The Secrets to Personal Training Client Referrals

Jim Labadie is a fitness entrepreneur, publicity expert and speaker. To learn how to pitch to a producer, develop relationships with print reporters, avoid the biggest publicity mistake personal trainers make and much more, sign up for his free mini-course on publicity for fitness professionals at

As a personal trainer you have one job above all others: create walking, talking billboards out of the members who are your clients. Working under the assumption that you are excellent at what you do (of course), bringing in a steady stream of referrals is relatively easy. Just follow these simple steps:

1.Have a discussion with your clients regarding the service you’re providing. Are they happy with their results? It is very important for the clients to hear themselves saying how thrilled they are with their new body. Let them explain, in detail, how much they are enjoying being able to fit into their skinny jeans or hearing compliments from their friends and family.

Why do this? Because it creates the perfect time to educate your clients on your referral system. By saying out loud how happy they are, the client becomes especially receptive to the idea of sending business your way.

2. Educate your client so that they know what your ideal client looks like. Essentially what you will be doing is painting a picture to them of what they were like when they first started training with you. The saying “birds of a feather flock together” almost always holds true. You can bet your client knows people in the exact same physical condition with the same fitness goals as they started with.

It’s also important that your client knows to look for people who can afford your services and are willing to come to your facility. No one has time to waste these days, so don’t waste yours, your client’s or the prospect’s by trying to land a client who will never pay your rates or isn’t willing to travel the distance to see you.

3. Educate your client as to where they may find referrals. This is extremely important because if you don’t tell them where to pull from, they may only think to refer their friends or family members. Let them know that potential referrals are everywhere. They might be someone they work with, someone that goes to their church or temple, someone they see where they get their hair done, the parent of one of their children’s friends, etc. It’s endless. The important thing is to jog their memory so that their mind is open to all possibilities.

4. Educate your clients on how to talk about your service to prospects. Nobody can promote your business for you as well as your paying clients. Tell them to feel free to tell the referral everything about you. Be sure they emphasize the results they are seeing. When you rave about how great you are at getting your clients results, it can come across as pompous. But when your client does it, it’s great marketing.

Feel free to even have your client tell prospects about your fees. If, by chance, the client doesn’t feel comfortable discussing what they pay you, don’t push the subject. But most won’t give it a second thought. In fact, most clients are more than happy to brag about all they’ve accomplished.

5. Be proactive in contacting referrals. Whenever possible, initiate the conversation with the prospect. If you wait for them to call you, you may be waiting a very long time. When educating your client on referrals, let them know that if they’d like the person they refer to take action and change their life as soon as possible, it’s best if you contact them directly.

6. Use thank-you cards and gifts to create a steady stream. Human behavior is highly predictable. And in this case, it’s important to realize that when you reward referrals, you’ll receive more of them—lots more. So, be sure to send a handwritten thank-you card immediately after the discussion you have about referrals. Thank them for listening and their patronage. Also thank them in advance for the referrals they will send you.

Additionally, send a handwritten thank-you note each time your client makes even the smallest mention of a potential referral. It might seem amazing, but even the slightest recognition of the behavior will inspire people to repeat it so that they are rewarded again. Think about it: Who takes the time to write a thank-you card by hand these days? That’s why they go such a long way in building rapport with your clients.

Finally, when the system works and you land that new paying client, send a small gift to the referrer. A small plant or other festive decoration sent to a client’s office will not only be greatly appreciated by them but will also have co-workers asking where it came from. I’m confident you can see the value in that.

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