Working in a gym every day can have ups and downs but it has one thing that remains constant. Every hour of every day is different. One hour might be a training session with a group of 7–10 year olds, the next with 12–16 year olds. It could even be an adult 1on1 session or even a hockey team. But my favorite? New member/athlete evaluations.

I hold evaluations near and dear to my heart. For me, it gives me an opportunity to see something through the perspective of someone else. It allows me to learn in the setting that absorbs content the best; hands-on in a one on one conversation.

It’s actually pretty selfish the more I think about it…

Looking back over the last five years I’m guessing I’ve done close to 3,000 new athlete/member evaluations at the facility I manage. That’s a lot of handshakes, hello’s, and smiles to everyone from 6 year olds to 76 year olds.

I don’t remember everyone’s name but I do remember all the lessons that have come from spending time with 3,000 strangers on a day to day, year to year basis.

  1. Ask the right questions

I’m often asked by college graduates, new to the industry, what new certification should they get? Without hesitation I tell them to buy the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.

This book changed the game for me. I gave a copy to my brother-in-law as a gift for graduating college and was laughed out of the room. He is now a successful sales rep for a local advertising group at age 22…ha-ha, right?

On a serious note, How to Win Friends and Influence People taught me how to 1) start a conversation with anyone 2) ask questions to get the other person talking, and most importantly 3) how to be self-aware and not talk about myself. Asking the right questions will lead to a better understanding of what makes the client tick. How you can relate to them on a human level, not just as someone who is going to beat them up on the training floor.

However, this is only half the battle…

2. You have 2 Ears, 2 Eyes, and 1 Mouth. Use them in that Order

Meet Johnny.

Jonny dominates every conversation and never lets you talk. Johnny never asks for your opinion. When you talk to Johnny you feel that he doesn’t really listen to you. You don’t like being around Johnny because he adds nothing to your life.

Don’t be that person. No one likes that person.

Your conversations will only be as good as your ability to listen. Working with 3,000 people over the last 5 years I can safely say I’ve done a lot more listening than I have speaking. When you listen well, you remember all the crucial points that allow you to become a better coach, deliver a better experience, and yes, win friends.

3. Smile until your face hurts

One of the nicest things ever said to me was that they’ve never seen me look sad.

Life goal complete!

Whether I’m on the training floor, at a local high school sporting event, or at the grocery store, I aim to be approachable. The easiest way to do this is often the most forgotten…

Sport around a smile and simply say ‘hello’ when you walk by people.

Give it a try tomorrow. Count how many people smile back or even comment on how you appear to be in a better mood. Optimism is contagious. A smile goes a long way in making people feel comfortable around you.

4. People want your help, not your problems.

What I learned early on is that no one cared about my problems. If I had been on the training floor for seven hours it was still my clients first exposure to me. Drowning clients in personal problems is a quick way to lose a client and be perceived as unprofessional.

In a service based industry it is your duty to provide that service. In my world, people pay for motivation, guidance, and solutions to their health and fitness problems. They don’t pay to have my crap thrown on to their (already full) plate.

Make the session about the client. If you can incorporate the first three lessons, this one will fall into place very easily.

5. It’s okay to not have all the answers

The older a new client is when they come to me, the longer their list of injuries tend to be. Some of which are easy to work out, and others not so much. In those cases I’ve become very comfortable with not having the answers.

I recommend that you become comfortable with it too.

The old cliché of “Your net worth is related to your network” is 100% correct. Over the past five years I’ve developed great relationships with professionals who DO have the answers. Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Registered Dieticians, hell, even OTHER Strength and Conditioning Professionals!

If you think you have all the answers, you’ve lost.

If you’re afraid to refer your clients to other professionals, you’re laying 6 feet under.

The second fastest way to lose a client is for them to get hurt under your watch. Yet again, you will look like the incompetent fitness professional.

Deliver great sessions, listen more than you speak, and cherish the relationships you have built. If you can nail all three, referring your clients to more qualified medical professionals will only enhance what you’ve already created.