Too often when I visit clubs I'm exposed to “The Hunched Over Leaner.” He or she leans on his or her elbows, on the front desk, sometimes flipping the pages of a magazine, sometimes eating out of Tupperware. Wherever you find the hunched over leaner, you'll also likely find the “Wanderer.” The wanderer usually has the client fixed on a machine performing some repetitive movement while he checks himself out in the mirror, his mind obviously miles away. If you have these trainers in your club, you do not have the right personnel!

Hunting Season

It isn't easy to find exceptional personal trainers, and you shouldn't expect it to be. In an industry where the ability to look good in a polo shirt and the willingness to sit through a weekend workshop and pass an unaccredited exam can lead to a “personal trainer” business card, excellence is hard to come by. That doesn't mean you can't find it, or more importantly, that doesn't mean you can't create it! The right personnel equates to the right raw material. Beyond certification and credentials, you want to hire trainers who are more committed to the members than to their reflections, trainers who not only understand “the machines,” but understands the human body and psyche. You want to hire trainers who are proven team players and great communicators.

Mind Games

Understanding the mind-set of the trainer makes managing a training team a simpler task. Whenever I conduct a seminar for owners and sales managers, I ask the group, “What motivated you to pursue this career?” The Answer? Money. When I pose the question to a roomful of trainers, the response always reveals “passion for helping people.”

Because those trainers who possess “the right stuff” are so committed to delivering results, they feel uncomfortable in a “sales” position. The act of an owner asking trainers to go out on the floor and sell training creates team-wide discomfort.

It's essential that there is a sales vehicle in place to feed and optimize the personal training profit center. That sales vehicle should be driven by those with proven talents in the art of persuasion, sales people.

Don't misunderstand me, trainers can be wonderful influencers. They just don't like to be put in a position where they risk rejection. I've found the greatest success in beefing up revenue by creating an “in-between” step that connects every new member with a personal trainer — for a fee!

Nothing For Nothing

Too many clubs position trainers as “throw ins” by promising free sessions with enrollment. By charging for the initial meeting, you pre-qualify the audience of prospective clients.

The best forum for feeding the personal training profit center is a small group orientation. In the clubs I work with, we charge $75 for a personal training session, and only $20 for the initial group orientation (sold at the Point of Sale). More than 80 percent of new members who attend the orientation commit to personal training. The success rate is so high because the experts are doing what they're best at. The sales person “sells” the initial orientation, and the trainer then has an hour to prove his or her value to a group of prospects.

Finally, you must have a role model at the helm. Whether you have a fitness director, or head trainer, that individual should lead by example. He or she must be able to train, motivate, and to bring out the best in those who do have “the right stuff,” an individual willing to walk the talk and to share the rewards.

Is it a lot to ask? To implement a forum for trainers to excel? Of course it is, but the rewards are plentiful. Personal training should not only be a revenue source that begins to rival membership, but it is also the pivotal profit center for all others. With time, and a courageous few willing to get out there and challenge convention, our industry will prosper by coming to recognize the true value of the ground army … the personal trainers.

Phil Kaplan is President of P. A. Kaplan and Associates. He can be reached at 800-552-1998.