All good salespeople understand that selling is not simply about convincing someone to hand over money. The best salespeople view themselves as professional consultants who serve their customers by providing solutions. If you want your personal-training program to be wildly successful, you should take a similar approach.

It's tempting to assume that every person who walks in the door wants to get "buns of steel," but instead of jumping to conclusions, ask yourself, "What potential benefit inspired this person to venture into the club today? How does he want me to change his life for the better?"

Market research demonstrates that most people hire personal trainers for one of the following reasons: weight control, body shaping and/or exercise adherence. This information is probably not a surprise, but it's just the beginning of what you need to know to serve your clients better.

People hire personal trainers because they are dissatisfied with something about the way they look or feel. The more specific you can get a person to be about what he would like to change in these areas, the more likely you are to be able to connect with him about how you can use your skills to facilitate the change.

Many personal trainers make the mistake of thinking that people hire them because of how much they know. As a result, they spend about twice as much time talking as they do listening. This is the exact reverse of what they should be doing. The key to getting hired is effective listening (see Powerful Questions).

Yes, a prospective client wants to hire a knowledgeable, well-educated professional personal trainer, but his initial concern is not whether he is speaking to the smartest person in the room. He is focused on himself and whether this trainer can help him achieve his goals.

Finally, personal trainers need to understand and convey to prospective clients that they understand that they may not be the right person to help every client. Clients appreciate the professionalism of personal trainers who know when to refer them to others, and they reward this professionalism by referring their friends. As we all know, word of mouth is the very best marketing and a good reputation is priceless.

The following are open-ended questions designed to get prospective clients to talk and reveal important clues about what they are looking for. Don't interrupt them. Instead, pay attention and take notes. Then use this information to address their specific needs, concerns and goals.

Question Q: Tell me about your exercise history. Have you exercised regularly over the last year? Last five years?

Q: How did you hear about our personal-training services?

Q: Have you worked with a personal trainer before? If so, why did you stop?

Q. Have you ever gotten injured during exercise? If so, what happened?

Q: Have you given any thought to what type of exercise program you think would be fun for you?

Q: How often do you think you might want to work together?

Q: If we were to decide to work together, how would you evaluate my effectiveness as your trainer?

Revealed Information RI: Helps you see whether compliance is an issue for this person.

RI: Let's you know what initial impression he has of you and your services.

RI: Important clues about how a previous trainer disappointed or failed to live up to expectations.

RI: Gives you information about this person's specific problems; you will want to explain how you can address these problems.

RI: Gives you ideas of what you should include when you explain the type of program that you will design.

RI: Indicates how committed this person is and tells you how quickly you might be able to help him reach his goals.

RI: Gives you your touchstone for your performance and shows you what you really need to focus on.

This is an example of what a personal trainer might say after listening to the prospect's answers to the Powerful Questions.

"Mr. Prospect, based on what you've told me, here's my thought on how we should proceed.

"You mentioned that you've been exercising on your own, but you haven't gotten the results that you want, especially with upper-body strength and reducing your body fat. I'm sure that together we can achieve some improvement for you in these areas.

"You mentioned you'd like to do some strength training, and I agree that that would be one key to reaching your goals. I'm excited about designing a safe and effective resistance-training program for you. We need to make sure that we address that left shoulder that bothers you when you try to lift boxes and other things up on shelves. That's another reason that you're going to love lifting weights! It will make you stronger and less likely to get these nagging aches and pains.

"You mentioned that you would be available three times a week at 5 p.m. Why don't we get started next Monday, and plan to work together for two months and see how much we can accomplish? After that, we can re-evaluate where we are. You may decide to continue working together with me three times a week, or you may want to work out on your own once or twice a week for a while. The important thing is to get started so you can get where you want to be!"