Private clients. Who are they? How do you get them? How do you keep them?! As a new instructor, I am in awe of the unique relationships instructors develop with long term private clients, and can’t wait to explore this aspect of teaching. In the private room, I see the bond between the two. I observe their interactions, overhear their conversations. And in mentorship I’m learning best practices for dealing with clients one-on-one: ethical touch, how to create a dialogue. But aside from friends and family that have volunteered to be my test clients (I hesitate calling them guinnea pigs) I had yet to crack the code on how this magical union happens. Until a few weeks ago.
I was tidying up the props after teaching the last of my group classes for the day, lingering at the door as clients were leaving. Lingering, if time allows, provides a good opportunity to have a one on one chat time with clients, and frankly, because I’m terrible at remembering names, it’s my strategy to help connect better with individuals. I find that, as weeks go by, the more chat time I have with people, the more there is to talk about with them. This builds a better rapport with them in my class, and much to my delight, inevitably led to my first private client.
So my chatting strategy seemed to be working. On this particular day, I was able to address a particular client by name – Corey, and ask him if he got the house. Rewind to the previous week: he shared with me his news that he and his wife were putting an offer in on a house. Why did he tell me this? Rewind to the previous week before that when the theme of my class was ‘building support from the ground up’, focusing on feet. After that class, Corey had been experiencing an issue with his foot due to the amount of walking he does, and he wanted to tell me how much he had benefited from the class theme that day. When I asked him how far he walks to work, Corey mentioned that the distance might be changing as they were putting an offer in on a house. So now I had a few things to chat with Corey about – how his foot was feeling, and the status of his real estate transaction.
After our real estate discussion, Corey popped the question: he asked me if I teach privately! Excitedly, I replied yes and after a few minutes of discussing his motivation and tossing around timeslots and dates, I suggested we head over to the front desk to see what works best for the both of us. We worked out a timeslot that frankly is better for him than for me, but as this was my first, I was eager to make it happen! I couldn’t wait to start putting into practice everything I’ve learned so far in Mentorship and if it meant a 7:30am start time, so be it – for now!
So reflecting on what went right, here are a few takeaways:
Connect with your group class clients whenever possible. Whether its lingering after a class, or arriving earlier, or hovering in the lobby, the more conversation you have, the more there is to talk about with them. Showing genuine interest in their lives is the foundation to building relationships, which not only creates a nice group dynamic in the class but also opportunities for privates.
Create relevance in your group classes. The added benefit of having a theme, or focus in your class is that gives you a touch point for conversation with your clients afterward, especially with those for whom the theme particularly resonated, ie Corey’s foot issue.
Follow up with the client. Don’t leave the ball in their court. This is not ‘sales-y’. It’s good customer service! By walking over to the front desk with Corey and working out the scheduling with him, I made him feel like he was being taken care of, even administratively. Of course I recognize this only in retrospect – at the time I just wanted to make sure he knew I was truly interested.
Be flexible. Although not ideal for me, we agreed to try a particular timeslot for a while. The more availability you can provide, the more likely you be a fit with potential privates, which will ultimately benefit you with more bodies to work with, more experience to draw from, more knowledge, more, more, more!
Let them know that you are excited to work with them. People love the one-on-one attention and appreciate feeling special. I demonstrated my enthusiasm when he asked me about privates with my voice, my smile and my eagerness to schedule a time, and he responded positively to that.
Fast forward to today
Corey has signed up for a package of 24 sessions, seems to be enjoying the individual focus and is even more determined to build strength, improve posture and his general fitness level. As for me, I’m learning so much, having the opportunity to work with him individually as well as in my class. And, now that other instructors see me in the private room not just practice teaching friends but with my very own client, I am getting requests to sub their privates! More, bodies, more questions, more answers, more experience… which leads to more requests for privates. And that is how I cracked the code with how private Pilates sessions happen!