Stop Losing Clients After the First Session

A trainer working with a pregnant client - Stop Losing Clients After Their First Session

By Brian Zimmerman, Certified Two-Brain Fitness Business Mentor

If you’re going to keep a client for years, the client can’t cancel after the first session, after a couple of weeks or at the end of three months.

If long-term retention is the goal—and it must be—you simply can’t lose clients during your onboarding package. So creating an amazing onboarding package is absolutely critical to the success of your business and your clients.

Common Drop Off Point: After the First Session

Having clients show up for one day and never return is gut wrenching, but it also provides a valuable lesson. The main reason a client might not come back after the first session? He or she had the wrong expectations.

Here are several common reasons for leaving a program after the first session, along with some questions that will help you find and fix the problem.

“I didn’t hit it off with my coach”

  • Did we learn enough about the client to match the person with the best coach?
  • Did we communicate the name, goals and interests of the new client to the coach?

“The workout was too hard/easy.”

  • Did we give this person enough attention?
  • Did we have the tools to scale this workout?
  • Did we have too many other clients to attend to?

“I’m so sore.”

  • Did we have the tools to scale this workout?
  • Did we tell the client he or she will likely be sore and that it’s going to be OK?

“I didn’t think the session would be like that.”

  • Did we explain what a session would entail?
  • Did we provide a basic understanding of what kinds of workouts the new client would be doing?
  • Did we describe the differences between our service and other services the client has tried?

Each of the comments above is a sign that expectations were not set or set but not met.

Positive Client Experience Example

Your new client walks in the door for the first session. His or her one-on-one coach is standing at the front door and offers a warm welcome by name. The coach offers a handshake—if COVID restrictions allow, of course—and hands the client a cold water bottle with the client’s name on it.

“I’m Coach Brian. I’ll be your trainer for your first 60 days! Are you ready to get started? Let me show you where to put your things. Jim told me you play soccer—I used to play myself! What position do you play?”

The coach adjusts the session to be sure the client stays within his or her limits and doesn’t end up destroyed. At the end of the session, the coach briefs the client: “Expect to be sore—it’s OK. We adjusted the session to your current fitness level, but some soreness is very normal when starting a program. If you’re concerned, message me and I’ll send you some drills to help.”

After the session, the new client receives an email that explains exactly what to expect in the second session.

How likely is that client to return for the next session? Very likely.

Your Actions

Below, you’ll find the questions to ask about your current intake process. As you answer them, you’ll be able to identify holes in your program and then take action to set clients up for years of success in your gym.

Can we control more factors in a group setting or one on one? Will doing so create a consistent environment for us to set, meet and exceed expectations?

Are we failing to set expectations before the first session? What does the new client need to know? How will we communicate this information?

What communication can we add to the end of or after the first session to set expectations for the second session and encourage attendance?

Podcast: “Make More Money for Years: Amazing Client Onboarding”

Other Media in This Series

“Stop Losing Clients Before They Start”
“Personal Training: When to Give a Freebie”
“Customizing Your Gym’s On-Ramp for Better Retention and More Sales”


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.