Clients Aren’t Getting Results? Here’s Exactly What to Do.

A personal trainer shows a frustrated client a clipboard with training poor training results.

Tara was one of my favorite clients.

She was a local news celebrity, and she’d quit smoking a few months before I met her. Unfortunately, when she stopped smoking, she gained 30 lb. She hired me to help her drop the weight.

We started with a measurement session, including skin-fold calipers, a tape measure and—yup—the scale. Then we went straight into constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.

Six weeks later, Tara’s deadlift was really awesome (over 200 lb.). She wasn’t scared of box jumps anymore. She could do a 21-15-9 workout in half the time. And she was actually jogging.

I was so proud of her and all her improvements—until we did her measurements again.

Six weeks in, she was up 3 lb.

She was incredibly sad. But I’d been here before, so I told her about body fat and metabolism (you know the drill). I got out the calipers and squeezed the hell out of them, trying to show her that she was losing fat. It was barely a consolation, but she agreed to try another six weeks.

Four weeks later, she showed up smelling like cigarette smoke.

“I just need to drop this weight!” she said. Then she broke down and cried.

The problem wasn’t that my programming was bad, or that I didn’t know enough, or that I didn’t have enough certifications.

The problem was that I’d confused my goal (improved fitness) for her goal (weight loss).

That was a huge mistake.

Generating Real Results for Clients

Fitness coaches have a tough time getting out of our own heads. We suffer from novelty bias (the last thing we learned is the best thing ever), from expertise bias (we think everyone knows what we do about fitness), and from preference bias (if we love CrossFit or some other program, we want everyone to love it, too).

The Prescriptive Model can help. A key feature of the model: quarterly goal reviews with clients. Here’s why these meetings are essential for client success and business improvement.

1. Goal reviews keep clients around.

My friend Brian Bott, who has two very successful gyms on Long Island, told me “the best program you give a client is the second program.” He explained that the first prescription you give a client is probably pretty good, but you’re still sighting in your rifle. If you tell a client that your prescription will keep getting better over time, they’ll be eager to keep investing their time in your coaching.

2. Goal reviews build trust.

You don’t have to have every answer. If your first prescription doesn’t get results, then you can say, “OK, we’re going to add some nutrition coaching to your program.” The client will trust you more because they’ve invested in your coaching and you have a strong relationship: They won’t want to start over with a new coach. However, if you don’t measure their progress and don’t tell them how you’ll change their plan, they’ll be left to guess—and that usually means they’ll leave your gym and try something else.

3. Goal reviews identify opportunities for new offerings.

When several clients mention the same goal—like running their first 5-km race—you can build a new program, like a Couch to 5k group. This helps the clients with their goals, increases revenue for the gym and creates an opportunity for coaches who love running to generate more income while focusing on an area of interest.

4. Goal reviews determine your programming.

Forget about whose programming is best—the best programing for your group classes should reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the group. If you have an option to do broad, general and inclusive workouts in a class setting, you must still track the progress of each individual in that class. Is each client getting stronger? Is aerobic capacity improving? If not, that’s the time to change your programming—not when a new Games athlete starts selling their SpicyHOT Program over Instagram.

Results = Retention

Building a client-centric business means getting your clients better and better results. That’s never a one-time decision. It’s a process of constant audit and improvement. It means cutting things that aren’t working and adding value with things that actually matter.

Many coaches subconsciously avoid tracking client metrics because they’re scared to see that their program isn’t getting clients the results they want. But tracking real results will make your business better and better.

If you track results and always work to generate better results faster, your clients will see constant forward progress, and they’ll keep training with you for years.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.