One of the keys to a good client-trainer relationship is that both parties know what to expect from each other. A great way to formalize these expectations is in an agreement. This document outlines the important business components of the trainer-client relationship. Common topics in this agreement include the following:
• Term of the agreement -Establishes how long the agreement is for or what is included.
• Fees and payment structure -What methods of payment will you accept and over what amount of time will clients be able to pay you? It is up to you whether you want people to pay in full or in installments.
• Cancellation policy -It is strongly recommended that you include and enforce this policy. If you do not follow through on it, your clients will assume it is acceptable to cancel appointments without appropriate notice.
• Late policy -Similar to the cancellation policy, this is an area that needs to be enforced before it becomes a common occurrence.
• Refund policy -Many trainers will provide a money-back guarantee for the unused portion of their sessions.
• Informed consent -This common stipulation ensures the client understands the risk of exercising.
Figure 13.2 (below) is a sample personal training agreement.
Client-trainer agreements can be formatted in many different ways. The example in figure 13.2 covers the key elements, but you may need to modify it to suit your needs. The formal part of the client-trainer relationship is only one of the many areas that need to be considered. Some other areas that you need to pay attention to are as follows:
• Professional image -If you want to be treated and paid like a professional, you need to look and talk like a professional. Many people who purchase personal training sessions are professionals who are accustomed to being around certain types of people. If you want to attract this crowd, you need to keep these expectations in mind. Your professional image does not only apply to professional clientele. Anyone who is paying you for your services deserves the same level of service and attention to detail.
• Integrity -Do what you say you are going to do and keep your promises. The formal agreement will spell out many areas, but there are still many things not mentioned in it. For example, if you tell clients you are going to bring in an article on cutting calories, do it. If you tell clients you are going to follow up with them if they miss a session, do it. And, if you tell clients you are going to help them get healthier in all aspects of their life, do it! At the time it may seem like a minor event if you forget to do something, but the reality is that your clients will notice and will eventually lose faith in your ability to do the things you have promised.
• Motivation and attitude -Your clients are paying for you. They can most likely go anywhere to get a program. If you are not in a peak state each time you are with clients, then they are not getting what they paid for. If you are easily put off by people or certain types of situations and you can’t overcome this when you are with clients, then personal training is not for you. When you are with your clients, you need to be 100% present. This means all of your energy needs to be focused on them. Anything else that is going on in your life or at work needs to be put on hold.
• Personality types -Most of us are comfortable around people who are like us. In our personal lives, we will normally choose our friends this way. Unfortunately, you will not always be able to choose your clients as a personal trainer, so you must be able to adjust your personality style to that of your clients. The same approach will not work for every client. You will need to be flexible in your approach, but there may also be times when you choose not to take on new clients based on their personality because you will have to act in a way that you are not comfortable with. Regardless of the situation, it will normally be up to you to decide whether the client is compatible with your style.
• General communication -Clients need to feel comfortable with you so that they are willing to share any thoughts or concerns that are going to affect their session and their overall results. Listening is a key skill that all personal trainers need to master. This means listening without the intent of responding, trying to understand what people are saying and why they feel a certain way. When you do this, you not only listen to what they are saying, you also watch body language and potentially find out even more information. There are times when clients simply need someone to talk to. They may not need or want you to give them a solution. With experience you will become a good judge as to when you should respond and when you should simply be a sounding board.
The bottom line is that it is always less expensive to keep an existing client than it is to find a new one. You do not need to spend any money or time marketing to current clients and you don’t need to spend a lot of time trying to convince them that you are the right trainer for them. They are already your clients; you simply have to take care of them and give them what they want.
If you place as much focus on the relationship as you do on the actual program, you will develop loyal clients who will bring all of the future clientele you will ever need. This will not happen immediately since building any relationship takes time, but if you take the time to focus on all of the people you are training and taking care of them and their needs, you will reap the benefits.