By Sean Gagnon, Special AFS Contributor

In Simon Sinek’s famous TED TALK he simply stated that people don’t buy WHAT we sell, they buy WHY we sell it. In other words, if your purpose aligns with that of your customer then you are likely to form a long-term bond.

What is your purpose as a trainer or fitness facility? I’m not asking WHAT you do or WHAT you offer but WHY do you do it? Have you taken the time to really think about this and to put it in writing? If not, I suggest you start here. If so, you need to be sure that this is firmly rooted in your company culture. Every employee must know it without hesitation and all of your customers should as well. I like to say that if the staff doesn’t roll their eyes when I say it, I’m not saying it enough!

Typically in the fitness industry, we are great at telling our members and prospective members WHAT we have to offer. We have a cardio area, free weights, group training on and on. We are also great at telling them WHAT we do. We start with an assessment, then we create a workout program based on your needs and we show you how to do the exercise. That’s all wonderful but we haven’t touched on the WHY.

The WHAT may bring them in the door but in my 20 years in the fitness industry the attrition rate really hasn’t changed all that much. Statistics tell us that 50% of people who begin an exercise program quit within the first 6 months! They also tell us that our obesity rates have topped 35%! Over 1/3 of our entire population is not just overweight but OBESE. Finally, we know that over 80% of the population does not even get enough physical activity!  Clearly, the WHAT isn’t working. In fact, it’s scaring most people away!

What if we switched over to the WHY? When was the last time you asked a member or prospect WHY they want to get in better shape, WHY they want to lose weight, WHY they want to have more energy? I’ve seen membership questionnaires from clubs all over the world and they all ask what the member wants to accomplish but very view ask why. It’s a simple change but it can make a profound difference.  Reframe the WHAT question to reflect the WHY.

Let’s look at a simple example:

Trainer - Hi Mr. Jones. WHAT brings you in today?
Mr. Jones - I’ve put off exercise long enough and it’s time to start.
Trainer - WHAT are you looking to accomplish?
Mr. Jones - I’d like to drop a few pounds and increase my energy.
Trainer - That’s great. That is exactly WHAT we do here! Let me show you around.


Trainer - Hi Mr. Jones. WHY did you stop in today?
Mr. Jones - I’ve put off exercise long enough and it’s time to start.
Trainer - WHY do you feel now is the time? Is there a health and fitness goal you would like to accomplish?.
Mr. Jones - Yes - I haven’t been feeling my best lately. I’d like to drop a few pounds and increase my energy.
Trainer - That’s great. Can I ask WHY you want to accomplish those things.
Mr. Jones - I just became a grandfather.  I want to make sure I am healthy enough to be around a long time for my granddaughter and that I have enough energy to keep up with her!
Trainer  - Wow. That’s awesome! Here at Everybody Fitness, we believe that fitness should be a part of your life so that you can enjoy the things that truly - like that beautiful granddaughter! We’ll work with you to accomplish those goals and she’ll have to keep up with you!


Can you see the difference? When you ask the WHAT questions you get the canned answers that everyone thinks they should say.  They don’t allow you to make a real connection with the member and they don’t allow the member to really create a strong anchor to their new fitness lifestyle that will stick. 

When you ask the WHY, it gets to the heart of the matter. If we can make that connection strong enough for the member they are more likely to stick with it! Do you think Mr. Jones is more likely to come in on a day he doesn’t feel like it just to increase his energy? Or would the thought of enjoying vibrant time with his beautiful granddaughter be a stronger motivation?

Lastly, if you can connect YOUR why as a trainer or fitness facility to your member’s you have a member for life!

Sound simple?  It really is. Like most things we tend to over complicate things and think we have to re-route the entire ship. The fitness industry is one of the greatest in the world because we have the ability to truly impact lives in a positive way. Getting to the heart of the WHY will make it even better.


Sean Gagnon is the founder and president of The Abs Company. He received his master’s degree in clinical physiology from the University of Florida.  For over 10 years his company has been focused on core-based functional training products for the commercial and consumer fitness markets. The Abs Company products can be found in over 10,000 facilities and millions of homes in over 40 countries worldwide. The company mission is "We Change Lives from the Core”. Sean and his team are proud to do just that every day!

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