The Consultation: Perhaps the Single Best Client-Trainer Relationship Builder

Was reading on Facebook the other day a quote by another trainer which said something to the tune of:

“In the training world, when it rains, it pours…”

She was speaking of how one referral tends to lead to a dozen within just a few weeks. I’ve witnessed it myself. One minute you think you can take on more clients, the next day you have more phone calls, consults and assessments to work through than you can possibly handle.

That’s why some of us must utilize a wait list.

I think a lot of the time the general public truly doesn’t understand what they’re implying and saying when they convince themselves “I’m going to hire a personal trainer!” Even if they’ve met the one they have in mind, or have seen his/her videos or read their blog it doesn’t mean they know how the breakdown from the first phone call to the first training session is going to go down.

Because there is stuff in the middle, all sorts of communication. I will be so bold as to say that if you call up a trainer one day and they book your first workout after a 10 minute conversation be warned that this is not a good trainer.

A good trainer collects a HUGE amount of information in a small amount of time (about 45-90mins). Before I take on a new client I need to know their entire training history, injury/health stuff, they need to know my policies, pricing, we need to work out our schedules and discuss important topics like physical, emotional, habitual, and sometimes even spousal barriers we are going to run into.

The point is you don’t just simply call up a personal trainer (a good one anyway) one day and start working out tomorrow.

It’s the equivalent of finding out there’s a job available (your goal and your commitment to it now) and you’ve literally just handed the employer (trainer) your resume (your goals) and after just a quick 10 minute conversation, with zero reference check, well, you have the job and you start tomorrow, end of phone call.

Tell me you aren’t left with a dozen questions you should have asked before accepting the job. What’s the pay? What are the hours? What’s the benefit plan like? Must I travel? Who do I report to?

You are hiring a trainer and a trainer is investing their time in a business relationship with you so….

Before you accept this journey you think you are ready to jump into I ask you to take my advice (both potential clients and trainers alike): get to know just whom you’ll be working with as much as possible before you hire them/take them on.

This is where, I believe, the consultation process is hands down the single greatest client-trainer relationship building block that leads to long-term clients who achieve fantastic results and eventually refer all their friends and relatives.

What is a consultation? What should the format look like? Should I have to pay for it (potential client)? Should I charge for it (trainer)? In all reality it’s 100% up to the trainer how much they want to invest upfront with their potential client.

At the level I’m at in this industry, I personally choose to keep this a free service (whoopee, it’s an hour of my time to change someone’s life) but I will also say (trainers pay attention): this is also why I have a 90% sell ratio out of this process.

Pay It Forward

When people call, email, or hunt you down for the trainer experience it’s up to you (the trainer) to do three things:

1) Sound or better yet, actually, care about their goals and helping that person reach them. I’ve venture so far as to say that us trainers need to admit when a clients goals are not our style, that we won’t be the best option out there for their needs and have a list of other trainers you trust and can recommend. Potential clients: I don’t care how much your cousin RAVES about this trainer you’re in front of, if you feel like they are not going to care about you reaching your goals, walk away! If the consultation sounds like all they care about is you purchasing their 50 pack of sessions…WALK AWAY!

2) Sound like you know what the hell you’re talking about. Potential client: Does this trainer sound like they have experience helping others achieve goals similar to yours? Do they have testimonials, before/after pics or anything that “proves” they are capable of the job. Ask the trainer if they have a back up (should they get sick, be on vacation at an inconvenient time for you, etc)? Do they have referrals to physical therapists, chiro, massage, naturalpath MDs for any other needs that you may have or run into in the future? If they don’t sound confident, don’t sound like they’ve built a system of any sorts I’d be leery. The reason I say sound is because there is much debate in the industry as to whether education, certifications, etc really “proves” that this person is qualified to handle you and your goals (I thank the super coach, Dave Parise, for really pointing this out). A trainer may sound super confident, book-wormy, and even look uber buff yet still be a complete twit when it comes to teaching the principles of training. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SHOP AROUND! You would if you were buying a car…this is your body we’re talking about here, it should be more important.

3) Have time for you. I struggle with this myself as I’m just in the position where 50-60% of the business being sent to me I quite simply do not have the schedule for. I know you’d love to workout at 5:30pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday but those spots weren’t available 3 years ago and probably never will be. I’m at the point in my career where it’s time to build a team of other qualified trainers that can help me help others. If a trainer flips through his schedule book and pauses for 3 minutes and comes back with a “Well, I think I have every third Tuesday of every 2nd month” ask for a referral to a less busy trainer. When I had 5 clients and only 5 clients I absolutely must admit I spent more time and energy on those 5 clients. I’d go WAY out of my way and beyond my pay grade to make them happy. These days I do my best to be the best trainer I know in the area, provide service still beyond my pay grade and ask that if for any reason you feel lacking/wanting in the client-trainer relationship you simply dictate to me what your needs further require. Don’t be offended however, that I may simply not have the time and we need to recognize that you may be better off working with a less busy trainer at this point in time. Food for thought.

So…now that’s out-of-the-way, let’s talk about what actually goes down in a consultation or rather, what information I (the trainer) needs to collect from you (the potential client).

1) Your history. Exercise, health, sport and any other information that may hinder or speed up the results you may have. It’s not a surprise when a 30 something year old guy freely admits he’s on a cycle or has done as cycle of vitamin GH and vitamin T. I don’t judge, but it is very helpful to know. FYI, in my opinion it’s your friggin body, put in it what you wish but be smart enough to advise your trainer when you’re “on” something.

2) Your injury history. Do you have any nagging injuries that we need to be mindful of, refer out (physio, chiro, massage, etc) to, or concerns you have such as you think you have a weak lower back and your job requires you to use it quite a bit so you want to be careful there.

3) Your availability. Pretty simple. Optimally, a newb needs to train 2-4 times a week. There is some stat out there that people achieve 50% more results when they switch from training 3x/week to 4x/week. Maybe that means I see you twice a week and the other two you’re simply following a program I’ve laid out for you to complete on your own.

4) Your goals, deadlines, timeframes, etc. Always work backwards for everything you want in your life. The “one day I wanna have a six-pack” is about as specific as “one day I’d really like to be a millionaire.” If you have a goal to lose 50lbs in 6 months, math would tell me you need to lose ~12lbs a month which is about 3.75lbs/week which any good trainer will tell you that’s not the normal rate of change (unless you’re quite overweight). Maybe you need to adjust your goals vs timeframes.

5) Map out a strategy. I’m a big “mind stew” person. I like to have a conversation (even if it seems I wasn’t fully paying attention to you; trust me I heard you and it’s my way of processing) then let both myself and the potential client sit on it for a couple of days. The sheer amount of realism that gets presented and brought to your goals via the consultation can really smack a client right between the eyes. Wow, I’m really doing this. Or wow, I didn’t think so much went into it. Or wow, I’m maybe not ready for this level of commitment yet. There are lots of things that happen after conversations such as these. Give it time before making a decision. I rarely book a client or sell them sessions immediately after the consultation (unless they just look so damned excited they wanna hug me till I pop like a balloon). I like them to go home and get back to me when they’ve had a chance to mind-stew over it. If I don’t hear back from them in two days then I follow-up and ask if there’s anything I can do to help get them going on their goals.

Some trainers I know prefer to have a client fill out a 20 question document, some have a process that’s definitively laid out from first call to consult to assessment (if any) to first training session. Personally speaking, I prefer the in-person sit down, 45-90 minute conversation in front of my white board, at the gym (the exact space you’ll be training in so you get a feel for it and me) because it’s worked for ME so well  and I get a lot of feedback on it being incredibly helpful to that person, even if it doesn’t lead to the sale and beginning of a client-trainer relationship.

Are you still feeling lost as to what a consultation means, well, today I decided to film a unique one where I will be teaming up with Will Turner over at for a “quarter life crisis” project he’s titled: The Good to Great Project. Essentially he turns 30 in 6 months, gets married in 7 and wants to be in the best shape he’s ever been in but is also in it for the experience and will be blogging (and writing in his associated newspaper: F.I.L.E.S. each month) for all to benefit from.

I apologize up front for the crappy sound of this 45 minute video, both Will and I are soft-spoken and the gym was somewhat busy and noisy around us. With the volume up a bit I’m hoping you’ll take away what my consultations look like (how casual yet informative they can be) and learn how to map out your goals in greater detail.

There is a TON of great info we talk about in this consultation and lots of take away tips.  View that video here:

Again, go check out Will Turner’s: The Good to Great Project over at and watch for more information here as well.

Any questions…feel free to post in comments below

3 comments on “The Consultation: Perhaps the Single Best Client-Trainer Relationship Builder

  1. Shama says:

    Dear Adrian, that was a very informative & useful mail that i read this morning. i just sent out a mail to my trainers just before reading this article about a 21 days rapid transformation challenge i want to run in my gyms. your article is very timely & yes i will definitely look at the Youtube video you have so kindly provided along with your mail too. keep up the good work of educating fellow trainers. cheers sham

    • Adrian Crowe says:

      So glad it is helpful! It was aimed at us trainers (and clients too). There are just so many cases where trainers are struggling for enough clients and I build my business on consults and referrals.

  2. […] I also had a great chat with Adrian Crowe. He did a consultation with me, which Adrian has posted to YouTube, but it is really deserving of its own post, so I will be getting to that soon – in the meantime, be sure to check out his blog post. […]

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