Chantal: Hey Dom, welcome along. Thank you so much for joining us.
Dom: Thank you for having me.
Chantal: Now we’re going to be talking today a lot about personal trainer side of things, as we all know building rapport is an absolutely essential part in a long term personal trainer client relationship. So talk us through a PT can actually start to perfect their communication skills?
Dom: Look, it’s a great question. So I would say firstly, perfection is a difficult thing to strive for so I would frame it around how they can improve their communication skills because it’s something that we’re always trying to do, is to just move forward. For me, effective communication is essentially about building rapport and trust and that comes from three keys things.
Firstly understanding relationship and by that I mean when clients are training with a trainer, the number one question they are asking themselves is am I safe? When trainers are working with clients, they need to understand, does that client feel safe and if they do, then the basis of rapport and trust will then flow.
The second tip is around understanding the primacy effect. So for those who haven’t heard of that concept before, it’s a cognitive bias towards initial observation or information. So it happens every time you meet someone. A very simplistic version is think about walking into a bar, the cognitive bias that people have towards people who they are attracted to or not, all come back to the primacy effect.
So the five keys for people to have the primacy effect to work in their favour, is what is the intention they have? So for a PT, what are they intending to do? Are they intending to sell them a 20 pack or are they intending to just help them one session at a time? What is the confidence level? So does that try to come across as overly confident, not confident at all, or do they have the right level of confidence when they begin to feel the client feeling safe? What is their enthusiasm? Does it match and mirror the person that they are standing in front of? What is their willingness to listen and how are they presenting themselves? That’s probably the area that most trainers are familiar with. Do they look presentable? Are they on time? Etc.
Relationships, understanding are they safe, the primacy effect, and understanding the five keys to having it work in their favour. The third thing, which for me is the most important, is understanding the skills and keys to listen.
We believe at PTA Global, there are five levels of listening and the first one is you’re not listening, which often happens in the home. Husband and wife, one is watching the television and the other is trying to talk to them. That’s simply not listening. The next level is where you pretend to listen and again, that’s probably just as dangerous. The third is when you’re selectively listening, so you’re actually listening for key themes or keywords that allow you to jump in and give your opinion. The fourth is attentive and that’s getting towards the right end of the spectrum but the fifth level of listening is empathetic listening. When trainers master the concept of having empathy and listening at that level five stage, then they will truly understand why their clients is standing in front of them and how they can help them.
Chantal: Dom, if we were to get those three elements correct in that initial kind of meeting with the new client, the first time you meet a new client, what’s the impact of that meeting on the long term retention of that client?
Dom: Look, it is significant. There is no doubt about it. If you get that wrong, you’re behind the proverbial 8 ball. So understanding those concepts and planning your first meeting is critical. But the good news is is that if you’re intention is right and during that session if you’re able to use techniques and use some things that will allow you to reset the framework of that potential relationship then everything is very sort of recoverable I guess.
One of the concepts we teach is around asking for feedback. So just having a willingness to listen and a willingness to seek feedback will often put your intention and set you off in very much the right foot in terms of your client trainer relationship.
Chantal: You just touched on the things that we need to do to make the right impressions. Do you have any examples that you can share with us of the things that we need to avoid doing in that initial meeting?
Dom: Yeah, absolutely. Firstly, number one mistake I would see with trainers making is everything starts with your initial meeting and understanding that even something as simple as a confirmation call in and telling your client where you’re going to meet them and what to bring and what they can expect, sets the framework straight away because a lot of trainers don’t realise that clients go through an emotional roller coaster before they even step foot in a typical [inaudible 00:04:51] or in a session. So understanding where they are coming from is critical and reducing all the [inaudible 00:04:55] and reducing their anxiety level by having a really firm meeting place and letting them know what to expect is a great way of having that and starting off with the right foot forward.
In terms of things like a needs analysis and actually going through some formal questioning, doing that in a quiet place where people are a little bit more inclined to open up, is a really key step so the worst place you can probably do that is on a treadmill or in the middle of the gym floor but I’ve seen that done before unfortunately. And really the last thing would be having distractions, mobile phones, anything that is going to take you away from focusing on that client is an absolute no-no in my book.
Chantal: Dom, I want to talk about movement style and programming because I think both of those are really important elements and whilst we have all the processes that we go through in an initial session or a meeting with a client, it’s important we get those processes correct. So how does movement style and programming actually contribute to client retention.
Dom: Yeah, this is a great question. So the concept of movement style is quite a unique concept to PTA Global and our philosophy of education. The best way for me to describe this and my go to example is that at home my wife and I, Mel, have different likes and dislikes. One of the things is that Mel hates stacking the dishwasher. So when it comes to household chores, when she stacks the dishwasher, she generally makes a lot of noise, has a frown on her face and just throws things into the dishwasher in any order.
Now, that agitates me and I have to restack it. But if you take that example, that’s an example of what Mel dislikes. So if you take that onto the training floor, that could mean the same things as I hate burpees. Or I hate machine based training. Or I hate cardio. So understanding people’s movement style is a simple philosophy around how does someone like to move so that I can then deliver both that idea around how can I deliver a little bit of what they want is also with what we need.
The problem where most trainers get it wrong is that they try to ram down people’s throats, all the stuff that they need to do and they forget about the fact that if it’s not fun and people aren’t engaged and aren’t enjoying themselves, then they are going to check out mentally, physically, and emotionally and they probably won’t turn up to the next session.
So that’s a little bit around the movement style. In our philosophy, we talk to three different types of movement or movement styles I should say. The first one is something we call a traditional mover. So they like a lot of structure. They like a lot of routine and they like things that are practically based. So think about knowing an exercise, open your typical fitness magazine, there is generally a lot of traditionally based movements in there and everything in those magazines would normally resonate with a traditional mover.
Think of a spectrum here. These are not boxes we’re putting people into. This is a spectrum. At one end we have tradition. At the very opposite end we have a progressive mover. They like a lot of freedom, a lot of variety, and a lot of adventure in their workouts. So think the opposite of traditional. Think they like lots of unknown movements. They like complexity in their movement and they love the weird stuff. So hopefully in your mind you’re starting to think of all the functional training and all the new toys within the industry. Things like TRX and Viper and the like, they are very much skewed towards your progressive mover.
And in the middle we have people called hybrids and as the name suggests, they like a little bit of both. So they have both traditional and progressive in nature and they kind of sit in the middle. So this philosophy around understanding movement styles, allows us to serve up and deliver exercise and movement in a way that’s meaningful and engaging to that particular client. What that does is it stops trainers from delivering the session that they gave themselves that day to their six clients that day and wondering why a whole bunch of them have checked out and don’t come back for further sessions.
It’s often because we tend to train people in the way that we like to move but we forget that there are other movement styles out there. That then directly sort of fits into the way you programme. So what we would encourage trainers to do is, for instance, I enjoy progressive movement. It’s something that I enjoy doing and have learned to do and it’s my go to when I’m feeling a little bit stressed or wanting to really have a good workout. So for me, I need to understand hybrid and traditional movement in more degree, because I resonated with progressive movement but my weakness is probably the other end of the spectrum. So for me, I need to understand how traditional movers will need to be programmed and that’s a skill I’m going to have to work on.
I don’t know if answers your question but in terms of understanding movement styles and then understanding programme, if you can get those two things right, then what we would say is that you’re able to physically match and emotionally attach your client to their programme. That will result in getting them to come back and see you time and time again.
Chantal: So Dom, thank you for describing that so succinctly because I’ve got a really clear picture in my mind of those three different movement styles. So now we once have the understanding of that, how can PT actually identify what a client’s preferred movement style is?
Dom: So this is embedded into the education we deliver but we’ve got essentially a one page move style guide, which I’m happy to share with the community. We can put it on the platform and can have a look at it. Essentially, it’s really about identifying where they sit on that spectrum so in a very simplistic way, I can ask a couple of questions for your audience to then workout what their preferred movement style is so.
You can do this too Chantal. So in terms of when you exercise, do you prefer structure or freedom or both? Okay? So just think about your answer there. When you exercise, do you like structure, do you like freedom or do you like a little bit of both?
When you exercise do you like to follow a routine? Do you like lots of variety? Or do you like both? When you exercise, do you go to movements and exercises that are quite practical based or more adventure based or a little bit of both? Now if you answered, you like structure, you like routine, and you like practical based exercises, then you’re pretty much a traditional mover. On the other end of the spectrum, if you answered I like lots of freedom, I like variety and I like an adventure, then you are a progressive mover. And if you answered that you like a bit of both to two or more of those questions, then you are probably a hybrid mover.
So, that’s a very simplistic way. We have a far more detailed method through something we call the programme design questionnaire or PDQ in our community and that’s a more in-depth trainer questionnaire that they ask a client, which will find out in far more detail as to what their preferred movement style is.
Chantal: Now, we talked a lot around that rapport building and that communication and I think it’s fair to say that personal training success, gaining or retaining clients often comes down to that communication and down to that connection that they have with an individual client. So do you want to just give us a bit of an overview? Where can PT’s go to refine those sort of skills? And probably really importantly, what should PT manager be doing with their teams to enhance their communication and their connection skills with their clients?
Dom: Okay, so if any of the concepts and philosophies that we’ve kind of discussed today have resonated and I would encourage your listeners to look at some of the education that we deliver in Australia and New Zealand or that our PTA global counterparts deliver. There is a number of courses that are very much highlighted to this area.
One is called Behaviour Change in Exercise. So it kind of does what it says on the box. You create behaviour change with client’s through the modality of exercise, really clear that we’re not trying to be counsellors and we’re not trying to go outside the confines of what trainers can do but we’re using exercise as a vehicle to help motivate people.
Then there is another advanced programming course, which is around exercise and stress management, which for us makes up our four keys system, which are the motivation system, the movement system, the programming system, and client screening. Essentially those are delivered in an online format and in Australia we have the Behaviour Change in Exercise Course has 15ccs and has about 20 hours of video content and quizzes and our Exercise and Stress Management has about 12 hours of video and has nine ccs with Fitness Australia.
So those are great courses. They also have a one day workshop format or a two day mentor ship programme. So if some of these concept resonate. Outside of that, I would encourage people, particularly with the wonderful internet we have these days, I would encourage people to read, listen, and watch and search for key influences in this industry. For me, one of them is a guy called Bobby Cappuccio, so last name is spelled C-A-P-P-U-C-C-I-O. He’s actually one of our PTA Global co-founders and he’s one of the brilliant minds behind the concept of behaviour change within our community. So he does lots of little live feeds and flow charts and videos around understanding client behaviour and behaviour change.
Another local guy is Craig Harper. He’s also part of our community and he does amazing stuff working with just everyday people and getting them to get off their butts and make significant changes in their lives. Also, the concepts that we teach with our philosophy also are grounded in some concepts around MLP but also motivational interviews. So I would encourage listeners to google and search around motivational interviewing techniques because a lot of that, it’s really powerful stuff and it’s very simple and easy to follow but you get amazing results when you use some of those techniques.
Chantal: Oh I need to know more about that Dom. Give us a little bit of brief sneak peek about motivational interviewing.
Dom: So motivational interviewing is essentially the types of questions you’re asking people and the way you’re asking them has a more meaningful impact in the way that you engage them. So, an example might be, on a scale of one to ten, how important is it for you to get the change that you’ve discussed with them during a needs analysis? So we’ll do a question now, a PDQ programme design questionnaire. So, if someone’s goal is weight loss and if you found out that their movement style is they are a progressive mover, the third step in our PDQ is you find out what their level is right now. So let’s say that they are, what you would call lead off which between you, me, and our listeners means they are relatively low exercise level and they are a little bit more of a beginner.
Then we would go into the key component of the PDQ, which is motivational interviewing. So we would ask, on a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it for you to lose weight right now? And they would give you a score. Let’s say they gave you a seven. You would go, okay great. Why is it not a five or a four? They would then have to think about well why did I give that score? If it was a five or four, they probably wouldn’t have stepped foot in a gym. They probably would be on the couch or eating ice cream right now. Okay, great.
If it’s not a five or four but it’s now a seven, well what’s going to make it an eight or nine? Now they’ve got to give you information that’s going to help them along their journey, you know? Most people it might be, if I knew I couldn’t fail, it might be an eight or nine or if I knew I had the support network around me or if I had someone joining me for some of the sessions. Key insight into maybe this is a great candidate for small group training or semi-private training.
The motivational interviewing techniques is about engaging people and finding out why they, what is the motivation behind their goal and relevant to them and the keywords that they are going to use with you.
Chantal: Thank you so much for diving into that Dom. Now, what about when it comes to PT managers? Are there any skills based training? Or are there any workshops that you would recommend that PT managers can do with their teams around communication can connection skills?
Dom: Look, again it’s pretty similar. PT managers can certainly gain and leverage off a lot of the education that we deliver and that PTA Global delivers. I know many managers out there who have done our course, our behaviour change and exercise course and then gone on to use the techniques and use the tools with not only their own clients but also with their own trainers. Certainly within our community and with our staff structure at PT Academy, the concept behind what we call our kaizen six trainer self-appraisal questionnaire. Kaizen loosely translates to continuous improvement. It’s a Japanese word meaning to always continuously improve. Six means that there are six simple questions.
So I’m happy to share. Again, this is another one of the tools that we’ve developed and that we use within our community. Happy to share that and perhaps some of those questions would resonate with your managers within this community and they are questions they could ask at the end of a month with a new trainer to really find out how that training is going and more importantly how they can help them. These questions work in everyday life, not just in the fitness environment. They are very interchangeable to any component of your life.
So some example questions out of our Kaizen six is what aspects of your training with me have you enjoyed the most. So, from a PT manager perspective, what aspects of our personal training manager client relationship have you enjoyed the most? Is there anything in particular that you are hoping I would do with you in regards to trainer development that I haven’t done yet? That’s an awesome opportunity for the trainer to say yeah well, I would love to learn more business skills or I would love to learn more skills around asking for referrals or whatever.
Then again using the same motivational interviewing techniques on a scale of one to 10. One being really poor and 10 being fantastic, where are you in terms of satisfaction with me and my services or my management. So those are some questions that are within our trainer appraisal questionnaire. Our Kaizen Six and again happy to share that as a starting point with some of the managers, but really beyond that, again they have to understand the concepts and the education behind why these questions work and I would definitely encourage them to seek out further learning through with structured courses such as we ran or other courses that are in our community of our fitness industry I guess.
Chantal: I really like the conversation that those questions generate, Dom, because I think it’s quite easy for us to go about our day to day jobs and kind of tick boxes but to actually take time to seek feedback either from the personal trainers within our team or for the personal trainers to seek that feedback from their customers is a really important thing that we should all be doing on a regular basis. So thank you for diving into your tool kit and allowing us to have a look at some of those questions and resources that you’re going to be sharing with us. So thank you so much for that.
Now, we want to finish, we like to finish off our interviews on this show with fitness inspiration and I’m hoping you can leave us with your top three tips that PT’s can do to retain their personal training clients for the long term.
Dom: Okay, there are many, many things we can throw in here, but I guess for me, my top three are always keep your clients safe. I think the basis of a relationship is built around rapport and trust and you can easily lose that trust if that client does not feel safe. So safety first and making sure that your clients feel safe both physically on the training floor but also emotionally. So when they share something significant and important with you, you need to file that away and treat it with the respect that it deserves, not discard it and or show a reaction that perhaps breaks that trust. So number one tip is keep them safe and make sure that the trust is always there.
The second for me is around that listening that we touched on in the beginning. So practise level five listening. Listening is a skill. It’s not something, you’re not a good listener, you’re not. It’s not genetic. It’s a skill. It’s difficult these days. We are bombarded with messages. We have a thing in our pocket or in our hand called a phone all the time that’s distracting us so it’s really easy to have that impact the quality of our listening. So taking time and practising level 5 listening. Anyone who is married or has a significant other will appreciate that it’s, we are very guilty, many, many times throughout our relationships of not adhering to level five listening. We’re probably at best pretending or using selective listening. So to really practising that at home and also with your clients would be tip number two.
Then tip number three is seek feedback. For me, the most powerful tool in our toolbox that we share at PTA Global is the Kaizen Six questionnaire. So I would encourage trainers to never be afraid, to seek and gather feedback because at the end of the day, it shows that you’re human. It shows that you’re willing to grow and to improve things and for your clients, that’s a powerful message because many trainers put themselves up onto a pedestal and become almost untouchable because of the way they look or what they’ve done and that can be inspiring to some people but others it can be very intimidating. So, my advice is around seeking feedback so that you can always grow that relationship.
Chantal: That is such great advice Dom. Thank you very much for coming on and sharing your expertise with us today and I think it’s been really valuable to take this as an opportunity to reflect on what we can currently do in our role in the industry. Perhaps there are some things we are doing and some boxes that we’re ticking but there are areas in our own workplace that we can improve either communication or the systems or take on board that advice that you’re given in regards to the feedback systems and in regards to the active listening. So, thank you so much for coming on and joining us today and thank you once again for sharing those resources with us. So you and I will have a chat and we’ll organise to get those resources or get access to them. We’ll put the details into today’s show notes. So for people who do want to check those out or downloads those resources, then please head over to fitnessbusinesspodcast.com. Check out today’s show and we’ll make sure we include links in there for those resources.
So once again, Dom, thank you so much for joining us.
Dom: Thanks for having me
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