Client Goals, Motivation, and Retention…Oh My!

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” – Proverbs 

7 Rules For Client Retention

How much does it cost for you to acquire a new client? $100, $200, $300? Do you even know how much it costs to acquire a new client? If you don’t, this is an absolute read! Many trainers ask, “How do I keep my clients coming back and resigning with me?” We have broken this down into 7 key areas:

1) Understanding The Gap (Next Section)

Understanding the gap is important in order for you to become a bridge. Understanding the gap relies on your ability to identify where your clients are starting and where they want to go. This is much more than a simple physical goal. Each goal is attributed to an emotional state. We want to accomplish our goals for the feeling it will give us when it is accomplished. People don’t just buy training to buy training, they buy it for the potential outcome of their desired emotional states.

2) Build Successes (Following the Next Section :))

Start clients with exercises they can do. Build small success that they can accomplish. For instance, something as simple as drinking water. Have them set an alarm every 2 hours. Explain the benefits and set the goals. A simple cardio goal when you are not around. Something they can be proud of and tell you about.

3) Create Successful Habits

This is an important one to start small. Have them get a glass of water when they get up, reading food labels, walking after dinner. This is a goal which they can easily measure and share the success with you. What are some small habits you can help your clients develop today? A great application for this is Lift. It is an app designed to help build successful habits.

4) Do Not Over Train

This one is HUGE! It is okay to push your clients past what they believe they can do, but don’t punish them. We all know the repercussions of over training. We lose our gains and it is a miserable feeling. Especially for new clients. Imagine your clients thinking, “WTF did I just sign up for?” This is a big reason clients don’t show. Make sure to be clear about their expectations, their past success and failures, and what to expect after a workout. Don’t laugh at them for being sore. Yes it happens!

5) Progressive Training Programs

When designing a program, make sure that you can adapt your program as your client progresses. There is nothing worse than getting bored with a workout routine. If an exercise is easy, make sure to have a progression readily available. This makes you look more professional and your client gets a better workout.

6) Track Their Exercises

We do this for two reasons. First, it is important to keep accurate records of your clients growth and progress. This can be a powerful motivator when they are looking for just aesthetic changes. Show them what they have accomplished. Second, when designing a program, it is important to know what your client needs to work on. To have an idea of what they need to work on, reviewing both strengths and weaknesses can be an extremely valuable tool.

7) Maintaining Proper Measurements

This one does not need much explanation. It is great to show your client how much body fat they have lost, how much muscle they have gained, how they have regulated their sugar levels, their increase in cardio output, and anything else you can measure. The more you measure the more you can show them regarding their progress! Remember it is all about them. Show them a reason to be proud and relate it to their goals.

Last but not least HAVE FUN!!!!! 

This is not a definitive list. You may have certain things that you do with your clients that keep them coming back. I would love to hear them!

So let’s go back for a moment to Understanding the Gap.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals Refresher

S.M.A.R.T. Goals are great for getting started, however most lack the emotional components to ensure their completion.  Today we want to equip you with the skills necessary to help your clients not only achieve their goals, but also how to tactfully dig deeper to emotionally motivate them to ensure their success.

Smart Goals are have been the industry standard for many years regarding how to set and achieve goals.  The Simple, effective, 5 step approach has made it a very easy system to do, the problem is that it also makes it easy not to do.

As professionals, it is our responsibility to help our clients achieve their goals, whether we have our own or not.  If you have never set or achieved goals, it may be hard for you to encourage your clients through their tough times.  What we want to do is give you the tools necessary to not only help them set goals, but also help them achieve them faster than they ever have before.  If you have never personally asked yourself these questions, or have never set goals, I recommend you do this immediately!

Specific – Simple

Measurable – Meaningful

Achievable – All Areas

Realistic – Responsible

Timed – Toward (The type of motivation)

So let’s Put These Bad Boys On OVERDRIVE!

Now that we have had a brief refresher on what S.M.A.R.T. Goals are, let’s move into the questions to ask your clients to fire them up, get them laser focused, and motivated to commit to the change and take action now.

11 Keys To S.M.A.R.T. Goals and Crushing Achievable Outcomes

There are 11 Keys To Achievable Outcomes helping create greater clarity and uncover any possible challenges before they arise.  These questions should be asked in order during the initial assessment.  The more answers you get, the closer you will help them to achieving their goals.

1) Clearly specify their outcome

Ask them, “What will you see, hear and feel when you have achieved your goal?”

2) State their outcome positively

Ask them, “What specifically do you want? (As opposed to what they don’t want)

3) Specify their present situation

Ask them, “Where are you now in relation to (your outcome)? (Replace “your outcome” with their specific goal)

4) Get the first step

Ask them, “If you had nothing else to do but achieve this goal, what is the very next action you would take?”

5) Uncover the evidence of the goals accomplishment

Ask them, “How will you know when you have achieved this goal?”

6) Is it congruent and desirable?

Ask them, “What will (their outcome) get for you or allow you to do?” “Are you sure you want it?”

7) Is it self initiated it self maintained?

Ask them, “Is it only for you?” “Are you the only person in charge of your results?”

8) Is it appropriately contextualized?

Ask them, “Where, when, how, and with whom do you want it?”  ”Are there any drawbacks in any of these contexts?”

9) Establish resources (Resources are the means to create change within oneself to accomplish an outcome)

Ask them, “What personal resources do you have that will assist you in achieving this?

“Have you ever done this before?” If yes, “How did you do it?”

“Do you know anyone else that has achieved (outcome)?  What resources did they have? What can you learn from them?”

“Imagine you have it now. What resources did you use to get it?”

10) Is it ecological?

Ask them, “Is it good for you and the people around you?”

“Why do you want it?”

“What will you gain or lose if you achieve your goal?”

11) Quantum linguistics (A branch of NLP, and is all about perspective and using words, the tools of language, to stimulate various thought processes and responses.)

Ask them, “What will happen if you achieve your goal?”

“What won’t happen if you achieve your goal?”

“What will happen if you don’t achieve your goal?”

“What won’t happen if you don’t achieve your goal?”

“Are you ready to get started today to (insert goal or outcome)?”


That, my friends, is the outline I have used for years allowing me an unbelievable success rate with clients!  This can be used in virtually any setting that a goal is involved.  I recommend going through the questions first for your own goals.  These questions will give you the focus and clarity you need to accomplish more goals faster than ever before.

The 2 Absolute Keys to Long Term Client Motivation

While we could take this much deeper, research has shown, according to the Cybex Institute, there are two simple keys that we as trainers must focus on:

Actualization Of a Goal – Research shows that when people live lives that are different from their true nature and capabilities, they are less likely to be happy than those whose goals and lives match

So what does this mean?  It means that you must help your client set realistic goals that they can incrementally reach on their way to their ultimate desired outcome.  For more information on goals, go up and revisit How To Put Your S.M.A.R.T. Goals on Overdrive.

Self Efficacy  High self-efficacy can affect motivation in both positive and negative ways. In general, people with high self-efficacy are more likely to make efforts to complete a task, and to persist longer in those efforts, than those with low self-efficacy.  The stronger the self-efficacy or mastery expectations, the more active the efforts. However, those with low self-efficacy sometimes experience incentive to learn more about an unfamiliar subject, where someone with a high self-efficacy may not prepare as well for a task.

So what does this mean?  Teach your clients how to do it on their own.  Help them help themselves to a more fulfilled and rewarding life through health and wellness.  The more people you can help do this, the more people will be knocking down your door.

Let’s start this process by addressing one simple, area: Coaching Cues.

The challenge most trainers have is the tendency to over explain the information we know.


What I mean by that is when were describing an exercise to our clients we have a tendency to make it more complicated that it needs to be.  We talk about which muscles are being used, we talk about the force, we talk about torque, we talk about all of these complex things that our clients don’t really care about, at least initially.

Now this isn’t to start an argument, what it is, is to say that clients are here to achieve their goals. Some of them might really like to know the anatomy and the force and how it all works together in the complexity of fascial meridians, etc.  However in most cases that doesn’t hold true.  Most people, when they come in to work with a trainer are either looking to take themselves to the next level or they have no clue what they are doing.  Lets build some confidence. If we give them 25 things to think about chances are their not going to remember it.

What we want to do is to make it as simple as possible, remembering the two keys to long term client motivation:

1) Gradual and incremental accomplishment of their goals

2) Self efficacy, meaning they can do it on their own.

Now if your a trainer who does this to confuse your clients you need to stop. That’s not what going to keep your clients coming back. What we want to do is make sure our clients are efficient, they learn quickly, and they learn how to do it on their own so we can advance them to the next level.

The 4 Essential Coaching Cues for New Clients

1) Tell them if they are pushing or are they pulling.

2) Where are they going to put their hands. Are they putting their hands on the cables, are their palms facing down, are they facing towards each other, are their palms facing up. Where are they going to put their hands for the movement.

3) Which direction are they going to pull or push, for instance if your doing a shoulder press with dumb bells and your palms are facing forward, your going to push up with the movement. Pretty simple stuff. The idea is to make it so simple that our clients can digest it and we can progress them faster.

4) Where do they end the movement. It is very important that they learn not only where to put their hands, which direction to go, they need to know how far to go, or when to end the movement.  Is it when its comfortable, is it slightly before the knee is fully extended what examples are you going to give to your clients to make sure that they know when to end the movement and to repeat it.

The idea is with these four keys it to make it simple and digestible. IF we can make it simple and digestible, the clients will begin to become more confident.  Make your clients feel good, get them results, help them become more than they are now, and they will stick with you for the long haul.

One Last Thing…

You are going to be blown away with this simple this tip!  Now with that being said let’s talk about correcting your clients.  So, once again we want to build their confidence with small successes, so if we give them something that is beyond their capability, and we have to make more than two corrections, we need to regress the movement.

No More Than 2 Corrections Per Exercise

We should never have to give them more than two corrections per exercise, if we are giving them more than two correction its time to regress the movement.  Take them to a level of exercise that they can be comfortable completing and then progress them for there.

For instance if your doing a single leg squat and they’re unable to hip hinge correctly, their knee goes in, their belly goes out, they don’t have the balance.  Were not going to sit and correct, well you balance is off, keep your knee stable, stick your butt back, etc…

Immediate Success and Confidence

We don’t want to be the ones that make them feel bad for doing the movement, we want to progress them based on successes, we don’t want to regress them because they cant accomplish it.  We want them to feel an immediate success.

So just as a quick conclusion, if you have make more than two corrections,  regress the client starting at regressed movement and progress them faster based on successes rather than regressing them due to failures.  If you don’t believe me, try it for yourselves and let me know the results.

And there you have it!  A recipe for long term success for your clients!

If you are having trouble booking clients off your fitness floor, check out our guide, OFF THE FLOOR – A Proven Step-By-Step System to Removing Fear and Getting Clients From the Floor

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