We all know that in business there is no such thing as a short cut and your Personal Training business is no different. Since 1998, I've worked with over 60 independent health clubs to help grow their personal training sales and departments. I have also worked as a Personal Trainer, Fitness Consultant and Fitness Director in large club chains as well as in independent facilities.
There is a large movement today that believes that the future of the Personal Training business rests in the hands of group and semi private training. When you dig a little further you uncover that the philosophy and the push behind this approach comes from Personal Trainers more so than club owners. Trainers are trying to convince owners that they can make more money this way because it's cheaper for the client and they'll be able to produce more sales and get more members serviced. What they often fail to mention is that it's easier for them to make more money with less work by packing more clients into a session. They also don't take into account the long term affect that this has on the growth of a Personal Training department. If you just stop for a moment and consider the long term impact on renewal sales as well as the ability to increase prices for sessions you get a very different perspective and picture.
If you've had the opportunity to read Ken Blanchard's book Raving Fans, you'd realize that creating any successful business starts with creating the best possible service and experience for the client. What would the ideal Personal Training experience look like and how do I go about delivering no more than 100% of that service and expectation, predictably each and every time. The clue is in the words themselves - Personal Training. If you want to deliver the best coaching service and experience, it has to be personal. How can you effectively assess a person's lifestyle, nutrition, stress and emotional issues in a group setting? If you're going to be successful long term, and charge the maximum amount of money for your knowledge and education, you have to take a coaching perspective on personal training. Each person has specific issues and tendencies and they need to be addressed in a private, one on one setting to be truly effective.
If it's just about maximizing sales in the short term and packing as many people into a second rate service out of the gates, you will surely jeopardize your Personal Training business down the line. We just went through a recession and we saw the effect on new membership sales. Without this new business coming through the door, many Personal Training departments were ravaged. That's because they didn't establish enough one on one, solid relationships with clients who see their Trainers as life coaches that they can't do without. In 2009, one third of our PFP clients had their best year ever in Personal Training sales. You can contact me directly to get their names and phone numbers. We're moving into a culture where everything is becoming an "in and out" service. I never feel valued when I go to visit my chiropractor and he's running from room to room pushing me through the assembly line. The same holds true when I visit my physician who is bouncing from office to office pushing out prescription sheets without having adequate time to discuss what's going on in my life and what might be really causing the problem.
We are one of the last beacons for true, one on one service that gives 45 - 55 minutes of quality attention and service. How do your Trainers propose to effectively raise their rates on half hour or group sessions with these kinds of experiences? In many cases, clients show up 5 - 10 minutes late and by the time you factor in drinks, rest and getting changed you're down to a less than adequate workout period. Let me ask you if your exercise routine consists of 15 minute workouts with a group a few times a week? Many of our senior and Master Trainers in our PFP clubs are charging between $75 - $100 per session for one on one and get little to no resistance when they go to their clients and up the fees. When it comes to group training the only way to make more money is to jam more people into the class which then makes for an even poorer training experience and a lower retention rate.
Group Training is simply an easy way out, a band-aid for the absence of professional sales people in your Personal Training departments. It's your Trainer's way of saying I'm not comfortable with sales so I need to charge less money. They are one of the only professionals that I know that spend years in a college kinesiology program, and then more years and a small fortune on certifications, and then simply give their knowledge away for next to nothing. Try asking a lawyer to give you free demo or orientation or maybe a nice group rate on legal counseling. This I can guarantee. If you ever dreamed of selling $400,000 per month in Personal Training in one location, on a consistent basis, like the club that I was an owner at in Toronto, you will never get there by building your Personal Training business on groups and semi privates. Most of our current clubs that do between $100,000 and $200,000 per month produce 90% of their sales numbers from one on one training and 10% from groups. The Pro Fitness Program is not designed to be all things to all people. It is designed to make a club the maximum amount of money in their Personal Training department. It just so happens that the focus and process also offers the best possible service and retention. It's funny how the two must go hand in hand together. If you're truly in business to make money, then to date, this is the only proven system to produce maximum sales results on a consistent basis. When it's proven to me, in any demographic or market and regardless of club size, that groups and semi privates can produce similar success, only then will we start to consider a paradigm shift.
In the end, group training should simply be a vehicle to get people into one on one training. I did 2 years of dance classes with my wife at Arthur Murray. I only had to spend 2 sessions in a group to realize that I needed some personal instruction. We invested 2 years of our money and time working with our instructors so that we could feel comfortable going back into a social group environment. But what kept me coming back for more was the great relationship we developed with our instructor from Venezuela who is a friend to this day. If you head down the path of groups and semi privates it will be extremely difficult to switch back to one on one. You will create a culture where members are conditioned to pay a lower fee for your Trainer's knowledge and service. It will be difficult for you to justify why a real training session involves stretching your client out, going over their food and training log book and making adjustments to the workouts based on previous recorded sessions and how they're feeling that day. Your entire system must prioritize one on one as the best possible solution and experience. Only as a last resort, when all objections have been professionally uncovered and addressed, should you ever offer a group or semi private session. That means that if you're a Pro Fitness Program client 30% - 40% of all new members will purchase a one on one Personal Training package between 12 - 144 sessions and renewal rates will average between 60% - 80%. Never allow your members to confuse Personal Training with group or semi private instruction. It's your obligation and duty to educate your members and community as to what is the best possible service and education to get them real results for life.
By Jeff Russo in collaboration with Vince DelMonte