program. Great!

So, instead of just enrolling her and giving her a welcome packet, I offered her a small discount on the program if she combined it with personal training. And just that quickly a $348 deal turned into a $4200 deal.

Guess what happened next.

I told her that new clients received 20% off their first supplement purchase.

She spent $257.

So that deal grew from $348 to $4457 by offering immediate up-sells.


Because people are far more likely to make a second purchase when they're already making one. They've already committed to spending money. They're already in the mindset that they want the result that their initial purchase will provide.

All you have to do is come up with a second (or third) offer that compliments the first.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • You could offer some sort of nutritional coaching program that would compliment your personal training offerings. If you don't or won't, partner with a dietician and receive a commission for referrals.

  • You could offer a nutritional supplement "starter pack" that includes a multi-vitamin, meal replacement, etc.

  • You could offer e-mail coaching or online training to compliment your in-person offerings.

The real key is that you have an immediate offer available. Try to choose something that has bigger margins for you if you can...that will allow you to offer a small discount as a "call to action."

If you apply this one concept in your business you'll see increased revenue - I promise. Depending on what you offer, maybe as much as 50% more revenue. More than 50% of the prospects we sell training to upgrade to our "deluxe" program which includes group weight management. And the people who buy weight management spend over 100% more on supplements than "regular" clients do. But that is jumping the gun. That's back-end sale stuff, so I'll talk more about that later.

One more thing though...I made a post earlier in the week about sales and also discussed sales in my newsletter. This focus led me to revisit some of Jim Labadie's stuff in the Ultimate Sales Kit ( So in our staff meeting yesterday morning we did a brief sales training. The result: $13,150 of training and weight management sales in one day. By four different trainers.

The moral of the story...keep learning and practicing your approach to sales (and everything else) and training your staff. It will pay off.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Closing The Sale

So what is the difference between the "sales process" and the "closing process?"

Ideally...Nothing. Ideally, there should be a seamless progression in which you create an offer, build value, invoke emotion and position yourself as the "assistant buyer." Really, the only reason that I separate the two is that all too often, fitness professionals get "weak in the knees" when it comes time to ask for the sale - so I feel as if it must be addressed separately.

So here are my thoughts (at least some of them) on closing more sales in no particular order:

  • You must understand the concept of building value. As I mentioned in a recent post, my belief is that "Value" is difference between anticipated price and actual price. So if your prospective client believes that your services are worth $20 per session and you charge $75...You won't be getting that prospect to become a client. And, no, that doesn't mean lower your price...It means build more value. Why do you think great sales letters are so long, have tons of bullet points (or some other ways of extolling benefits) and loads of testimonials? To build value. Otherwise, there would just be a picture of what's being sold and a price. Consider your sales process the equivalent of a great sales letter.
  • You must utilize "emotional logic." People buy for emotional reasons and then justify them with logic. You must be able to uncover the emotional reason someone has raised their hand as a prospective client and illustrate that you can provide them a solution. My friend Jim Labadie calls it "finding their pain." If you haven't checked out Jim's Ultimate Sales Kit, change that now as it is a required tool for all successful personal trainers (club owners would be wise to buy copies for their sales people as well.) You can learn more about Jim's Ultimate Sales Kit at
  • Handling objections is not the answer to becoming a better salesperson. If you're having to address a bunch of objections when you ask for the sale - you didn't build enough value beforehand. Revisit your sales process and see where you can build more value. Also, don't be afraid to ask trial close questions during the sales process to move closer to the actual close and uncover concerns you may not have already addressed.
  • Use the A-B close. Never ask "would you like to become a client, rather ask "would you prefer to meet with me two times a week or three?" Simply offer yes - yes options and you'll see yourself closing more prospects very quickly.
  • Practice Takeaway Selling. Jim Labadie and Ryan Lee call it "putting up the Velvet Rope." Basically, all you do is position yourself in a fashion that makes the prospect feel fortunate if you'll take them on as a client instead of the other way around. One of our trainers, Randy, has tons of credentials, a resume of experience that would stand up next to most any trainer and has even owned his own rehab facility. However, when we hired Randy, he just could never get comfortable selling. He always felt like he was at the mercy of the prospect and hoped they would become a client. Not until I trained him in the art of "takeaway selling" did he get comfortable selling. Now he simply tells prospects that his schedule is essentially full and he might be able to fit them in if there serious and willing to be a model client. Just to put this in concrete numbers for you to really understand the difference this makes - in Randy's first 3 months with us, he closed 27% of the prospects he sat down with. Over the last 3 months he's closed 78%.
  • That's a great segue to telling you to track your closing percentage. You should track everything you can. That's really the only way you're going to be able to make tangible improvements. I would at least track my % of set sales appointments that actually "show", the % of those that you close and the average value of each of those sales. You also would be well advised to track the Lifetime Client Value of each of the clients you acquire. You then can test different approaches in each area to generate improvements.
  • Become and "assistant buyer." align yourself as a partner in finding the solution to your prospects "pain" or problem. After you've acquired the knowledge you need, then help the prospect choose the appropriate program or package for them.
  • Have some genuine concern for the prospect. Sell them what is best for them - not what's best for you. If they need 2 sessions per week - don't sell them 4. You'll be taking the first step to avoiding buyer's remorse and you'll most likely be laying the groundwork for a relationship that produces a greater Lifetime Client Value as they will now trust you.

You'll probably notice (especially after I post about Up-Sells and Cross-Sells) how all these steps are really intertwined. I just like to separate them when I'm evaluating businesses and seeking areas to improve.

Gotta go watch the Red Sox - Yankees game. Go Sox!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Reader Questions...

Well, due to an onslaught of question about my last post - I'll postpone the scheduled post on "Closing the Sale" until tomorrow. I'll respond to a couple of the questions that I received that seem to be representative of the entire group. Here we go...

Question: It sounded like you have something against Phil Kaplan. He's strived to raise our profession, helped thousands of trainers and you are discounting what he suggests about valuing your time as a professional. What's the deal?

Answer: I like Phil. I'm actually a member of Phil's PEAK Roundtable, a group that meets 3 times per year. I simply disagree with a couple of his positions. I think Phil has done plenty to help trainers and the fitness industry as a whole. That doesn't mean that what he says is the gospel. I agree wholeheartedly about valuing your time as a professional. I mentioned in the previous post that if you can get paid for everything, you'd be foolish not to. But let's put two examples on the table:

1. Phil charges $20 for his group orientation. He then sells clients a series, which means they essentially pay 1 session in advance for his trainers services. No real risk for the client, at most they're out the cost of one session. No real need to "try before you buy" if you have no real commitment at stake.

2. My trainers offer a free introductory session. We then sell personal training programs with terms of 4-12 months with over 80% being 12 months. 12 months of personal training is a significant commitment in time and money for most people. Wouldn't you agree that it might merit a more informed buying decision? Hence the "try before you buy" approach.

Now which of these approaches give your business more long term stability and a higher re-sale value? Obviously the one with a receivables base with contractual agreements. But to get that we offer what essentially amounts to the equivalent of a "loss leader." We're willing, based on the lifetime value of our clients and our closing percentage, to invest the cost of a session. This is very common in direct sales. Do you think that the "real estate gurus" on the late night infomercial make back the cost of the air time and production cost of the show by selling a $19.95 home study kit? Nope. The know their LCV and what they're willing to spend to get a client.

One last note about Phil's position...if you read his Profit Vault product (It's really good) he mentions partnering with a home exercise equipment dealer and offering a $10 session at customers homes to help them understand how to get the most from their newly purchased piece of equipment. Doesn't offering a session for $10 undermine your ability to ask for a normal rate?

Question: Doctors don't offer their services for free. I'm a professional, I should be treated the same?

Answer: O.K. - Let's see how many people I piss off here. To become a M.D. you're looking at eight years of school and probably between $150,000 and $500,000 in monetary investment. To get the most well known certification in our industry (ACE), you might have a cost of $289 (exam and study kit) and a time investment of eight weeks. So do me a favor and leave the comparison with the average Personal Trainer and M.D. for someone who's dumb enough to buy it. Frankly, our society probably equates trainers and doctors about as much as mechanics and rocket scientists. Go to your average health club. A bunch of kids in t-shirts that say trainer and typically stay for about 6 months at a time.

Now let me give you an analogy I might buy, even though the barrier to entry for each is drastically different still...Trainers and chiropractors. See, neither of these fields has been totally understood and embraced like that of the M.D. yet. There are plenty of people that have never been to a chiropractor, question their value and don't equate them with a "real doctor."

So, in turn, many chiropractors - when developing their businesses - offer free consultations, free x-rays etc. Then, they use the report of findings as their sales presentation. Once they've positioned themselves, they can shift to doing nothing for free as well.

I'll say it again...if you have positioned or can position yourself to do nothing for free - GREAT! I'm going to guess the Craig Ballantyne, Alwyn Cosgrove, Stephen Holt and Bill Hartman don't do anything for free - just like Brian Calkins. They've all created a position that allows for that. Do the same and you'll be able to name your price.

On a side note...I'll bet you if you go to their sites (and you'll learn alot) - they will build value by offering you a free newsletter or free report. Then after they've established how much the have to offer, they will offer you an opportunity to make a purchase. Hmmmm....some similarities there, don't you think?

P.S. - Please don't take this as shot at trainers...I'm a trainer. What I'm getting at is merely this:

Doctor's have an inherent credibility (whether or not it's deserved is beyond the scope of this post) that comes with the barrier to entry associated with their profession. We must earn our credibility as our profession's barrier to entry is much lower.

Talk to you tomorrow - gotta go golf.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Moving Prospects to Clients

It's been a few days since my last post...I spent yesterday in Cincinnati visiting one of the best trainers in the business, Brian Calkins. If you're not familiar with Brain from Fitness Riches or his Ad Words program with Eric Ruth - you need to get familiar with him. We (Brian, Nick Berry and I) bounced ideas off one another, brainstormed and worked on strategies to grow our businesses. I feel like everybody needs to do that from time to time just so they get an objective perspective. I know I took alot away from the meeting.

I mention that because it is relevant to the "sales process" post I promised you. See, I and Nick (arguably the sharpest guy in the industry when it comes to financing and retail profit centers) are co-owners of several businesses...two of which are a health club and a personal training company with two locations. All of our PT sales are in a club setting. All of Brian's PT sales are in a private studio setting and he previously trained out of his home - both very different from providing services in a club setting.

There are a number of different approaches to selling personal training and related services and Brian employs a different approach than we do. He doesn't ever speak to a prospect in person. His entire sales process happens over the phone or via email. And he more than stays busy. Our staff, on the other hand, is contractually obligated to provide 2 complimentary sessions to new club members. (The stuff we do at our own club is kind of unique...I'll save it for another post.) So we obviously are at the polar opposite end of the spectrum.

Phil Kaplan will tell you to NEVER offer any of your services for free. Eric Ruth suggests that you give away a session or two keeping in mind the lifetime value of the client. My take - they're both right. Do whatever works. Brian closes over 75% of the people who go through his sales process. This month (August:)) we've closed over 75% of new club members who've gone through their introductory sessions. Both closing rates are pretty good. (FYI - the avg. health club converts 2-3% of their members into PT clients...not good.)

So lets look for what is similar rather than think of how they're different.

1. Both capture the leads contact information to keep marketing to them if they choose not to buy now. That's a must.

2. Both build value in their in their services. My definition of value is this: the difference between perceived price and actual price. Most every prospect perceives there to be some value in your services, otherwise they wouldn't raise their hand as a prospect. What's a personal training session worth to them? A dollar? Fifteen? Thirty? Your job is to make your prospect's perceived value of your services exceed the actual price. Brain has done that with positioning, "putting up the velvet rope," outstanding sales copy and great sales skills. Our staff does that with questioning, "finding pain," assessments, example personal training sessions and "takeaway selling." It depends on your positioning, your sales skills and your market when deciding how to approach what direction to go. We don't have a choice due to contractual obligations - but even if we did, in Elizabethtown, KY (a rural community of 23,000) most people have never belonged to a health club - let alone used a trainer. Their friends haven't used a trainer and a surprising number don't even have any idea what a trainer does. By offering a "try before you buy" we can build value.

Not to go off on a tangent but the theory that a free session devalues what you do is bullshit. Test driving a car doesn't cut the value in half. Touring a house doesn't make it cheaper. We offer a free fourteen day trial membership in our club too. It could be argued that a free trial session, membership or anything else simply displays confidence in what you offer and an unwillingness to provide that displays the lack there of. Honestly, I don't believe that...but you can argue that position as much as the alternative. Phil's contention that "doctors don't offer free consultations so why should we" is weak. Doctors have been a well established and recognized profession for centuries. The strength in the argument for doing nothing for free is this: If you've positioned yourself in a fashion to get paid for everything you do, you'd be a fool to do anything for free. If you haven't or can't...use the free session as a tool. DO WHAT WORKS!

3. You have to have a call to action. You have to be willing to tell the prospect what to do next. Brian sends the prospect payment options after telling them how to get involved with his services. My staff has a presentation and offers program options and asks the prospect to choose the right one for them. Too often trainers are good at giving solid workouts and bad at asking for money. This is all to common among young trainers. Asking a prospect for more than the value of their clunker in the parking lot can be a bit overwhelming. I would start with a "canned" sales presentation and go from there. To think a young trainer or someone not proficient in sales can wing it is stoooopid. Actors study their scripts. Create a presentation and study it. You can improvise after you get good. Really good.

I'll talk more about actually closing the sale next time.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Truth About Lead Generation

O.K. - Back after a great weekend...So let's talk about lead generation. Basically, this is how you go about getting prospective clients to consider you for their fitness needs. Frankly, most fitness professionals don't really understand how this process works at all. Do you?

Over the weekend I went into a couple of health clubs and saw what I always see, a flyer or brochure with prices and a few pictures on the wall with each trainer and their credentials.

Crap. It's all crap. It's a giant case of me-tooism where everyone does what they see everyone else do. If you take brochures and other materials from 50 different trainers and cut out the names and faces, they're interchangeable. This approach doesn't work and the people who make a decent living using it do so in spite of it...Not because of it.

You need to have a system to get prospects to approach you...Not you chasing after them. And you need to spend the bulk of your time with people who can reasonably be expected to give you their money. So here are ten tips for devising your system:

1. Be clear on what this is. Training is a business so money MUST be the predominate measure of success. So you must consider your time valuable, price your services to reflect what you want to earn, and have a back-end system to maximize referrals and lifetime client value. Even though this isn't marketing, you must keep this in mind because it's WHY you market to begin with.

2. Create Credibility. Client testimonials are PURE GOLD. Use them in every mailing, brochure and ad. Have a testimonial book and Wall of Fame.

3. Get publicity and leverage it. Write for the newspaper or submit queries to magazines. Send press releases to all you local media outlets and don't hesitate to approach the national ones as well. Not only will this get you leads hungry for your expertise - but you can also leverage it by copying these materials and making them available to your prospects.

4. Specialize. Find a niche (or several) and become the premier trainer in your town, state or country in that specialty. People will almost always choose the person who specializes in what their concerned with over the general practicioner. If you are having chest pains would you rather see the cardiologist or your family doctor. You can have more than one specialty...Just don't promote them together.

5. Flow. It's simple...Supply and demand. Keep marketing once you get clients, limited supply makes your time so much more valuable to the prospect and gives you power or control. Block off your schedule and tell prospects what time is available. You're no longer on call.

6. Make your marketing like a personals ad. Tell the reader EXACTLY who you're looking for as a client. They'll stand up and take action and the tire-kickers will pass on by.

7. Give a reason for response. Offer a free report or something similar to pre-sell and pre-screen the prospect even further.

8. Put up the velvet rope. Make it clear that you are accepting a select number of prospects. Everybody wants what they can't have...And will often pay a premium price for it.

9. Referrals. These are the most pre-qualified prospects of all. They know what you do, how much you charge and have acted on a testimonial from a friend, family member or co-worker. Create a referral system and make it the core of your marketing efforts.

10. Strategic Alliances. Find businesses with the same type of client that you work with. Create a relationship and have them market you to their list.

Obviously, this list isn't comprehensive. If you want more details about Lead Generation, Eric Ruth wrote a great chapter on it in Fitness Riches ( and Stephen Holt also contributed a chapter on positioning that will soon have you facing the pleasant problem of having more prospects than you know what to do with.

I'll be discussing the Sales Process in the next day or two...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Where Are You Leaving Money On The Table?

Every business that I've encountered over my time in the fitness industry has left money on the table. Sure, some leave less than others but every business leaves some. So what I'm going to do today is give you a way to view your business that will allow you to instantly see where you can improve what you do and create that additional stream of profit.

If you've followed my newsletter or been a coaching client then this will look familiar to you. That's O.K. - It merits repeating (over and over.) I and my business partner, Nick Berry, evaluate our businesses each month with this same template to see where we can improve. Here it is:

The FCG Flowchart

Basically, the way that we view any business is by plugging it into this simple flowchart. There are six steps that we believe any successful fitness business should have, and they are what comprise the flowchart. Each step is listed below with a brief explanation.

Step 1 - Lead Generation.

Simply how you generate your prospects. Advertising, marketing, referrals, publicity and anything else you can think of that helps you generate leads.

Step 2 - Sales Process.

How do you go about converting the prospect into a client or member? Is it a tour of your facility? How about a fitness assessment? List the details of whatever you do here.

Step 3 - Closing Process.

The actual conversion of a prospect to a member or client. List the details of your closing process here.

Step 4 - Upsells and Cross-sells.

Do you have an instant upsell when you close a deal? People are far more likely to purchase additional products or services at this point than at any other. Look at any successful retail business in the U.S. All of them try to get you to make an additional purchase at the point of sale. Do you?

Step 5 - Back end Opportunities

Once someone has become a member or client, do you have follow up offers in place? If you've provided great service on their initial purchase, you current clients or members will happily make additional purchases from you. What are your back end opportunities?

Step 6 - Referrals and Regeneration

Happy members and clients are your best source of new prospects. Do you have a system in place to take maximum advantage of this or do you just hope for good 'word of mouth?' Do you have a retention strategy or do you just hope you keep people staying and paying?

That's it. Plug your business into this model and evaluate where you do well and where you need to improve. Next week I'll discuss each step in greater detail.

P.S. - I and my lovely wife Holly (see photo) will be out of town for our anniversary this weekend so don't expect any posts until Monday.

P.P.S. - As far as the photo goes...Thanks to following Craig Ballantyne's TT Program I've dropped over 16 lbs. Of bodyfat since then. I test pretty much every trainer's program I can get my hands on before I allow my staff to add it to our arsenal...As far as efficient fat loss, Craig's TT program is the best I've come across. If you want to learn more about the best fat loss program on the market, click here:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Wizard Of Oz and Elvis

The Wizard Of Oz is one of the most popular movies in the history of cinema. What's not to love in the 1939 classic, interesting characters, timeless music and even a moral (happiness comes from within.) But as a business person the thing that sticks out at me is the Wizard.

Think about it...This may be the greatest self-promotion job in history. Professor Marvel arrives in Oz accidental by way of a hot air balloon and through self-promotion he becomes The Great and Powerful Oz. At a point late in the movie he tells Dorothy and the other to "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." But in reality that's where the magic is.

The Wizard is simply the result of the activities behind the curtain...Otherwise there's nothing but a chubby guy who got lost in a balloon. But this isn't all that uncommon if you think about it.

Did you know that Elvis and his promoter colonial Parker never had more than a handshake agreement yet Elvis paid the colonial 50% of his earnings for virtually his entire career. See, Elvis recognized something that most people either don't understand or are unwilling to acknowledge...There are plenty of people with talent. The magic is in getting the public to pay you for your talent. P.T. Barnum made a fortune promoting others talents. And every time those performers would think they didn't need the great promoter and go off on their own they would quickly discover that same thing Elvis inherently knew - without effective promotion and publicity they were just like everyone else with talent alone - broke.

How's this relate to you? Simple. Are you a talented fitness professional? Have you studied anything you could get your hands on that might help improve your clients' results? Can you help someone improve their body composition or hit a 90 MPH fastball better than most anyone else in the world? Well if the answer is yes, what is preventing you from earning $100,000, $250,000 or even $500,000 a year in the fitness industry?

My guess is that if you're truly a great trainer and aren't making a sizable income - it's because you don't have "the man behind the curtain" or are unwilling to be the man behind the curtain. Don't expect the world to beat a path to your door. If you're great let everyone know about it.

Here's my disclaimer: If you're a shitty trainer - go study the great ones and improve your technical skills and knowledge - then come back and re-read this post. The internet has become polluted with a bunch of "pseudo-experts" in every field that can tell you how to do anything and everything but have never done it themselves. Keep your integrity and do what it takes to become great...Then let everyone know.

What Do The Wealthy Have In Common?

Besides having a lot of money :)

What do rich people have in common? No, it's not intelligence or education. Look around. The world is full of geniuses unable to pay next month's rent. I live in Kentucky and can't begin to tell you how many stores have a clerk with a master's degree. No, it's not courage, luck or wealthy families either. And no, it's not even passion, instinct, timing or greed.

The single characteristic that the wealthy tend to have in common is an unusually strong ability to think ahead. As a matter of fact, research indicates that the length of your time horizon (your ability to think ahead) is the one characteristic that most accurately predicts where you will land in the socioeconomic strata.

I was talking with a gentleman that my company is considering partnering with on a large project who happens to be an extraordinarily wealthy and successful business owner. He's owned chains of businesses in several fields so I asked him how he chooses business to investment in. He told me the following: "The first question that I ask myself when looking at a potential business opportunity, even if I only plan on owning it briefly and then selling it, is...'Is this a business that I would want to own 20 years from today?' If the answer is 'no,' then I don't invest in it."

But to counter to what you may be thinking, wealthy people don't share this characteristic "because they're rich and can afford to think ahead." They become wealthy because they have this characteristic. It's an established fact that a person who can't set aside a few dollars each month from a salary of twenty thousand a year will find it equally impossible to set aside a few dollars from a salary of two hundred thousand a year. The average person thinks ahead exactly one paycheck. We know what must be paid with the one that's coming and we have a plan for what to pay with the next. Needless to say, this is not a plan for building wealth. This is a plan for being average.

Far below average, in the very lowest economic strata, are the addicts and alcoholics who don't think ahead even to where they will sleep tonight; their entire existence has been reduced to the next fix, the next drink, the next score - a time horizon of only an hour or two.

How far have you been thinking ahead?

Monday, August 07, 2006

How I Learned To Ignore The Naysayers

When I was 23 and had just wrapped up my bachelor's degree and one and only summer of pro baseball I had the opportunity to interview for the Head Baseball Coaching position at my alma mater. This position was far from a prize but my dream had always been to be a coach.

Now let me give you a little history - the baseball program at this University had never had a winning season, never been to the post-season...Really hadn't been very good at all. The program was generally regarded as one of the worst in the NAIA (the collegiate division they were a member of.) The baseball program had only had two head coaches in their history, one had been an All-Star in the Major Leagues and was regarded as one of the "biggest baseball names" in that part of the country. The next coach had been a 3-time state coach of the year at a local high school. In spite of having generous amounts of scholarship money and great credentials, neither of these coaches could make the program a winner. Because of the lack of success the University decided to "de-emphasize" baseball and eliminate the scholarships.

Did I forget to mention they also decided to pay the coach $5000 a year?

Due to the schools change in direction - the coach resigned, the pool of candidates for the vacant position was thin and I "won" the job. The pay was poor so I continued to train athletes and accepted a part time job as the schools Strength & Conditioning Coach to subsidize my income.

As you can imagine, most everyone (actually EVERYONE except me) expected me to fall flat on my face. "If the two biggest names in baseball from that area couldn't even muster a winning season with scholarships, a 23 year old guy with no experience and no scholarships would be lucky to even win a game" most people thought. But I never really even contemplated failure. I wrote the following goals for the program on an index card and kept them in my wallet:

1. To win 2/3 (.667) of our games. (The school had a winning percentage of .381 to that point.)
2. To win 30 games in a season. (The school record was 19)
3. To make it to the NAIA Regional Tournament. (The team had never even made the conference tournament)
4. To receive recognition in the national coaches poll. (approximately the top 15% of all teams nationally)

So I read everything I could get my hands on, visited the most successful programs in the country like LSU, Miami and Georgia Tech and decided to do things differently than everyone else was was competing with. I read marketing books to learn how to recruit. I had our team lift weights aggressively and do SAQ work when everyone else was still leery of heavy lifting and doing distance running. I approached the tactical side of the game differently. I didn't even have a sign for the Hit & Run.

I my first year, we won more than we lost. By my third year we won 35 games, made the Regional Tournament and were ranked in the National Poll. In my 5th year we finished 5th at the NAIA World Series and won 48 games.

I decided to leave coaching because I wanted to own my own business after 6 years. But during that span our team won 194 games and lost only 86 (.693), was nationally ranked the final four years and led all of college baseball (over 2000 teams) in hitting over the six season span. All of this while having one of the smallest budgets in the country.

I know this was a long post...But every time someone tells me something can't be done or I can't accomplish what I want to, I think back to this. Then I say: "Stick around, you'll see."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Where Will You Be?

Last week during two separate phone coaching sessions personal trainers indicated that they had no specific goals for their business 2, 3 or even 5 years down the road. Oh sure, they said they wanted to make more money or have more clients. For me, those are a little too general.

You've heard the old Zig Ziglar seminar stunt where he'd pull someone out of the audience and he'd ask them what they wanted and they'd reply "more money." He'd proceed to hand them a $1 bill and congratulate them on achieving their goal.

You've gotta be specific.

I hear excuses all the time though. "You need money to make money." "I don't have the credit to borrow what I'd need to open a studio or club." "I wouldn't know where to begin." "My town is too small for a studio." You get the picture. Let me tell you about some simple approaches people took to overcome obstacles like these.

Did you know Alwyn Cosgrove was once an independent trainer in a club? After a while he figured out that what he was paying the club could just as easily be spent on leasing space and opening his own facility. He found a space of about 1000 square feet in a rural shopping center and spent about $3000 for equipment. Each month he reinvested in his facility and now he's got 5000 sq. ft. and I'd make an educated guess that his ROI beats most every big box club out there.

Brian Calkins started training clients in his own home with a simple equipment set up. After just a couple of years he'd saved enough to equip a state of the art studio and now he's laying the groundwork to add multiple locations in the Cincinnati market.

I started my initial personal training company with $500 by contracting to lease the training rights in a health club in a town of 10,000. I soon sold that business back to the club for a nice little profit and launched the same model in a bigger club in a town of 23,000. This time I spent a whopping $1,526 (I still have receipts) because I bought a new computer.

None of those examples required a bank loan, big investment or wonderful circumstances. I could probably find you hundreds more just like them too.

Look, I'm not telling you that you need to open your own studio or club. For that matter, I'm not even suggesting that you have to work for yourself. What I am saying is that you need to have a specific goals of where you want your business and your life to be in a couple of years, otherwise it will probably not significantly improve. Don't dwell on the obstacles that you think will prevent you from achieving what you want...Instead focus on finding solutions.

Next post I'll tell you a little story about how I learned that obstacles are nothing more than things that make your success seem even more impressive when you get there.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Best Marketing Tool There Is

Yesterday the Vice-President for the largest franchisee of Gold's Gyms in the world happened to stop in our Elizabethtown location. While he waited for a fitness consultant to give him a tour, he spent about 5 minutes investigating our "Wall of Fame" - which is a group of testimonials with before and after photos. The fitness consultant took him on a tour and he saw everything the club has to offer. As soon as they got back to the front of the club, he immediately went back to the "Wall of Fame." He told her that it was the best "in-club display" that he'd ever come across.

Now think about this...this man is in the almost 20 locations that they own and countless other facilities and he considered a simple group of pictures and testimonials the best display he'd seen. Don't get me wrong, Holly does a wonderful job with our retail and display area but these are nothing more than pictures and testimonials in inexpensive frames.

Not exactly revolutionary.

But on second thought, maybe it is. Testimonial proof is, without a doubt, the best marketing tool you can have in your bag of tricks. What's a referral? Simply a testimonial from one personal to another. What allowed Bill Phillips to sell millions of dollars worth of supplements? The testimonials from Body For Life (and some great copy written by Joe Polish.)

People love and respond to compelling testimonials. They are more powerful than anything else that you can do with your marketing. They pre-sell your prospect and also do a great job with facilitating the compliance of your existing clients.

I would go so far as to tell you that if your ad, sales letter, brochure, catalog, coupon, etc. That you're going to use to promote your business does not contain compelling testimonials that support and prove your promises, save yourself the money of creating them.

Here's a little trick you can use to maximize your testimonials' impact - add a small caption detailing the program and supplements (if you sell supplements) that the client was on. Prospects will often say: "I want to do what she did."

If you want to learn the flip side of the before and after pictures that you see tied to every supplement and diet program on the market, Craig Ballantyne made an excellent post on his blog about it. Check it out here:

Talk to you later.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Do You Have The Time?

A couple of posts back I talked about books I've been reading. Jean-Paul Francoeur (owner of the coolest fitness forum on the web - check it out at: made a comment about taking advantage of audiobooks as a way to learn while maximizing your time. It got me thinking about my time management strategies. Here are a few that you can use:

  • Audiobooks. I NEVER travel without listening to some educational CD. Maybe I'm boring, but I'm also much smarter than I was 2 years ago because of it. Great way to maximize your time.
  • Raise your prices. If you want to make $2000 per week that's 40 sessions at $50 per session or about 26 sessions at $75 per session. If you do hour sessions, you just saved 14 hours.
  • Do semi-private training. Same concept. It increases the value of your time so you can spend less time and make the same amount of money.
  • Outsource. Hire a virtual assistant. Don't spend your time doing stuff that doesn't pay you well. Bookkeeping, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, running errands, etc. I would suggest focusing your time and efforts on the "high return" activities and delegating the rest. You'll make more money and save a ton of time.
  • Create a passive income stream. Autoship supplements, an e-book, etc. Something that you set up and will run itself for the most part.
  • Get up 1 hour earlier. If you do your most important tasks early you will get much more accomplished because the "typical daily tasks" won't get in the way.
  • Use a planner. Write everything down or use outlook. You shouldn't waste time trying to remember what it was that you were supposed to get done.
  • Do a "brain dump" at the end of each day. Write down all the things you want to get done the next day while they're fresh on your mind. It will also give you peace of mind before you go to sleep.
  • Do backward planning. Set goals and work backwards from them until you get to your current state. The make incremental progress each day. If something comes up that isn't consistent with you log-term goals...Don't waste time on it.
  • Prioritize the stuff you dumped the night before each morning and do the most important thing first.
  • Set appointments for everything. If your clients get specific time, why do the other important things in your life get "whatever is left over."
  • Don't check your e-mail every hour or two. That goes for the phone as well. Just because someone has your number or e-mail address doesn't mean they own your time. Respond when it's convenient to you.
  • Make everyone leave specific messages. No message - no return call. Who wants to walk into something "blind." A message allows you to prepare yourself for what ever might be asked of you.

I'll continue with more later on but I have my workout scheduled at 11:45 so I gotta go...