How many times have you asked, or been asked; "what's it worth to you?" What was your answer when asked? How you answer that question, to yourself and to others, is very important.
It must be something genetic that people will always shoot to get more for less, and even something for nothing. In sales, "if you never ask the answer is always 'no'", so I can respect trying to get a deal or a bargain. Too often though, people in the fitness industry will discount their services to a level that devalues their time and the profession overall. So when someone is negotiating with you on price, or you're setting your prices, be aware of the message that you're sending when it all goes down.
Hold The Line
The enemy is pushing ahead full steam and you're about to meet head on. There's no way you want them to get beyond your position. Hold that line. While the consumer is not your 'enemy', they aren't necessarily your ally either. This isn't meant to be anti-consumer rhetoric of course, without clients we have no business and we ARE in the business to help people. I'm merely saying that they're not going to jump at the chance to pay the first price given, or more than what they feel, or you project, your services are worth.
So, if I say I'll train someone for free for a month; what does that say to them about how I value my time/ services? It trains them to think that a trainers time/ cost in general is less valuable. So whether or not they sign with you or another personal trainer, they think that they can get a better price somewhere else and therefore you've just contributed to the reason why training has become unnecessarily competitive: price wars. You've now made it about the cost rather than the value, and since you've shown that you don't value your own time; the consumer values it even less. Solution: hold the line.
You shouldn't be giving anything away for free. An evaluation or intro session is one thing, but beyond that you're actually showing more the lack of business and professional prowess that it takes to SUSTAIN a positive client load. I've had a decade of 95+% retention wth my client load and never dropped below what I said my prices were. Hold the line. If you're good - they will see the value in one session and give you your price. If they don't, so not waiver and maintain the integrity of your business; do not cave in. People will respect you more.
Perception vs. Reality
Perceived value is something that I think we, as professionals, struggle with when it comes to clients. If Johnny, the trainer one town over, is willing to undercut my services by $20/hr, then why wouldn't someone go to him if they think all trainers are similar and cost is the only other variable? If Johnny is "training" someone for free for a week or so, then he obviously cares less about the money and must really only care about helping that person right? Absolutely 100% FALSE.
I see this all the time here in south Florida. The market is so saturated that the average cost per session is roughly $30 and people change trainers like they (hopefully) change underwear. When you put price over quality, that's what happens and you may think that it's getting you more business (which it may up front if you're looking solely at number of clients as your metric) but it's not doing much for your wallet or maximizing your time in the bigger picture. Nor is it showing any value in the education you've hopefully spent time obtaining to be a professional.
Watch what happens when you try to raise your rates as inflation and overhead increase. I'd be willing to bet half your client load leaves for, you guessed it, a trainer undercutting your prices just as you had undercut others. Over time, you'll find that you will constantly be fighting to get clients and not be able to leverage your time any longer.
Know Your Worth
So, if it's so competitive and so many trainers undercut to gain business, how do I build my business? Build value. What do you offer that those fly-by-nighters don't? Do you know your worth? Maybe YOU do, but do they? Set your self apart, not just by price (we are a luxury NOT a commodity), but by deliverables.
Here are some suggestions on building value:
Educate and keep educating - showing that you continuously invest in your craft shows potential clients that you're in it for the long hall and they'll respect your professionalism.
Align with like minded people - networking is one key to success, and who you network with is just as important as where you network. Collaborate with people whom you respect and form mutually beneficial relationships.
Interview prospects - while they are interviewing you in your introductory session or evaluation, you should evaluate them too. You shouldn't be taking anyone and everyone, much like they shouldn't be hiring 'just any' trainer. If your beliefs, expectations and scope don't align with a prospects goals, beliefs or expectations then cut your losses fast.
Do what's best, not what's 'hot' - relying on big words and "new" trends to grab clients is setting yourself - and them - up for failure. Listen more than you speak, information is what will help you to help them and you can't learn when you're focused more on the impression than the lesson. Being honest will earn you respect, big words don't.
Look, at the end of the day people put more value on catching the new Pokemon that popped up nearby than they do on the many benefits of personal training. It's your responsibility as a professional to show them that you can be instrumental in changing their lives. I'm not saying it's easy, but if we're to change the culture within our profession, we have to work together and set a high standard.
Ryan Mallett is an NSCA-CPT & USAW Olympic Weightlifting Coach based in south Florida, and online. Contact him for training programs and speaking engagements at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 732-763-1329