Where Do You Send Clients Who Don’t Fit Your Gym?

Older adult clients chatting after class - where do you send them?

“It’s not you. It’s me.”

It’s hard to say goodbye to a bad client. It’s even hard to say “we’re not a good fit” to a prospective client.

As a people-pleaser, I’ve struggled with saying “no thanks” to people my whole life. But I’ve finally found a way to do it: I refer imperfect fits elsewhere.

Here’s how to do it.


Referrals: Still Serving the Client


I was once forced to fire a client who was in love with one of our coaches.

She was absolutely obsessed with him. He was uncomfortable—and so was his wife. The client had to go.

But I actually liked the client and wanted the best for her. Even though I knew I had to remove her from my gym fast, I dreaded the conversation.

So I decided to find her a new home. I called around to other local gyms, introduced myself and asked about their programs. Finally, I found one that I thought could really help her.

I said, “I have this client. She’s amazing, but she’s not a good fit here. She has a $270 credit at my gym. I’d like to transfer that to you and get her started right away.”

Of course, they were suspicious: What kind of monster was I dumping at their door?

I told them, “If you don’t like her, you can just refund her the balance. OK?”

They agreed—warily. And the client wasn’t exactly thrilled that I was referring her out, but it was better than being dumped by my gym completely. She tried the other gym, liked it and lost 70 more pounds in the next two years there.

The last service I could perform for that client was to give her a way to continue her path to fitness.

But the experience opened my eyes to the value of a referral partner. I was no longer afraid to say “you’re not a great fit for our program” because I didn’t have to hurt anyone’s feelings anymore. That meant I could work only with clients who were a perfect match for my coaches and my gym.


Partner Up


Here’s how to find a referral partner in your town:

1. Make a list of all the coaching practices.

2. Pick the five gyms that can care for your “poor fits” the best. You’re not looking for technical expertise: You’re looking for someone who can demonstrate care. In other words, you’re viewing the person through the eyes of a potential client.

3. Visit the websites of the five gyms on your list.

4. Call two or three of them. Ask if you can drop by with coffee.

5. Drop by with coffee.

6. Tell them that you want to refer the clients who aren’t a good fit.

7. Ask if they would welcome those clients.

That’s it. Do not try to set up cross-referral fees or some other kind of exclusive deal. This should be a “win” for the client and the other gym. Your win isn’t monetary here.

It’s really hard to remove clients who aren’t a good fit because none of us likes hurting a client’s feelings. So we keep them around, read their private texts with dread and keep a suspicious eye on them when they’re around. In theory, firing a client is easy; in practice, firing a client is really hard.

I used to try and keep every client or take every person who wanted to join my gym. Even when I didn’t need the money anymore, I just didn’t want to hurt their feelings. But then I learned the value of a referral partner and my life got 300 percent easier.

And then, one day, my partner referred someone to my gym.

That was a bonus. The real win is working with my Seed Clients only and surrounding myself with people I can serve.

To learn how to identify and focus on your Seed Clients, watch this video:

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