If you’re a coach, you probably agree that working with a new client requires way more energy than working with a veteran you have been coaching for five years.
Imagine a life where you have to teach a new person how to squat every single day of your coaching career. You’d probably find yourself bored by the tedious repetition.
But working with clients you have a real relationship with, whose strengths and weaknesses you know like the back of your hand, never grows old. And it’s what allows you to truly make a difference in their lives. (Note: The 5 Steps to retaining your fitness clients starts halfway down.)
So, how do you keep your clients, so you’re not teaching newbies basic squat mechanics (ad nauseam) week after week?
Pretty simple: Your clients will stick around if they perceive the value they’re receiving from your coaching to be, well, invaluable.
This happens when they’re seeing continued results and when you’re offering them something they couldn’t get without you.
This, however, does not mean you necessarily should focus all your energy on becoming the best programmer in the world. While the training program itself is a big piece of the puzzle for the client, it’s just one piece of the puzzle, and it accounts for essentially just one hour of their day.
Thus, a significant focus also needs to be placed on the other 23 hours of the day. In other words: On the rest of the client’s life.
OPEX Coaches do this through monthly lifestyle consults. It’s where they truly get to know their clients—where they help clients uncover and reveal their pain, so to speak. Learn the basics of client consulting here.
What do I mean by pain? It’s what’s really going on in their lives, as opposed to the superficial reason they give for hiring a coach, such as:
I want to lose weight.
I want to gain strength.
Uncovering their pain isn’t found in these statements. Their real pain is:
My mother died at the age of 50. She was overweight and a Type 2 diabetic and I’m terrified I’m following in her footsteps.
Once a person opens up about their real pain, you can start digging into why….
Why do I turn to food for comfort?
Why is my stress stopping me from falling asleep at night?
Why am I addicted to sugar?
Why do I drink too much?
OPEX Coach and owner Firass El Fateh explained how lifestyle consults with his clients have made all the difference in helping clients figure out their why. And when you do this, client retention will sore.
“The consultations with clients also really resonated with me, and so did spending the time to find out their why. That was a big one for me that I had never really thought about before—actually finding out why people want to exercise, and then helping them create consistency and alignment around their why,” Fateh said.
Once you discover their pain and find their why, you’re more freed up to come up with a practical plan of attack for your clients (which usually means helping them adopt new habits slowly, as opposed to forcing an overnight overhaul on them) that goes well beyond just designing the perfect workouts for them to tackle three or four days a week for an hour a day.
So how do you do this?
You can sign up for the OPEX Coach Certificate Program (CCP), where you’ll learn how to help your clients via monthly lifestyle consults.
“The lifestyle (coaching) modules (in the CCP) were invaluable for helping create structure around conversations with clients instead of just shooting in the dark,” said CCP coach and OPEX gym owner Craig Massey.
“And it gave me confidence knowing that you know what you’re talking about and that you know where to take the conversation with the client,” he added.
It’s next to impossible to truly get to know your clients in a group class environment. Your time is usually spent managing the clock and making sure nobody is moving too poorly.
Truly helping your clients with their unique problems involves one-on-one time with them. As I mentioned, OPEX coaches do this in the form of a 30-minute lifestyle consult, where no working out is happening. Learn the basics of this consult here.
Though you can get a bit deeper during personal training than a group class, the most effective way to tackle the other 23 hours of a person’s life is to devote specific time to this by sitting down in a quiet place (sometimes going for coffee is even more natural and more effective than doing it in the corner of the gym).
If you find yourself talking more than your client, you’re probably not giving them a chance to open up.
Ask more, more, more questions—don’t assume anything—and let the client speak.
Some people need time to think about their answer before they speak, so don’t replace the silence with another question that deflects from the first question. Learn to be OK with sitting in silence, let it be awkward, and wait for them to give you the stuff that will allow you to help them make changes in their lives.
Similarly, don’t shy away from the hard questions or the hard topics. If someone is overweight and needs to lose weight, they know it, so don’t gloss over it so as not to hurt their feelings, for example.
In short, be honest and bold and address the elephant in the room (with compassion). Learn how to build trust with your clients here that will help them open up here.
Although you want the client doing more of the talking, if you have a relevant personal anecdote that relates to what they’re going through, it’s sometimes useful to share.
Often clients see you as a perfectly fit human being without problems or struggles, so you’re only going to be more relatable to them if you share your own pain (when appropriate).
It’s easy to bring up a subject with a client but then forget about it, assuming it has been solved.
Follow-up is important. As is coming up with effective, practical action-item strategies.
It helps to take notes during your consults so you remember exactly what you talked about and then follow up on the topic and ask about their progress the next time you meet.
Again, OPEX coaches meet their clients every single month. It helps to book the next session at the end of the current one to ensure consistency and accountability. Follow our model of consultations here.
Nicole Chambers is an OPEX client whose life has changed because of her monthly lifestyle consults with her coach.
“Sometimes I go in with a list of questions, and sometimes we just chat, but it’s great having a coach that cares about how my life is going outside of the gym,” she said.
One area Chambers has seen huge gains has been with her diet. She used to have a lot of inflammation in her body, as well as thyroid problems. Through trial and error working with her coach, she was led to avoiding FODMAP foods, which are known to cause bloating and abdominal pain as they’re not absorbed well by the body.
Through her coach, she was also introduced to seed cycling, which uses various seeds to support different phases of a woman’s monthly cycle in order to balance hormone levels and relieve symptoms of PMS, among other things.
These types of concepts were never addressed in her experiences at other gyms, Chambers said, and are making a huge difference to her life. And they’re what will continue to allow her to reach her long-term goals, she said.
“I’m not getting inconsistent coaching anymore, which helps a lot,” she said.
Just imagine being able to better help your clients in all aspects of their life, from their beliefs to their behaviors. The good news is, it’s possible, we call it The OPEX System of Coaching. Become the coach you’ve always envisioned today and sign up for The Free Coach’s Toolkit.