I was a trainer for a long time. Now, I train other trainers in technical and business systems. More importantly, teach them how to effectively combine the two. At my peak, I had 76 clients all to myself while managing other trainers and a facility. Many busy trainers talk about training 8 or 10 clients a day. I’d come in Monday mornings and have 26 appointments scheduled straight through the day. I’d end up with 190-200 individual sessions performed every 2 week pay period. That was actually too much to a point where it started to burn me out, but it shows how efficient a system could be. I’ll explain how I did that.
At present time of writing this, a couple of years ago, few if any personal trainers or personal training associations would have ever thought to have suggested that clients workout for shorter amounts of time. But, that’s exactly the case I’m going to make here. The best part is that it won’t skimp on anything and might even increase their results and it will certainly double the time that you have available to take on paying clients or give yourself more free time.
Classically, the typical personal training session lasts 1 hour. I’m here to tell you that you can perform all of your 1 hour sessions in half hour sessions so that you can now see 2 people in an hour and double your income. We have been instructing 1 on 1 personal training workouts for over 15 years and have NEVER performed an hour long session. I was lucky enough to have someone show me how to do it early on. There are numerous ways that you can perform a quality 1 on 1 session in half the time. It just so happens that we use a shorter duration, higher intensity approach which has always been a duration of around 30 minutes. Basically, we design programs with a high level of intensity for each person on each exercise, and move QUICKLY between each exercise to maximize metabolic conditioning too.
The problem is that there is so much wasted time in a normal hour long workout. Have you ever seen a trainer stretching a client for 20 mins or so and it kind of looks like they are trying to kill or fill time? Have you ever done that, yourself?
A friend once told a story one time where he timed a workout he saw a trainer doing in the gym with 2 stopwatches. 1 watch to record the total workout time and the other to record only when work was being done by the client. At the end, the total time was 57minutes and the total working time the client performed was only about 3 minutes. Only 3 minutes of real actual work in an hour long personal training session!!! That’s because there’s only a few seconds of super fast reps for any given set followed by 3-5 minutes of rest or talking. Let’s do the math. If you did 10 sets, with only 3 minutes rest (only 180 seconds) in between, that’s 30 minutes of non-working time right there. If you let the client rest 5 minutes and talk, walk around, get a drink, etc., that’s already 50 minutes wasted. That’s not a good use of the client’s time and it’s definitely not a good use of YOUR time. A workout like I am talking about is continuous activity for nearly the entire 30 minutes with a high heart rate. I’m not talking low intensity aerobic weight training here either. I’m talking normal training sets of 8-12 reps at 70-80% 1RM (on average).
There might be 5 minutes left over to talk about calorie control or do a head to toe stretching routine with 20 second stretches for each major area. Or any other area of concern you want to address. But, the point is that the time is maximized. You schedule the client’s next appointment, say good bye, and welcome the next person.
Much of recent research shows that shorter duration, higher intensity workouts can be extremely effective. You can attend to more than one component of your client’s fitness in one program. Who doesn’t like to kill 2 or 3 birds with one stone? Do musculoskeletal work and cardiovascular work at the same time while working the client through full ranges of motion which includes stretching. You can use advanced techniques like breakdowns, some sort of superset arrangement, etc. Or just cut out some of the talking and move on.
Clients also don’t need you to babysit them and stand next to them on a treadmill if you choose to add in additional cardio. A simple direction and you’re off to something else that is bringing you revenue. You could also have them come in 15 minutes early to do cardio and continue for an additional 15 minutes after resistance training with you. But, they will only pay for the 30 minutes they are with you. I’m not saying they will pay you less, on the contrary, you will actually be giving them more work and maybe more productive work in less time. You’ve found a new method that will possibly increase effectiveness while making it more efficient too. That’s a selling point for some people.
Prospective clients will sometimes associate time with value. That’s a mistake on their part and it’s your job to educate them that it is far less about quantity and more about quality. They only think that because it’s been drilled into their heads for 2 or 3 decades. It can be difficult to convert existing clients. You’ll have to paint it in a new light. Tell them that you’ve come up with something new. Especially with regard to keeping their metabolism high. If they are really against it, you don’t have to do it, but you can make a deal with them. If they don’t get equal or better results in less time and commitment for them, you can go back to hour long sessions. Of course it will be just as effective if not more assuming the exercise intensity is appropriate.
Get out of the mindset that you get paid by the hour. To an extent, you are, but in this case, you charge PER SESSION. Charge for the product or service you deliver, regardless of the time it takes. Someone once used the analogy of getting a root canal at the dentist. Do you want to pay the guy who gets it done in 30 mins or the guy who gets it done in an hour? Assuming both have the same outcome. The session will be equally effective, if not better because, there can be more work, in a shorter time frame. What do we call that? Intensity. Why waste a client’s time? They can get back to work sooner and be more productive to make more money, themselves. Everyone is benefitting from this arrangement.
If you can convert all of your 1 hour clients to half hour sessions and not glue yourself to the side of a treadmill while they walk on it, you just DOUBLED YOUR CAPACITY. You can now take on twice as many clients at the same PER SESSION rate. If you’re even a half way decent trainer, you should be getting a fairly steady stream of referrals to fill the additional time slots with. Remember, you charge per session or workout, not per hour. You’re paid for the job done. It’s over when it’s over. An arbitrary time length means nothing. Your clients pay for results, not wasted time and your time is valuable. If you’re accustomed to making an average market price of $60/hour in exchange for your services, just imagine doubling that. You now make (AND ARE WORTH) $120/hour.
For example, we have credit card forms where people paid us $599, $850, even $960. This is what people were paying us per month. Every single one of these was for half hour sessions. Some of these were premium priced, in home training for $80 per HALF HOUR session! We billed the client this same amount on the same day each month automatically.
If you do a FREE hour long consultation with a client when they first come in, make sure to inform them in your marketing copy and in person that what they are getting is at least a $120 value (of your time) for FREE.
Start this immediately with all of your new prospects that come in and convert all of your existing clients if you can to this format. A good approach would be to make it multi step. Start by sending a letter or email informing them of this with the language that I used above and give them at least a month’s notice. Talk to them in person about it and let them know you’ll be moving to that model in the next week before you do it and you GUARANTEE that it’ll be equally or more effective as before. Then a final reminder letter or email immediately before you make the change.
A Better Way to Bill and Retain your Clients and Avoid “Selling”.
Let’s get some things straight right off the bat. The sales process is what occurs immediately at the time when you sit down to present your pricing options and ask them to sign up.
Most people hate to sell though. They hate to sell themselves and they hate to sell their services. That’s fine, a lot of people have a hard time pricing themselves and that gets better with more experience as an entrepreneur. But, if you hate doing it, don’t put yourself in a position where you are forced to do it over and over again. What am I talking about?
ARB, or automatic recurring billing . We are fortunate to be in an industry where typically, services are paid for ahead of time. That’s great. You don’t have to bill your clients after the fact and constantly chase down up to 50% of them to get paid checks for what you have already performed. So, we are a step ahead on that one.
Now why do most entrepreneurs continue to sell finite services? What happens at the end? You are probably in a position where most of the value of your clients comes from repeat business. Selling a fixed service implies that they will stop at some point. That’s not what you want!! You want them to fall in love with you and not be able to exist without you. This is full service training, not someone you’re just educating or designing a program for.
Every time you come to an end of a contract or package or whatever you currently sell, you have to resell them again. If they bought a big one up front, how are you going to convince them to buy a big one again? If they see that big dollar amount, they may want to go for the smaller package this time. How are you going to top your original sales pitch that got them to sign up the first time? Worst of all, they may just take it as an opportunity to “take a break” or stop altogether. Does this sound familiar? Wouldn’t it be better if you could have a better chance at retaining these people, with more predictable and reliable income, and not have to resell people every time they complete their package with you? The fact is, there is.
Just take a look at what your gym does to you. They sign you up with an advance (initiation fee), slowly dribble a recurring monthly fee out of your account…automatically. Some lock you into a long term deal like a year or more. Some places will lock you in for 3 years. Those days may be gone for a while though. We prefer to advertise, and use as a selling point, month to month agreements, but that’s because we know the likelihood of someone quitting after only the first month or two is very low. It makes them feel comfortable not having to “commit” to something too big or for too long. We know our retention numbers. And on average for personal training services industry wide, the numbers are very high. Sometimes 90%+ month to month so you know you don’ t have to lock people in contractually for the long term to get them to stay around. The point is that the system is automatic, just like a gym membership. Think of what you are selling as a service membership. Here’s how we have done it.
How to Set Up Automated Recurring Billing (ARB) in Business
You’ll need a merchant account to do business. Or a business bank account with your EIN number. You can obtain that from the IRS after you are a legal business entity. You’ll need the ability to take credit card payments. Companies like Authorize.net can provide you with both a merchant account and payment processing . Or just payment processing if you already have a merchant account. The payment processor allows you to take and process credit cards automatically. There will likely be a very small transaction fee and something like 2-3% of the total transaction. And possibly the more volume of transactions you do, the lower your rate will be. It can look like a lot when your statement comes, especially for American Express cards.
One of the common objections is that people don’t want to pay 2-3% to a credit card company. But, in terms of the reliability and lack of headaches it will save you, it can be well worth it. Plus, we know that personal training is a high priced service in many places. We can often run 60-70% gross profit margins. With a high priced service, you should be able to maintain relatively high margins to allow for this. Plus, NOT having the headaches of chasing people down, getting bad checks, forgetting to charge people, etc. makes up for the relatively small costs of processing credit cards and doing it automatically. an be
The crucial feature of this system is the ability to set up recurring payments on a monthly basis automatically. So for every new client we see, we sell them on one of our pricing options. From here on out, it is just a monthly membership. You can choose to charge them an initiation or set up fee if you like if there is some initial work you have to do to get things going. Or not at all. If not, make sure you note that to them so they know how much they are saving. You enter that client’s payment amount into your automated recurring billing system open ended with no end date and let it roll until they need to stop, if they need to. We’ve had clients for the better part of a decade on this system and I’ve never stopped it. Many service oriented businesses can operate this way.
You can skip a month or stop the subscription and restart it later. It’s very easy to do without having to keep asking them to write big checks or give you their credit card over and over again. The more they feel like they are repeatedly paying you, the more they may consider cutting it out eventually. You want to remove that emotional action from your dealings with them so they see the transaction later on their credit card statement and it’s just another bill coming from someone else, not you!!
In the long run, you are more likely to realize the true lifetime value of the client by increasing your retention or stimulating repeat business by charging monthly fees.
For added stability and predictability, pro-rate your client’s first month and start their next month on either the 1st or the 15th of the month, whichever is closest to their sign up date. This way you won’t have unpredictability by having nothing coming in for eight or 10 days and then $10,000 in one day. It will even out your cash flow and you should know exactly what is coming in twice per month. It will help with your cash flow to pay your own bills. And it should help you with your projections based on your monthly goal of new clients to acquire. Simply add the number of new clients and the resulting revenue to the monthly totals to find what you need to reach your monthly, quarterly, or annual goals. It is a little utilized system, but the best in terms of what we have seen to sell and retain the clients that you worked hard to get.
Automated Recurring Billing (ARB) is a convenient and easy-to-use tool for submitting and managing recurring, or subscription-based, transactions. Create subscriptions manually or in your web checkout form.
- Automate customers’ recurring, subscription-based transactions.
- Eliminate the need to store sensitive data on your computer.
- Avoid many of the costs associated with manual billing.
- Never forget to charge a client.
- Set it up once and there’s virtually no additional labor through the life of the client.
- View and manage your recurring billing clients.
Running an efficient business is largely about steady and reliable cash flow. ARB is an excellent tool to allow you to smooth out your cash flow and live a more regular life as an entrepreneur.
Sales. Everybody thinks it’s a dirty word. Many people don’t like to do it. Many people falsely believe that it’s a bag of tricks you’re trying to memorize and pull out on a prospective client. It’s not that at all. If you have a thoughtful, thorough, and reasoned consultation process, you’ve done most of the work already. Sales, in essence, can really boil down to playing up the positives of your service to meet and match the wants/needs of the consumer right at the point of sale. It isn’t marketing. Marketing leads to sales. Sales happen right when a transaction is taking place. So, if all has gone according to plan, by the time a prospective client sits down in front of you, there’s a better chance than not that they will become a client. In some cases, a much better chance. Most of the hard leg work has been done. You can be confident in this moment. Relax, and present your options being sure to appeal to the wants the prospective client laid out for you in your consultation.
A personal training company with over 50 regular clients.
The personal training company sees clients on a regular basis in the gym and provides regular weekly program design and nutritional counseling.
The company has traditionally taken checks and cash. Their service is priced right and they have a good profit margin with excellent retention of clients. Keeping track of when clients are due to pay is difficult. Some trainers forget to ask for payments and must ask for back payments as well as renewal payments at the same time. Clients don’t necessarily like writing big checks for 6 or 12 month programs at one time. Every client is on a different payment schedule. Occasionally, there is a bad check and have to wait to get another form of payment or a good check once the client’s funds clear their account. May require more trips to the bank. Carrying hundreds or thousands in cash on hand is insecure for the trainer and the company.
Because there is such good retention rates, every client goes on a monthly program. Every client is pro rated their first month. Every client is billed on 1 of 2 days in the month. The 1st or the 15th. Every transaction is run automatically without a person involved who forgets to do things. The system notifies us of upcoming expiration of credit cards a month ahead so there is time to get new numbers from clients.
And the benefits? Both time and money savings. "We don't have to do a lot of work, like track down payments month to month. ARB absolutely saves both time and money. We don't need a specific person to take responsibility for collections." It keeps our retention rates high and we don't have to keep selling renewals.
Much better and more reliable cash flow during the month and month to month. The ability to know how much is coming in and when. No forgetting, no mistakes are made. No paying someone a lot of money to do financial transactions for us. Taking credit cards and putting clients on ARB just makes sense with the way the personal training service works! Clients continue on for years at a time with no interruptions in their payments.
Learn More about Credit Card payments and Automatic Recurring Billing
If you have questions about how to implement this arrangement , feel free to send us an email at the address below. Thank you for reading.