Donna Hutchinson is the owner of On The Edge Fitness Educators, which offers fitness education courses, workshops and seminars focused on assisting fitness professionals in building their careers. She is the president and founder of the International Fitness Network Association, serving to unite fitness professionals from around the world. She has worked in corporate wellness centers, community recreation facilities, private health clubs and as an independent personal trainer. Hutchinson is a media personality in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is quickly emerging as Canada’s leading speaker in the area of business development. Hutchinson can be reached at edgefit@shaw.ca.

A new trainer once asked me, “With all your years of experience, what is the one thing you wish someone would have told you when you first started personal training?” I pondered this question for only a moment and responded: “The importance of learning how to connect with people.” Personal training is a people-centered business. As a trainer, you become a coach, mentor and guide to people wanting to improve their health, physical fitness and performance. Your ability to build a rapport is vital to your overall success. Below are tips on how to formulate a connection between you and a prospect and how it can help you sell your services.

There are three steps in the connection-building process. Each step builds on the next one. These steps include:
1. Building Trust
2. Acting as a partner
3. Demonstrating your enthusiasm

Build Trust
Building trust is one of the most important steps in making a connection between people. Without trust you have no basis with which to start or develop a relationship. Would you do business with someone you didn’t trust? If someone violated your trust, would you continue a relationship with them? I guess this would all depend on the violation, but in general, we do business and enter relationships with people that we trust. You foster trust by being honest, trustworthy, respectful, capable and genuine. You extend trust to people who you believe to hold the same values.

When meeting someone for the first time, start building the trust right away. You can accomplish this by listening actively, paying attention to every nuance of their conversation. Stay in the moment and demonstrate your genuine interest in the information they are sharing about them. The prospect should sense your sincere curiosity about their situation and your willingness to help them.

Act As a Partner
From that foundation of trust, construct a partnership between you and the prospect. Instead of being perceived as the “salesperson,” grow to be more of an associate, a guide, a coach. Get to know the prospect as you would a friend by taking steps to find out more about them. Ask probing questions to understand the full nature of their goals or issues. As a partner, you are not trying to sell anything. Instead, make recommendations, offer suggestions and encourage action. In this way, the prospect will feel like they have an advocate and that you are an integral part of their journey.

Demonstrate Your Enthusiasm
First steps are often the hardest to take. Going down a new road can be fraught with uncertainty, fear of failure and a lack of knowledge. This is a critical time for anyone wishing to make a lifestyle change. As easily as the impulse arrived to jump on the exercise bandwagon, it can just as quickly dissipate. As a trainer, you have a small window of opportunity to seize the prospect’s internal motivation for change and grow it into a burning desire. By demonstrating your enthusiasm and a positive can-do attitude, you can infect the prospect into believing that anything is possible. It may turn out to be the tipping point that they need in order to make a life-long transformation. Let your energy, enthusiasm and passion shine. Be as excited about the process as your prospect. You will know you have been successful in the process when they can’t wait to get started.

The people-centered approach to selling has been the central focus of how I do business as a trainer and speaker. I truly seek to find and establish a connection between people so that I am able to genuinely help them instead of sell them. I feel as though I am part of their journey, and I know that they sense my authenticity in wanting to get to know them and help them achieve their goals.

If you have any trepidation about how to sell your services, this approach may just be the catalyst you need to illustrate that selling can be rewarding, especially when you know that what you are offering is a positive experience and a healthy lifestyle.