As Head of the School of Personal Training that might sound like I’m committing commercial suicide. It’s also one of the common reasons PTs (especially those new to the industry) give when they’re struggling to find clients.

However it is true - most people really don’t want personal training, because very often they don’t understand what it is, and when people don’t understand something, it’s very unlikely they will buy it.

So what’s the solution? As with many things in our industry, a change of mindset is required – if people don’t want PT, offer something they do want!

Let’s go back to the point above. Think about what the average person understands by ‘personal training’. Although perceptions are beginning to change as our industry becomes more professional, they probably think of military style instructors making people sweat, or perhaps celebrities being put through their paces in a glossy magazine. Or maybe if they go to the gym they have seen the trainers there doing fancy, complicated exercises with their clients. These ideas are all focussed on the process of training, but is this what people actually want? Or do they really desire a flatter stomach, or more toned arms, or to have more energy? Do they want to feel better? (Arguably everyone’s goals boil down to this in one way or another). These are the resultsof training and have emotion and therefore motivation attached to them.

It’s not about WHAT you do, it’s about WHY you’re doing it.

Think of some common headlines you see on the cover of fitness magazines – “get big arms in 4 weeks”, “3 moves to guarantee a six-pack”, “melt away fat in 20 seconds a week” (okay I made that last one up, but it wouldn’t surprise me to read it somewhere). They are all carefully written to appeal to what people desire: quick, simple RESULTS.

Now I’m not suggesting you make outrageous claims like those above, but if you can find out what result someone is seeking, and can provide a specific solution to achieve it, you have something people actually want and will be motivated to pay for. So think of ‘personal training’ as just the field you work in, or the process, rather than what the client actually receives. To use an analogy, people don’t really pay a plumber to work on the pipework in their house, replace washers and tighten up some valves (the process of plumbing); what they’re actually paying for is the comfort of getting a hot shower and knowing they’re not wasting water through a dripping tap (results).

How do we put this into action? Imagine, or better still, go and talk to, your potential clients. Find out what they want and more importantly why they want it. Whether it’s in the gym or at a free talk you’ve organised on your specialist area, this market research then doubles up as a perfect rapport-building exercise.

You can then structure your services and marketing around what you discover. For example, male clients may want to add muscle in order to look better. So you could offer ‘cover model mass gain training’. Others may have a similar goal of increasing weight but in this case for sports so then your service becomes 'effective mass gain for performance'. Female clients may want to lose body fat to improve their appearance so how about designing a 'beach body sculpting' programme. You could even market yourself as a ‘body transformation coach’. If your clients are simply looking to take an hour out of their day to de-stress, put together a ‘chill out’ package involving gentle exercise, stretching and relaxation techniques. This way you’re not selling personal training, you’re selling the results and outcomes people are looking for – and they’ll be much more willing to pay.

About the Author 

Paul Swainson is Head of the Future Fit School of Personal Training, a role to which he brings over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. Having run his own personal training business and worked as a PT manager and tutor for some of the UK’s leading brands, his aim with the School of PT is to provide the next generation of fitness professionals with all the support and resources they need for a successful career