How To Get The Most Out Of Your Clients
I’m not a cheerleader, that’s not my style of coaching and never will be. I’m more of a quiet professional – fitting that happens to be one of StrongFirst’s codes of conduct. When I first started my personal training career roughly 8 years ago I didn’t have a clue how to conduct myself, so I did what seemed natural at the time; hold my clipboard, repeatedly count to ten, and every now and then pepper in a “good job” or “almost there!”
Thankfully for my clients, (and my business) my perception of what I’m supposed to do as a coach and who I am as a StrongFirst instructor and business owner has evolved from where it was 8 years ago.
I used to think attending a seminar, becoming certified in a particular niche, or reaching a certain level of instruction would translate into clients who were “easy to coach.” “Once I reach this point, I’ll only work with professional athletes”, or “when I’m here, I won’t have to deal with these types of clients.”
The truth is that’s just not the case… and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Whether they know it or not, my clients have taught me a lot about coaching. How to deal with the chronically stressed, the ones who love to overeat, party too hard, the busy CEO’s, athletes, weekend warriors, etc. etc. I’ve learned that universally, whether you’re coaching bodyweight, barbells, kettlebells, or nutrition, there’s an art to getting the most out of your clients and it doesn’t involve a single certification, seminar, or class.
The way you interact with each of your clients dramatically shapes your clients experiences with you and can be the driving force behind their results. Today I want to uncover 4 areas that when practiced not only make a great coach, but will also enable you to get the most out of your clients.
Set The Tone
Aside from your exercise selection, your tone will determine how comfortable your client feels with you, and ultimately how well they perform. Your tone could be the deciding factor between a client being motivated and inspired or shutting down and being fearful of making a mistake.
This delicate dance requires you as the coach to have a keen sense of awareness, get to know your clients, their past, and understand where they’re coming from. Are they an athlete that needs a deeper, harder instruction, or at they someone new to training who needs support, reassurance, and guidance?
Meeting/matching your client’s personality is the best way to achieve this. Approaching your MMA client with a soft-spoken tone probably isn’t going to be received the way you want it too. On the flip side, trying to motivate a client who’s new to training by raising your voice isn’t going to translate either. Put yourself in their world and relate to where they’re coming from. You can change, or set the tone of your session by:
- Making sure you communicate clearly what you’re doing and what you’re looking for
- Reminding them that it’s completely normal for people to need a few tries to get the hang of a new movement
- Commending them for self-correcting during a movement
Remember that you’re the leader and your clients will most certainly follow. If you’re on your phone, your client will likely take the session less seriously. If you’re late, your client likely won’t value your time. If you’re not prepared, your client could be more likely to lose focus.
Come From a Place of Yes
I feel most trainers are quick to point out what you’re doing wrong, rather than compliment you on what you’re doing well.
This is important in building self-esteem in a client. Make a concerted effort to take the words: “no, “bad”, and “wrong”, out of your vocabulary. Also, comments like “what is that?!” won’t go very far in developing your clients confidence.
Coming from a place of yes means not coming from a place of no, it also requires patience and confidence.
When your client strolls in and wants to replace their swings with a YouTube exercise they saw their favorite actress doing, bite your tongue and take a breath before you laugh and point out what’s wrong with said exercise.
Instead ask what they like about that exercise and why they want to do it. Point out what they’re doing right with you and remind them what their goals are. This in itself requires patience, especially if it’s a weekly occurrence.
Keep The Goal The Goal
As coaches it’s easy to get caught up in battle between giving your client what they need and giving your client what they want. Fortunately as I’ve grown further and further in my career I’ve realized that you can indeed do both.
Just because your client wants to lie in a pile of sweat after their workout doesn’t mean you have to transform the session from practicing skills to testing their stamina. Again, remind them of their goal, explain to them how what you’re doing will get them there, and be the support system needed to carry out the plan.
At times when your client may be questioning things, pausing for reflection never hurts. I see that often in clients who have come a long way and are currently struggling with either a weight or movement. For example, a client who’s frustrated over learning the snatch and forgetting that she had never even swung a kettlebell before she started training.
It’s good to remind your clients how far they’ve come. More often than not they won’t think about it themselves, it’s up to you as the coach to remind them how much they’ve achieved.
I found making the transition from “personal trainer” to “StrongFirst kettlebell instructor” changed the dynamic between my clients and I. I realized that in the past, I actually had great routines planned but I myself was bored with the execution – so I’d change it up to entertain myself. Not exactly the sign of a true professional.
Above all remember this: If you’re client doesn’t get results, it’s your fault. If you client gets injured while training, it’s your fault. If your client leaves you, it’s your fault.
Not to sound so rash, but it’s easy to make excuses when things like that happen in an attempt to place the blame elsewhere. Rather look for a way out, turn it back around on yourself because after all you are the leader.
Remember as a leader you set the tone of the session. It’s up to you to be positive, provide proper instruction, and relate to your client as best you can. If you can’t then it’s on you for not asking more questions. If you veer away from the original plan have a detailed reason as to why and convey that to your client.
Once you begin to take ownership of everything in your training, you’ll find yourself asking “why” a lot more – and asking why will help give you the answers you need to become a better coach.