Personal Trainers: The How and Why of Automated Billing
A special guest post by Super-Trainer.com editor Kaiser Serajuddin
Training is easy and fun; there are just a few things that suck about it. Here are a few of them: clients getting flaky in their session scheduling, clients not sticking to their programs, tracking and processing payments, and possibly the worst of all is this one …
Being stuck in day to day, hourly training when you’ve reached a point in your career when you’re ready to take a leadership role in the business, and teach other trainers to do the training for you. All of that sucks, but there’s one magic bullet that can help you with every one. There’s only on catch: it’s not for trainers still stuck in an employee, servant, or timid mind-set …
It’s automated billing. Automated billing, also known as EFT, is something talked about frequently in the personal training industry today, but I think that most independent trainers aren’t doing enough of it or doing it right. For that reason, I think it deserves a whole article, not just going into the how to implement it more effectively, but also to talk about why.
The way most people think of EFT is just splitting up a large six or twelve-month training program into smaller monthly payments, kind of the way we all did when we had to do our hard time working at a big box health club. But EFT can be something completely different. Do you know the continuity programs you hear about in the online world? Well fitness services are the ultimate continuity product. Once you get clients started, as any experienced trainer will tell you, it’s hard to get them to stop. Automating the billing process is the last step in systemizing the income side of it, and the benefits of doing it are tremendous.
Whether it’s personal training or boot camps, EFT can be a way to stabilize your month to month income, increase your gross revenue per client, and increase clients’ adherence to their work-out programs. It’s a win for everyone, but best of all it’s a win for you. Your profit, which is what every small business owner should be focused on but rarely is, are what’s going to determine everything that happens to you, and EFT will up that significantly, guaranteed.
EFT is best and easiest to sell when it’s sold as part of a program, not just breaking up a large training package as most trainers use it. Here is how to get a client started: say that in the client consultation, you and your client have decided that their goal is to lose 30 pounds in as short a time as possible. If you talk to them about the expectation of how long it will take to lose that weight, an absolute best case scenario is it taking anywhere from12-15 weeks. This type of sale fits directly into the buying behavior of the population when it comes to health and fitness services.
You can tell the client that they can try your 12-session-a-month program, which is the best program to help achieve that goal, at say a cost of $847 a month. What you’ll do is put them on your automated billing program, and at the end of 10 weeks, you can assess whether or not they achieved their goal. If they did, you can put them on a maintenance routine, and if they didn’t, they can continue on the current program without any interruption to their work-out regimen.
Here’s where the continuity part kicks in: as we all know, clients very rarely follow our instructions strictly and usually don’t achieve their goals on time. That’s fine; that’s just the way the world is, and if you’re planning to be in this business for a long time, you can’t let that bring you down. The good news is that clients will rarely blame you for it. Hey, if your clients were completely self-motivated and self-starters, they wouldn’t need you to begin with. The result is the client gets to effortlessly maintain the vital fitness services which by this point they have begun to greatly enjoy, and you never have to give a thought to re-closing this client ever again.
The result is the client gets to effortlessly maintain the vital fitness services which by this point they have begun to greatly enjoy, and you never have to give a thought to re-closing this client ever again.
Another reason why automated billing is because it sets higher expectation and some accountability on the number of times they need to come in for per month. We all know that client cancellations will cut anywhere from 25% to 50% of your expected income. This system will stabilize your monthly income, and put the onus on the client to perform, and make them the one that suffers if they don’t. Sure a client may need to miss a session every now and then, and with advance notice, they can get those sessions rolled over into the next month. But if they stop showing up, they lose out. Being demanding of you clients in this way is the hallmark of a top consultant that values his/her work. It’s a sign of when you’ve made the move from being a servant and salesman in the big gym environment and have become the leader in your business. And especially once you’ve progressed to the owner/leadership role, it will create a way for you stabilize your revenue, bringing consistency to your employees as well.
However, not everything is so simple. Being demanding and forcing your client to adhere to your policy automated billing policy takes some balls. A lot of people don’t have these balls. They’ll let the client walk all over them and pay on whatever terms they want and come in however many times they want. It’s the courage to define the rules of playing the game that will separate the fitness business owner from every other independent trainer.
Another result of enrolling clients in an automated billing cycle is that it is a much easier sale to make. It takes personal training sales from the nerve wracking, flip them over, tie them down, used cars salesman type sales process that’s used to sell large 12 month packages, into a very smooth and easy enrollment that can be done through a simple consultation or after a small introductory training package. Buyer’s resistance is lessened because they can see the end of the tunnel by you talking about the workout program, and it plays directly into their psychology of seeking immediate and fast results. If you’re doing your job as a trainer, you know that once a client gets started, personal training becomes a part of their life and they tend to stay indefinitely.
If you question whether or not a client will stay on a high priced automated billing program month after month, realize that all of us is paying at least 6 to 12 automated billing payments every month for different expenses. Everything from your cell phone, your electric bill, your car payment, your insurance, your health insurance, your mortgage or rent; all involve unavoidable monthly payments of varying size. So once your client realizes the value of their training program and they get used to making the monthly payments, they just view them as another expense. This is assuming that you continue to deliver an outstanding training experience.
This is was just my pep talk to the many trainers who know of the value of EFT, but have still been on the fence about implementing it. But I know this for sure: once you do put it in place, you’ll never go back, and be kicking yourself for why you didn’t do it sooner.
Kaiser Serajuddin is the owner of GoHard! Personal Training in Queens New York. After operating the widest reaching training business in New York City’s history (with a full 42 locations), he consolidated his practice to run a smaller but highly profitable training business serving the most affluent residents of Queens New York. Kaiser is also the editor of the Online Fitness Business Magazine, Super-Trainer.com.