5 Ways to Get Client Buy-in and Increase Client Retention

Detric Smith

Trainer, Coach, Business Owner, Author

Williamsburg , Virginia, United States

Strength and Conditioning, Kinesiology, Nutrition Coach, Exercise Physiology, Certified Personal Trainer


Put yourself in your potential client's shoes. Why would they fork over a large amount of cash to train with a person they barely know? Or, when they become clients, how do you keep them coming back? The answer is in the buy-in.


Are the clients buying what you’re selling?



Most clients come to trainers with only a vague idea of what they want. They expect the trainer to have all the answers, and they dump it all in your lap, hoping you find a solution.


But making the client part of this process is where the real magic happens.


Create Client Buy-In

You start by creating client buy-in. This buy-in makes it easier to sign and keep clients and leads to better client results. It may sound too good to be accurate, but it isn’t. A few tweaks to what you’re doing will help improve your income and lead to happier clients.


Here are five ways to make this happen:


1. Client Assessment: Use Motivational Client Techniques

Meeting a potential client for the first time is a nerve-racking experience. And the client is probably nervous too. You want to make an excellent first impression, and the potential client is way out of their comfort zone to make a lasting change.


But this is the perfect time to drill down on what the client wants and needs.


After you’ve gone through the standard questions on your client assessment and they’ve given you a vague goal they want to achieve, this is the time to make them part of the process.


This is the time to ask open-ended questions using motivational interview techniques first coined by Dr. William R. Miller and Dr. Stephen Rollnick in the 1980s to aid substance use disorders.


Here are examples of open-ended questions taken from the PTA Global

Program Design Questionnaire (PDQ):


  • Why is this goal most important to you?
  • How would that affect your life if you don’t make these changes and stay the way you are or regress in your health and fitness?
  • What consequences could occur?
  • When you successfully reach your goal, in what way will life be different?
  • What benefits are most important to you?
  • On a scale from 1-10, how important is it for you to make these changes now? Why is it not a two or a three?
  • What would it take to make it go one number higher?
  • Do you believe you can make these changes?
  • On a scale from 1-10, how confident are you?
  • What would it take to make it (one level higher)?
  • Are you ready and willing to change now?
  • In what ways do you believe I can help you?


2. Finding Your Client's Real Why

Now you have the client's goal and how committed they are to it, it’s time to dig into the real why behind their goal.


After going through countless client assessments and hearing the same generic responses:


“I want to lose 20 pounds.”

“I want to feel better.”

“I want to look better.”

“I don’t recognize the person in the mirror anymore.”


These responses are a good starting point, but it doesn’t tell you anything. The question is, why do they want it? When they find their way, they have some skin in the game and a reason to stick with your training.


Ask your potential client the five whys to get to their real reason for a change.



Here are examples:


Q. Why do you want to train with me?

A. To lose 20 pounds.


Q. Why 20 pounds?

A. Because I’ll get down to my old high school weight.


Q. Why is that important to you?

A. Because I want my energy and bounce back, like when I was in high school.


Q. Why is getting your energy back currently important?

A. My wife is about to have a baby. A baby, fantastic news.


Q. Why will a 20-pound weight loss help?

A. Because I want to be the best help and role model for my child.


Now you have your client's why.


3. Personal Assessment

Assessing your clients physically by taking measurements, checking body fat, and reviewing their weightlifting history is a no-brainer.


The client needs to know if they’re making progress, and you need to know if your program is working.



But how’s your performance? You think you might be doing great, but the client may have different ideas. Therefore, creating a questionnaire to rate your performance is a good idea.


Here are some example questions:


  • What’s one thing you dislike about my coaching?
  • Everyone has exercises they love and hate. Name an exercise you like and one you don’t.
  • What’s one thing that you’d like me to start doing?
  • Have your goals changed?
  • What’s one thing that you’d like me to keep doing?


The client will know you take them and their goals seriously. And you have things you will work on to become a better coach.



This outcome is a win-win.


4. Education

Clients come to you for either performance or to look, feel, and move better. But they often don’t see how training improves (besides vanity) their life outside of the gym. This is where you step in.


It is important to help clients join the dots between the exercises they do and how it improves their lives outside of vanity.


You do this by educating them on the correlation between the exercises and how it improves their life. For example, it carries increasing grip strength to open the pickle jar.


Doing this creates credibility for you and your programming. Plus, it helps the client buy into what they’re doing and see the why behind what they’re doing.


It would be best if you took every opportunity to educate your clients so they can make better decisions when you’re not around.


5. Program Choices

Finding the exercises that the client likes and dislikes (like mentioned in point three) makes the client a vital part of the process.


This keeps the client happy, and the buy-in generated from the client is second to none.


Your programming mixes what the client needs (not wants) and what their goals are. Often that doesn’t leave much wiggle room in your program for fun stuff like curls, tricep extensions.


Instead, take a leaf out of Tony Gentilcore’s book and throw open the last five minutes to the client to work on what they want to train.


Tell them, “We got 5 minutes left. What do you want to work on today?”


Then take their answer and put together three exercises to work this body part in the form of a finisher. For example, if their answer is they want to work their arms:




1A. TRX Overhead Triceps Extensions - 10-15 Reps



1B. TRX Biceps Curl – 10-15 Reps



1C. TRX Y Pull - 8-12 Reps


Do as many rounds in 5-8 minutes and rest when needed.


Again, you are addressing your clients' concerns and making them part of the programming process. Do you think the client is more likely to stick around if you do this?


Just Listen

Making the client feel included in the assessment and programming process makes them feel important and creates better buy-in. This leads to happy clients and a better paycheck.


And all you need to do is listen.

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