Save yourself time energy & money = SYSTEM.
Systems are one of those things that you'll hear people say you need without ever going into any depth about what they should look like, and why you even need them.
A system is said to be "a process or combination of processes that work together to achieve efficient, consistent and measurable outcomes" (definition adapted from Michael Keeler at Business for Unicorns). If you set some simple systems up you can make your life easier, finish things in less time and spend less time working on the fewer essentials things and more on the important stuff.
For a personal trainer, that translates across to happier clients, less stress, high retention rates and more sales. If ever there were a few things that you should want as a trainer, it would probably be something to do with one of those four things.
Here are six systems to consider working on for your personal training business:
1. Lead Generation Tracking
It's relatively easy to put out an ad for a trial package, competition or new service you're offering and get a bunch of leads. Facebook and Instagram ads have made it much simpler to get in front of a specific audience. The second step - tracking, selling and retaining is a lot tougher.
Having a system set-up for tracking the last contact you had with a lead, where things were left and when you're going to follow-up is a method to keep those leads as people who may one day buy something from you. They may not buy on your first two or three contacts, but they may buy on the fourth or tenth. Sometimes you just need to catch people at the right point in time.
A simple excel document that lists those categories can suffice for this. Try putting an hour in your diary per month to update this and to send out messages to any who need to be followed up with.
We also want to know where the "leak" is occurring for you concerning getting clients. If you're generating lots of leads, but none are converting, then we have a sales or conversion problem. If you're not getting any leads, we have a marketing problem, and if you're signing leads up but not keeping them, we may have a service and retention issue.
I keep this system incredibly simple and set it up into three stages: pre-consult, during consult and post-consult.
In the pre-consult stage, your goal is to ensure the potential client turns up to your consultation and to try and learn a few things about them before they come in. This can be done by firstly considering what the person coming in is likely to be thinking about. What should I wear? Where will I park? What will we be doing? These kinds of questions can be answered in a personal video you send to the potential client. This way they also get to see your face and the gym surroundings. To gain more information about the client, you can send over a pre-consultation form that asks a few simple questions about the person. Things like why they enquired, what they do for a living, how they currently eat and what their goal is will help you direct the conversation towards the place that will ensure you learn what you need to know.
The during consult stage is all about learning as much as you possibly can about the person by asking questions and listening. Your goal is not to sign them up here; it's to learn about them, what they struggle with and why they want to achieve what they want to achieve.
The post consult stage is where you either start your onboarding process (the part where you bring the client into your business) or you follow up with whatever is necessary. This could be things like a recipe or two for breakfast, a trial offer or a follow-up time to contact them.
You know that way when you join a new class or start a new activity, and there is a stage where you're just learning the ropes of whatever that thing is? Maybe you have decided you're going to try learning a martial art or improve your public speaking by going to a class. You'll probably not have to fight the best fighter on day one nor will you have to stand up and give a 15-min TED-like talk about yourself. You'll be onboarded gradually into how things run.
This is what it should be like for any new client who joins your business.
Things like sending them a "thanks for joining (name of business)!" card, having a series of emails that go out to them and explains things like calories, hydration, alcohol, DOMS, recovery, step count etc., regular check-ins and a welcome document.
These things may not seem like they would make much of a difference but small things repeated are not small things.
As with all of the systems listed, it's worth doing your best to keep these simple. Programming should be no different.
Have a structure you use that follows something like:
A1 - Squat variation
A2 - Upper body mobility
B1 - Push variation
B2 - Lower body mobility
C1 - Lower body hip dominant variation
C2 - Upper body push variation
D1 - Finisher
This will ensure it's much easier for you to come up with the layout of how most of your sessions will look, and rather than spending 2 hours per week planning your programmes, you'll be able to spend 30mins maintaining and updating the structure you already have.
Check-ins are a recent addition to my format of working with personal training clients; having a system for how I run my weekly client check-ins.
Check-ins are important as they allow your clients to update you on how their day/ week/ month has been and will enable you to give them specific feedback. This helps not only results but also retention as it can create more value.
Here is how I run mine:
Sunday AM - send out check-in form from Typeform that asks some simple questions about how has their week been, problems & challenges they have had that week, upcoming events and a food diary (you could use a Google form or another service).
Monday midday - spend 1-hour sending looking through these and send back an email/ video or audio reply (the client chooses which one I send back).
Yours could look similar and may take longer than 1-hour as you have more clients and thus more replies to do.
6. Accounting & Admin
Unfortunately, one of the roles of a self-employed personal trainer is going to be one that means you'll probably have to manage your accounts and administration. You may have someone in your life who can help with this, but for the most part, you'll have to handle this stuff yourself.
My advice is to put an hour or two away per week on one day that is solely dedicated to dealing with this as this will allow you to chunk it all together. It will also allow you to ensure there's a certain amount of regularity to how you often you're doing the behind the scenes things.
Let six months of income and expenses pile up, and you'll start creating a feeling of overwhelm over it, which makes it all the harder to get done.
Create a list of tasks that need to be completed in this slot, set a timer for an hour or two and start ticking them off of your to-do list.
Creating systems is about saving yourself time and spending it doing things you would rather be doing. If you have none of these in place just now, pick one and start working on creating yours. Start by writing down what you currently do on paper and then refine it from there. Once that one is done, start on another and keep working until you have the systems you need to run your business more effectively.
Feel like you don’t “know enough” about nutrition? Feel like you just need to “do another course”? Sick of the stress, frustration and pressure that comes with trying to get clients to change their eating habits? Well it might not be your lack of knowledge thats the limiting variable here.
For years people have come to personal trainers to lose body fat. This is based on the common misconception that “doing loads of exercise” is the key. When in fact it isn’t. (If you want to learn more about that Gregg Slater and I cover all the ins and outs in various courses you can access through an Lift The Bar Membership.)
As we realised that, it drove PT’s towards delivering more and more of the advice that will actually help people lose body fat…which is, of course… nutrition. However, HOW nutrition has been delivered by PT’s can very easily create frustration and confusion on the part of both the client and the PT.
Let’s look at this another way…We know how people need to engage with our exercise service if they want to see results don’t we?
They will need to show up for training sessions consistently, probably at least twice week or complete extra sessions themselves. They will likely need to do some sort of mix of Mobility, Strength, Power and Cardiovascular conditioning. There will be days that they find some things harder and days where they find somethings much easier. But if they are turning up for their sessions we know we can adapt to them and their needs on that day. So that they can keep progressing.
So our clients have an issue…they aren’t as “fit” as they would like to be. And we have a service designed specifically to solve that problem.
Now… let’s contrast that with how nutrition has typically been delivered by Personal Trainers.
Step 1: Bit of a plan or a chat initially.
Step 2: Snatched bits of conversations regarding nutrition between sets or at the end of training sessions.
Step 3: ????????
Is it any wonder that PT’s and often PT clients are left frustrated and confused by nutrition?
A structure like that asks client to jump from 1 to 100 pretty much by themselves as they don’t have a specifically designed service and process to engage with. And it makes PT’s feel massive amounts of pressure to deliver out of the ordinary fat loss results in the context of a service that is designed for exercise.
Imagine if we delivered exercise in the same way….
Step 1: “Here’s an exercise plan. If you follow this you’ll be able to nail your barbell overhead overhead squat in 6 months…”
Step 2: “Ohh lets quickly do a random bit of exercise in this gap in the conversation….”
Step 3: “ Oh….:( your frustrated by your lack of progress….“
Sounds like madness right?
I've recently written a whole lecture for LTB-Training's Applied Phase on setting up a nutrition service because it doesn't matter how much you know about nutrition if how you deliver it isn't effective at delivering a process that helps people focus on it and ultimately build the skills they require. Now I'm not saying PT's should have an all singing all dancing nutrition service because I honestly don't think we should. We are exercise specialists first and foremost.
But if you advertise nutrition support, work out a dedicated structure for the service you want to deliver that solves a problem for the people you want to help. Whether that is a series of automated emails, a very involved consultation process or information videos and accountability, it doesn’t really matter.
You can start this by thinking very careful about who it is you exactly want to help. Next step is to look at what you can or want to deliver.
Written guides? Books? Video’s? 1 to 1 consultations? Group consultations? The options are pretty much only limited by your imagination.
After you have done that bring the two pieces together and design a service that will truly help the people you want to serve. Then you will have a clear nutrition service that is separate from your training service. Just remember that will help many people but not everyone and thats okay. Work on attracting the people it will help.
The outcome is that your clients will be clearer about what they are buying and how to engage with it. And you have less confusion and frustration around your clients progress with their nutrition.
The fitness industry is full of myths, misconceptions and bad information. When starting out in your career it’s hard to know what is right, what is wrong and how to tell the difference.