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How To Sell Fitness Without Being Pushy

by James Anderson
Posted: July 21, 2016

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Let’s get this straight. If you feel that (as a personal trainer) you’re going to have to push or pull someone into training, then this article is for you, writes Personal Trainer and fitness expert, James Anderson.

I hope this article helps you realise that if you follow down that road of being pushy, then you’re simply making selling yourself and your business far more complex than it needs to be.

Now, this isn’t to say that potentially you won’t have to push or pull someone a little bit, to help them overcome limiting beliefs that might stop them from making a commitment to both themselves and you. But as long as you’re doing it with the following questions in the forefront of your mind – you’re doing it right.

  • Am I adding value? 
  • Am I being human?

I’ll get more into the importance of value a little later but when it comes to working in fitness, you need to be able to show that you’re “human” - that you can empathise and connect with potential clients. Because as the old clichéd saying goes “people don’t care how much you know, they only want to know how much you care”. I know, I know, we’re all human – but although the idea of being human may sound a little silly, it seems to be quickly forgotten in business.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that in the personal training industry, you’re not just selling a gizmo, you’re selling “you”. So my strong advice is that that you humanise all your interactions so that they feel cared for, rather than just being another number on your balance sheet. 

More clients, and therefore more money, comes in the greatest amounts to those to those that care the most (as well as getting results).

Why most of us hate the term “sales” 

How to sell without being pushy

Of all the trainers that I’ve mentored over the years, “sales” evokes more fear and avoidance mentality than any other part of business. However, I’m also quick to remind them that if they don’t have customers, they don’t have a business. 

I think the reason that sales can be such a dirty word is for a few reasons. 

  1. We’ve most likely had a ‘sales experience’ with a pushy person who has coerced, annoyed, aggravated, or made us feel bad about ourselves in order to get a sale - perverting our perception of selling. 
  2. Because of the above experience(s), we now view the sales process the wrong way (i.e. having to do and be the person mentioned above to make sales) 
  3. We fear failure and have linked the word “no” with being a failure. 

The truth

The real truth is that we’re all salespeople and we’ve always been salespeople. Don’t believe me? That’s probably because you can’t remember that far back. 

Let me jog your memory. You’re four years old, lying face down on your local supermarket floor kicking and screaming, tears and snot running down your face, all because Mummy wouldn’t buy you those chocolate chip biscuits. Remember now? Yep, that was a sales tactic. 

However, just like the pushy sales person I mentioned earlier, you just went about it the wrong way. Now it’s time to learn the right way. 

Changing your perception

How to sell fitness - personal trainer being helpful to woman in gym

Over my years, I’ve learnt that when you ask better questions, you get better answers. So with that said, I’d like to ask you a few questions to hopefully help change the way you view how to sell fitness. 

1.    How would you feel about sales if all you had to do was ask quality questions and listen carefully? 

Well, questioning carefully and listening intently is pretty much all you need to do if you want to be amazing at selling! I promise you that if you open your ears and truly listen, your potential customer will let you know everything they want and what they need your help with. Selling isn’t telling; selling is listening and problem-solving. 

2.    How would you feel about sales if you didn’t see it as taking advantage of someone, but giving advantage to someone? 

So often we see the sales process as trying to get something out of the other person, but it’s not. It’s actually giving them what they need – which leads you to a win-win relationship.

3.    Finally, how would you feel if you didn’t need an inauthentic sales script or have so-called people skills, but simply had to be an authentic person?

If you’re seeing things firstly as “how can I help this person” before “how can I make money from this person”, then you’re already there. Because the sales process at its core isn’t just a business transaction, it’s the development of a human connection.

The new-school approach

Fitness friends laughing and talking after a workout

It’s bad enough that so many businesses get process wrong, but if you get it wrong in this industry considering the close relationships that you have with your clients - it spells disaster. 

The old-school sales approach looks something like this:

  1. Prospect
  2. Present 
  3. Overcome objections 
  4. Close the sale
  5. Follow-up 
  6. Provide value

 The new-school approach is:

  1. Create value 
  2. Build networks
  3. Be authentic 
  4. Question and listen
  5. Provide solution
  6. Get results

It’s hard to say which approach would win over the short-term as I’m sure we can all agree those salesmen can be pretty persuasive with their tactics.

But over a longer-term, the new-school approach will always come out on top as you’ve built a stronger foundation of value, trust and results.

Ok, let’s have that conversation about value

How to sell yourself and your business- fit girfriends after workout

Please read the next sentence very carefully as it could (read: should) change the way you look at running your personal training business. 

If you give more in value than you receive in return, then you’ll never have to worry about money (or clients) again. 

Now you’re probably thinking that that’s terrible advice because if you give more in value than you receive, then you’d lose money. But, I never mentioned money, I mentioned value – and value is merely a perception.

Value isn't always about money, it can just be about giving: time, knowledge, resources, education, empathy, trust or results - the list could go on forever.

So I’d like to challenge you to always think “HOW CAN I ADD VALUE”. Because if helping people and adding value is constantly on the top of your mind instead of just making a sale, then trust me when I say that you’ll never find the sales process hard again. People will naturally just want to work with you. 

Finally, I’ll leave you with a Tony Robbins quote that I love about relationships that I think translates perfectly into business:
“Treat them as you do at the start of the relationship and there will be no end”.

Do you want to be a Personal Trainer? Read career advice from 18 of Australia's top fitness experts here.


James Anderson

James is the owner of a women’s only tribe based at Bondi Beach that focuses on strength and conditioning team training for optimal outcomes and long-lasting solutions.

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