How to Sell Programming

A young woman sitting in a gym - how to sell programming

By Per Mattsson, Certified Two-Brain Fitness Business Mentor

Many gym owners and coaches struggle financially. One of the reasons for that is because they have a fragile business with just one or two revenue streams: most often, group classes—sometimes that is the only revenue stream—and personal training.

We have always been quite good at delivering programming to customers, both inside and outside of our gyms, and this article is going to give you all the strategies and tactics you need to do it, too.

The basic steps:

  1. Analyze your target group.
  2. Customize and package your offerings.
  3. Analyze your team and your skills.
  4. Add expertise to your team.
  5. Add value.
  6. Build your audience.
  7. Find the best platform to deliver your services.
  8. Set pricing and packaging.
  9. Start selling.
  10. Create a funnel.

Step 1

Analyze your target group: Find out what people’s goals and pain points are.

You need to start talking with your existing and new clients. By finding out what goals and problems they have, you can communicate what solutions you offer.

If I want to be the best possible version of myself, perhaps in terms of competitive CrossFit, is group training really the best solution? Perhaps individual programming combined with some personal training is the best solution. Do you have a system and a platform in place to offer that? If not, you are losing potential revenue.

The best ways of finding out what goals people have?

A: Have regular goal reviews with your members.

Goals change. The goals members had when they started with you might not be the same today. If they’ve made progress, they should have different goals!

Sit down with them at least quarterly and ask what achievements in the gym they are most proud of and what they want to achieve now. Then discuss new and specific goals. That puts you in the place of the expert, and you can recommend the service you think would best take them toward their goals.

Sometimes that will be “stay in group training,” sometimes it will be “sign up for nutrition coaching”—which you should also have in your gym—and sometimes it will be “do individualized programming” and so on.

B. Have some sort of interview with all potential clients.

Two-Brain Business gyms always do this. Not everyone who steps into your gym will benefit most from group training. There will always be clients who are in need of rehab training or who might not like working out in a group.

You need to be able to present them with the option of training one on one with a coach or with a program they can use at home or in another gym where they feel more comfortable.

Step 2

Solve the problems of your existing and potential clients.

Now that you know more about what goals people have, you and your team can put together services that help them reach those goals and solve their problems. For instance:

“Find out how good you can become at CrossFit and enter competitions. Try our individual programming and start your journey today!”

Or: “Stop suffering from pain and stiffness at work. Try our mobility workouts at home and get rid of all your problems!”

You need to confirm people’s goals and pain points and then tell them how you and your services can help them. That is why Step 1 is so important.

Step 3

Analyze your team and your skills.

Who can deliver programming?

Owners and coaches often overestimate what kind of knowledge and skills you need to deliver programming. Sure, if you are to take someone to the Games, you need a lot of knowledge and skills. And you should not pretend to know more than you do, which could harm a client.

But if you are going to have someone do a first push-up, do you think you could design that program? What if you were to help someone go “from couch to 5k”? Do you think you could design a program that takes someone to a first pull-up?

Here’s the best part: Most people you are going to meet are not going to the Games! Most people have goals or pain points like this:

  • They suffer from pain.
  • They want to lose weight.
  • They want to do a pull-up or push-up.
  • They want to work out at a time of day that suits them but still want someone to guide them.
  • They want to do the Open without scaling.

If you and your team have any skills and experience, you should be able to program for these individuals, right? Guess what? Many of the clients with these pain points are also able and willing to pay more than the competitive athlete!

Look at your team and see what kind of programming you can delivera—and then start helping people by providing it.

Step 4

Add expertise to your team.

What are some ways to do this?

Having a platform for online services also means you are more attractive as a partner or boss, and using the 4/9ths Model to pay means you are not taking any risk in payroll: You pay coaches when they add revenue!

You have taken a risk in investing in the platform, and you are helping coaches find an audience through your gym and through your social media.

Who is the endurance expert in your area? Who can design the best weightlifting programs? Where can you find nutrition coaches? When you take your business outside your box, you get a much larger audience, and that also means you create more opportunities for coaches. Your team can grow and you can help more people.

Step 5

Add value.

A great way to gain loyal and happy customers: underpromise and overdeliver.

That means that you never exaggerate or lie about the results and services you provide. Instead, make sure that people will get more than they expect by adding extra value.

That could be in the form of free nutrition advice in a training program, some sort of celebration when they finish a challenge or just something that surprises your customers.

Something that we use to add extra value is the InBody machine. It provides objective data that can be used to measure progress and track results.

Sometimes a client who wants to lose weight could be disappointed if using a regular scale that just shows body weight. If you do strength training, you might have gained weight even if you’ve lost some fat. By showing that on the InBody, we show clients that they are successful.

Step 6

Build your audience.

Why are people going to buy your programming and not someone else’s? Perhaps your members know about your skills and trust you—but how can you attract new clients from outside your business and build your audience?

Communicating success stories is a key element in marketing your service. When your clients’ success stories are visible on social media, others in their social circles are going to want in. This is called Affinity Marketing, and it’s a very powerful tool. But first, you need clients to create those stories!

One strategy is to have a selected group of people act as guinea pigs. Offer your program to this small and exclusive group of people you know will do the work. Get their permission to publish their stories on social media so the world can see what you are doing. Use films from their training to tell the world about your great programs. When they start getting results, interview them, gather testimonials and spread the word.

Perhaps you need to let that first group of people try your programming for free or at a low cost—but it could be worth it in the long run.

If you want to build your audience and get more clients, consistency in publishing on social media is crucial. Make at least a couple of posts every week if you want people to pay attention.

If programming is just one part of your business, then create a strategy and a social-media calendar to make sure you are consistent and that your different services are not stealing attention from each other. It’s not that smart to make three great posts on the same day and post nothing on the following two days.

Step 7

Find a platform where you can deliver your service.

A crucial aspect of delivering online and premium services: It must be easy for the client to understand and follow your program. User-friendly systems result in better compliance. Better compliance leads to better results. And better results lead to more more sales.

Google sheets, for example, are not user friendly and often lead to confusion. There is no way your clients can see how you want an exercise to be performed without looking it up elsewhere online. Sure, you can insert links in the sheet, but that is a very slow and inefficient way of doing it. A program should come with all exercises on video. That way a client can always see the exercise and how it’s supposed to be done.

There are several platforms to use. Look and ask around. We use TrueCoach. All exercises are on video. We have also developed our own platform that we use with corporate businesses and some other clients. In both TrueCoach and our platform, Box Connect Fitness, you can add your own videos and combinations if you want to customize something.

Your client should not have to bring a paper into the gym. The program must be easy to access on an electronic device. A phone is the most obvious choice, and that’s why an app like TrueCoach or Box Connect Fitness is so user friendly. It’s easy to look at exercises and log results. There’s no middle step like taking notes on paper and then logging results on your computer or phone.

The platform you choose should also give you the opportunity to sell outside your gym. Many of your programming clients will come from within your gym, via goal reviews and introduction talks. But what if someone outside of your gym is looking for a “get-your-first-push-up- program”? Wouldn’t it be cool if that person could find your programs online and buy without even contacting you?

What if people want to train a bit smarter but still want to stay in their large commercial gym? Could you still coach and provide great programming? You bet you could!

Let me ask you this: Would you prefer a relationship with one advanced client, where you have to spend lots of time analyzing results and updating the program, for $249? Or would you prefer if you could have a hundred people jump on your six-week, basic functional-fitness challenge for $29 per person?

That six-week challenge can be used over and over and over again. That said, it is much harder to compete on the “commodity market” with cheap programs and templates. The best choice is always to choose your ideal clients and base your offerings on that.

So the platform you choose is crucial for delivering your services inside and outside your gym. Some of the people who try your programming in another gym are going to want more after a while, and they might end up becoming members at your gym!

A programming tool should also be easy for the coach who designs the programs. We want to save time and make everything simple. Templates and cycles should be easily created and copied, and adding exercises should be quick. Just as some templates and programs can be sold over and over again at different times, so can you use and adjust great training plans for different customers. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Step 8

Set pricing and packaging.

How do you know what to charge for your services? What is “individual programming with weekly updates” going to cost? What is “group programming with weekly updates” going to cost?

Instead of just looking at what others charge, start by thinking about how much you want to earn per hour. If you use the 4/9ths Model to pay your coaches—which I think you should—you need to think about what they need to earn per hour.

Then you need to find out, by testing or by estimating, how much time it takes to program for a client. Your time spent programming should be valued the same as or very close to the time you spend personal training.

Individual Programming

We charge between $179 and $400 for a month for individual programming. Thirty minutes of follow-up are included in that price, and on-site customers also get a free InBody scan if they want. We tell our coaches that 30 minutes per week should be sufficient to program for individual clients. Of course, the ability to deliver in this time frame comes with experience.

Group or Avatar Programming

This is an interesting service because here is where volume starts to matter. I would rather program for 15 people following my “RiggNinja program” at $29 dollars a month than one client at $249. For the group, I only write one program, and it is not as detailed or data driven as the one for the individual client. Imagine if you had 25 people following—or 50! But, as I mentioned earlier, this is a hard market in which to compete. We focus almost 100 percent on individual packages and services in our businesses.

Ready-Made Templates or Challenges

This is one of the most important features that a platform should have once you have designed a training cycle, a program for upper-body strength, a nutrition challenge or any program that solves common problems for clients. These programs will always be there, available for purchase by anyone. If they are successful and deliver results, you just keep marketing them. You can always make small changes to tweak programs or customize them for some other target group.

For example, a great nutrition challenge—with recipes, videos from the nutrition coach and a couple of workouts a week—will always be valuable. That nutrition challenge can be available in the store and give you or a coach income for years to come!

The best part about ready-made challenges and templates is that you can use them to deliver cheaper services to people who are new to you. This is a great way of proving your worth and attracting the masses. Perhaps a challenge is not profitable the first time you market and sell it, but the second, third, fourth and 10th time? It will be, because you are not doing any extra work.

I would be prepared to sell a six-week challenge for as little as $10 and aim for great volume.

Do Not Project Your Own Thoughts on Potential Clients

Many coaches and owners have a tendency to project their own way of thinking on their clients and customers. They believe there is no way people are going to want to pay for services beyond just regular membership. This is a big mistake and something you need to quit doing now!

There will always be people who want more, who are ready to pay extra for great service and who want to feel a bit more exclusive. If you can serve their needs, then of course you should charge extra.

Perhaps you would not want extra service or perhaps you would not want to pay extra, but you are not the typical avatar, and everyone does not think the way you do.

Stop projecting.

Step 9

Sell with success stories and testimonials.

Now you know what your target groups are and you know how to communicate with them. You know your team and your skills, and you have decided what to deliver.

Use the success stories of your clients as testimonials and spread them on social media. Make sure that every post has a clear “call to action” in it so you get people off social media and into your services. If you use BoxConnect, it’s very easy to just have a “learn more” button that takes them to your shop in BoxConnect or to a landing page you’ve created.

Here’s how it could look:

“Natalie started our six-week online challenge in April, and this is her story. She has lost 2 kg of body fat and gained 1 kg of muscle. Her back pain is gone and she is now able to run again. Do you want to have the same success as Natalie? Click here to learn more.”

To complete the post, add a testimonial video or a picture of Natalie.

You can use different client stories depending on what kind of program you want to sell.

Step 10

Create a funnel.

Imagine a funnel that collects a large mass of people at its broader “opening” or base level, then takes some parts of that mass and moves them closer and closer to the more narrow end of the funnel. No matter where in the funnel people are, you want some income from them. This is something that microgym owners and coaches often miss—the thought of “volume income” is attractive.

By creating offers and packages at different price levels, you can attract different individuals and create a funnel that leads toward your more expensive services. Imagine if all your followers on Instagram and Facebook were paying customers. Wouldn’t that be a nice revenue stream?

The Top of the Funnel

At the top of the funnel, you will find people with little to no connection to you and your services. Perhaps they don’t even have a connection to training. By putting together really simple and inexpensive services, you might entice those people who are not yet convinced by you and your services. Perhaps a “free trial” of two weeks could make them try your services, or perhaps a “28-day basic nutrition challenge” for $19 could be their first purchase. You will need low thresholds: programs must be very doable and prices must not present a barrier.

The Next Level

A bit further down the funnel, you will find people who are more aware of you and your services. Perhaps they have been following you and your gym on social media for a long time. Perhaps they are formers members or have bought something from you before. They might have a relative or a friend who is training with you. And so on.

In short, they have some knowledge and awareness of you. These people might jump right into some of your more complex or advanced packages, like a six-week challenge, a training program for functional fitness or something targeted like “become a better runner in six weeks.”

If you want to attract these people, your services and packages can be more complex and cover a large price range—anything between $19 and $99 could work, depending on what you offer. Ready-made templates, ongoing group programming, nutrition challenges, etc. are services that work with customers at this level.

The Bottom of the Funnel

Here you will find people with knowledge of you, your services and your brand. They might even be following up on a recommendation from someone.

These are the people who might be looking for something custom made and in a specific niche—individual programming, small-group programming, sports-specific programming.

They might be looking for something that solves more than one problem, like a challenge or a program that includes physical training, nutrition coaching and mental challenges. Perhaps they want a combination of online coaching and meetings in person. One of the best packages I have put together is a weightlifting course that combines biweekly meetings with homework through BoxConnect.

Some people at this level might already be clients—and now they want more. They might jump on shorter programs or challenges, or they might want individual programming, lifestyle coaching or larger packages. Therefore, the offers at this level are your most pricey. Make sure to put together offers on three levels—such as gold, silver and bronze—so people can choose based on their specific needs. What they choose might surprise you. Many people want to feel exclusive and they are actively looking for more expensive options.

At all levels, have offers ready to make clients advance further down the funnel if they are ready. If you give them a positive experience and the results they’re after, they should be ready to invest more in you and your services no matter where in they are in the funnel.

During and after completion of programs and challenges, always be generous in celebrating achievements. In BoxConnect, you can add greetings and messages that serve to keep your clients motivated. You can, and should, add offers of different kinds that help clients take the next step.

“Congratulations on completing your nutrition challenge! Now you are ready to take the next step in your journey. Check out some of the packages we have put together.”

Or: “Wow! Now you have finished your six-week program for better running and improved your 5-k time. As a reward, we offer you a free InBody scan at one of our gyms! Here is the link to book your time.”


With the steps in this guide, you have all the tools you need to start expanding your business into a large, attractive market.

Now it’s time for you and your coaches to expand your business and increase revenue, serve more people and expand your sphere of influence.

Good luck!

Other Media in This Series

“The Fitness Business Spectrum”
“Selling Access: The Fragile Path”
“The Coaching Sweet Spot”


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.