Cueing: Just One Piece of Semi-Private Personal Training Success – Part 2
A Guest Post on Semi-Private Personal Training By Eric Cressey
In Part 1, I talked about the importance of having an extensive set of effective cues to use with clients to get the ball rolling on a great Semi-Private Personal Training experience. However, cueing was just one piece of the coaching puzzle. It’s these other pieces that, in my eyes, make or break someone in the semi-private fitness business model.
Here are a few of the factors you need to be successful as a semi-private personal training coach:
1. Knowledge and Programming – As the adage goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” You need to have done your homework in order to not only write effective programming, but also know how to modify it based on individual needs. For this reason, I think that a lot of up-and-comers are actually smart to start off with some one-on-one training because it allows them to program specifically for a small number of clients and meticulously monitor the responses to those programs. And, it forces them to think through any modifications they need to make on those programs.
As a frame of reference, when we hire a new employee, it takes approximately 6-12 months of education before I’m truly comfortable with them writing programs without me reviewing every one of them before the client sees the program.
2. Friendship – Here’s a straightforward one: if you’re a dork, loser, pain-in-the-ass, arrogant prick, or you smell bad, people aren’t going to want to be your friend. If they don’t want to be your friend, they certainly aren’t going to want to become your client – regardless of how good your programs and cues are.
As an example, I’ve started a tradition of asking for reviews of interns at the six-week mark of their internship from some of our trusted clients. We just hand them a slip of paper with each intern’s name on it, and ask for the first two sentences that come to mind. One recent intern was not a popular one, as he received several negative responses, most notably “Kind of a douche. Not a good fit for CP.” Here was a kid who was enthusiastic, proactive, well-read, and had a strong resume – but none of it mattered because he sucked at making friends.
This is a more crucial success factor in the semi-private personal training model than one-on-one training, too. In personal training, you have time to cultivate very solid individual friendships with clients from the get-go because you have 2-4 hours of complete one-on-one time with them each week. You can ask about their kids, their vacation, their hemorrhoids, their stock portfolio, and their divorce settlement. When you have 3-6 other clients rolling at the same time, though, they chat with one another and not you – because you need to be busting your butt to keep things rolling on the training front.
Don’t get me wrong; you’ll learn a ton about your clients over time and cultivate awesome friendships. In semi-private training, though, they’ll make a lot more friends beside you, too – and get results more affordably while you enjoy your job more.
3. Continuity – Semi-private models give rise to larger clienteles. A personal trainer might only be able to keep 20-30 clients at most, while in the semi-private model, coaches see a lot more people than that. As such, in fitness businesses with more than one employee, you can’t expect to be present for every single training session. To keep the right flow, you have to hire and educate great people who you know will keep the trains running on time in your absence – whether it is with respect to programming, coaching, answering the phones, or just maintaining an unconditionally positive and energetic training environment.
As a funny little example, I went on a quick trip to Orlando back in January after a speaking engagement in Tampa – so my business partners, Pete and Tony, were “manning the CP ship.” My fiancé and I were at Sea World, and I got a text message from CP client Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox:
“Tony is fantastic. He really got the most out of me today. And Pete’s vert is legit.”
I, of course, knew that Youk was screwing with me, and my business partners were laughing hysterically in the background because
a) I am a workaholic and worry too much when I’m out of the office
b) Pete’s vertical jump (37”) is slightly higher than mine (36”), and he doesn’t let me forget it.
Truth be told, I was happy to be the target of the joke, as it meant that my staff was executing the exact program I’d written to a “T,” and they were joking around in the office (a sign that the place wasn’t in chaos, and they were keeping things fun and entertaining with the clients).
At the same time, as much as you want continuity, it’s important to have employees with different abilities and unique traits that complement your own. For instance, Chris Howard, our newest employee, is a licensed massage therapist and has a master’s degree in nutrition. And, on a funnier note, the running joke among clients is that the second I leave, Tony puts techno music on the stereo. The clients get continuity with some variety, and Tony gets just a bit more feminine!
4. The Individual Touch – While it can be hard to completely make every client’s day when you might see 60-80 people over the course of a day, that doesn’t mean that you can’t go out of your way “after hours” to find ways to put smiles on their faces. One example: in our case (predominantly baseball players), we follow all our players – from middle school all the way to the pros – in the papers and email/text guys whenever they get some love in the press. I also make a ton of introductions between our high school players and college coaches from my extensive network on that front, or I make a phone call to find a place for our pro guys to train or get soft tissue work when they’re on the road in a city where I have a contact. Sometimes, it’s as simple as just going out there to watch a game and cheer for them.
Other examples include sending thank you notes for referrals or merely connecting a client with a practitioner (e.g., manual therapy, sport-specific coach) in a related field. You may only see them five hours a week, but that gives you another 163 hours each week to be a valuable resource and friend to them.
5. Organization – My general rule of thumb is that every hour of training requires at least one hour of planning. Here are Cressey Performance’s hours:
Tu: 8-9:30AM, 12-7:30PM
Fr: 8-9:30AM, 12-7:30PM
That’s 45.5 hours (closer to 50 during busy seasons). My business partner, Pete, puts in about 40 hours a week on his own just handling billing, scheduling, phone duties, website maintenance, the CP blog, and other behind-the-scenes organizational tasks. I can tell you that both Tony and I spend about 6-8 hours per week on programming in addition to our coaching responsibilities, and I handle a lot of the phone calls and inquiries from agents and teams, plus the more complex questions that aren’t in Pete’s scope of expertise (exercise science). Chris Howard puts in a few hours a week on programming. There is always a staff in-service on Monday morning of at least 30 minutes.
None of this includes the reading/continuing education we all do on our own, or the work Tony and I put in with our personal blogs, which are undoubtedly very influential in driving clients to Cressey Performance. And, it doesn’t cover any of the “after-hours tech support” from phone calls/text messages and Facebook/email messages that I think really separates us as a business. We are here to set the clients up for success, not just punch the clock and unlock/lock the doors.
These are only five factors that quickly came to mind, and there are certainly many more that could have made this post much longer. Many of them will be influenced by your niche, fitness business model, client-to-coach ratio, facility size and “flow,” hours of operation, amenities, and a host of other factors. Just make sure you’re looking past just the cues; there is much more to being a successful coach in a semi-private personal training model.