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You Told Them To!

by Phil Kaplan

Stop.  Realize you have the power.  Realize you’re a commander and wield your power carefully among the people you encounter.  They’re doing what you tell them to!

“What are you talking about Phil?  I’ve heard things about you. Some people said you were whacko, others said you’re crazy, but now I know what you are.  Out of your mind!  I want clients to train with me, to stay with me, to get the results they’ve come to me for . . . and you’re suggesting that I’m telling them to quit, cancel, or flake out?”

Yes.  That’s precisely what I’m telling you.  If only I had a rewind button.

Chris tells me the lady cancelled after two sessions.  I’d whip out my remote (Adam Sandler style) and rewind.  There’s Christine, talking to “the lady,” and just when the lady’s moving beyond lukewarm, just when she’s showing all the cues indicating she’s ready to train, Christine says, “why don’t you train with me for a couple of sessions?”  “The lady” does exactly that . . . and Christine, failing to realize she gave the command, gets all huffy and takes it out on her poor husband who probably blames the economy, or the lady, or the way the planets are aligned for the lady’s lack of stickiness.

Danny tells me “the guy’s never gonna commit.  I asked him four times and he just won’t commit.” Where’s my remote?  Ah, I whip it out, and . . . rewind.  There he is, big old Danny talking to “the guy.” The guy says, “I’m really not seeing a payoff.  All I’m getting is tired.”  Danny says, “why don’t you think about signing up for one of my small group sessions,” and “the guy” fails to commit.  Of course he fails to commit!  Danny told him to think about signing up, and that’s exactly what he did.

These may seem like absurd examples, and you can go along with Chris’ husband and Danny’s buddies and decide people suck.  They don’t, unless you tell them to!

I know the resistance we, as fitness professionals, have toward selling.  Not only do I know it first hand, I understand it.  We’re not wired to sell.   We’re wired to help people.  Offering assistance comes naturally for us.  We love the reward at an emotional level when people express gratitude, but . . . we shy away from anything that feels anything like anything a suit-and-tie-huckster-conman-skeevy-slimy salesperson would do. 

We don’t want to push.  The “help people” part of your brain is on fire, but it far overshadows the greed center.  There’s power in knowing that.

If you realize you have to reprogram a bit, and you trust that there is a way to compel and influence, to persuade and guide, without stepping into the shoes of that stereotypical salesperson you’ve come to abhor, you might not need that rewind button.  You might accept at least a bit of responsibility, and acknowledge that if you aren’t getting the responses you’d like, there’s something you can change.

Secondly, if you are willing to face that moment where your blood pressure rises, your skin gets hot, your mouth gets dry, and your stomach contorts, and force what will initially feel like an unwarranted command, you’ll not only be shocked by the outcome, you’ll realize you’ve had an innate power all along and nobody ever taught you to release it.

I can make this step by step.  First you have to answer three questions. 

1.       Are you really capable of using your fitness, nutrition, and psychology knowledge to help others improve their fitness and health?

2.       What is the value of an hour of your time, not based on what you believe your need to be, but based on the “worth” of the service you deliver and the outcome you can guarantee?

3.       If somebody who can benefit from your services fails to connect with you, will their eventual outcome be better or worse than it would have if you’d been in their corner?

If any of those questions shook you, you’re not ready.  Back to the drawing board.  You need a rewind. Honestly.  If you are going to build a profession, and expect to be respected and compensated as a legitimate professional, you have to find a match between your competence and confidence.

If you made it through the three questions with flying colors, then realize that people NEED you to coax them.  They’re often stuck.   You have a skill set that changes lives for the better, and if you aren’t willing to help any individual who needs you to understand the value you bring, at least two people who could have found benefit miss out.

I’ve spent the last twenty years developing a systemized strategy for influence, one that is perfected without ever relying upon conventional “selling,” and when the system is mastered, the master has learned to use a little recognized but very real ability.  The power to “command.”

While I can’t share a complete and detailed system in a magazine article . . . I can help you identify three steps that can turn “I’ll think about it” into “I’ll do it,” steps that can turn the knee jerk “no” into a roaring “yes.”

STEP ONE – More Than Rapport

We all know the value of building rapport, and once we’re engaged in conversation we do a fine job of connecting.  We can instruct, teach, inform, and assist, and at that point we feel as if we’re connected. The mistake we’ll make if we fail to see its venom is, moving from “expert” to “friend.”  As soon as you tell the prospective client about your challenge, your girlfriend, your most recent struggle, or your financial woes, you’ve put yourself right there at the peer level.  You’re speaking buddy to buddy, pal to pal, and pals don’t charge their pals for help.

You want rapport, but not a peer-to-peer rapport.  The rapport should link an individual with a need to a welcome solution.  The perception has to put the trainer on a pedestal, not to feed the trainer ego, but to reassure the prospect that this person before him or her is a true expert, an expert with a power, a power that has value, a power that the prospect feels compelled to connect with.

So, we can call Step one the establishment of Expert Respect.

“Phil, I did that, and the guy still wouldn’t commit.”


“I accidentally sent an email to my friend . . . and it said she’s a loser . . . and my cat is sick . . . and the economy stinks . . . and . . . oh, do you want to think about getting started on a program with me sometime in the future?”

Exaggeration? Maybe, but an elegant example of the dialogue that sabotages the perception of an expert and drops it to the lowest common denominator of commiserating peers.

STEP TWO – The Solution

I’m not suggesting you ONLY speak about exercise, as there must be a friendly element to the conversation, but I am suggesting that you ask questions, probe, maintain interest, listen carefully, and establish the fact (not the suspicion, but the fact) that you can offer a valid and thrilling solution to whatever pains plague this individual.  Don’t think of pain as a torn infraspinitus tendon or a sprained rectus femoris.  Think of pain as something in the prospect’s life that limits ease, something that the soon-to-be-client wants to change.  It can range from a self-esteem concern to a relationship issue, from an energy need to a lost sense of well-being.

Once you’ve established professional respect, present whatever it is that you want this person to do as a solution.  Speak the language of outcome, the language of benefit.  Watch, as you, the expert, present with all confidence a solution for helping this person find human betterment, how the person’s expression shifts, interest and attention shift, and “want” becomes palpable.

STEP THREE – The One-Way Power Flow 

Here’s the hard part.  Here’s the adrenaline wave.  Here’s the part you’re going to have trouble with as your tongue seems to inflate preventing you from getting the words you tentatively hold in your brain to emit from your mouth.  It’s the command.  Tell the person what to do.

You do this all the time.  You tell your friends, “you have to see The Hangover.”  It’s a command, and an accepted command.

“You’ve got to try the firecracker shrimp at Bonefish Grill.”

“Come here, you’ve got to try this!”

Because of our wiring, because we are so swayed toward the “helping” side professionally, we have trouble taking what we do naturally and applying it in this vital application.

If Chris had said, “sign up with me for every Tuesday and Friday and at the end of 8 weeks we’ll assess where you are and determine what the next step is,” that client would have stayed the course?  Is it a guarantee?  Of course not.   Chris would have to inspire, guide, motivate, and empower.  With a strong command as the starting point, a command being uttered by an “expert,” the odds of client adherence and longevity rise up quite a few notches.

Examine how coaches speak to their players.

Do a careful assessment of how doctors “order” lab work.

Consider an attorney telling his client, “you have to bring me documents, papers, and old tax returns.” The client walks out as if he were hypnotized to return with his homework complete . . . and the client pays the attorney!

If you have all the business you want, if clients come down your chimney and grow in your garden, ignore me.  Disregard this article. If, however, you sometimes feel the want to blame external forces for the inconsiderate lazy unmotivated people who disappoint you with far too much frequency, consider that I really have showed you how to unleash a power.  Now use it!  I command you!


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Note: I founded the Be Better Project in 2005 to help fitness professionals elevate to find professional reward and compensation.  The Be Better curriculum runs 8 months and is only open to career-minded fitness professionals able to articulate specific desires for the future.  There are a handful of openings in the current Be Better group.  If you have interest in mastering sound and fail-proof success principles specific to personal trainers, email [email protected] with the Subject: I Want to Be Better.

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Fitness Professionals, ranging from Personal Trainers to Group Exercise Leaders, are finding their place in the realm of allied health, but the average income of a competent fitness pro is far below that of professionals in other fields. The state of the industry is such that personal trainers have accepted this as the overriding paradigm and they find justification in working to pursue their "passion" rather than prosperity.

That will all change for any fitness professional with the powerful mind-blowing Commanding Yes!  Find details or order your copy.