Regardless of what profession you are in, it is critical that people believe that you know what you are talking about! You won't find very many successful lawyers whose clients never win in court, or popular doctors whose patients are continually misdiagnosed. This concept obviously applies to personal trainers as well, and making sure you are viewed as an expert in your field is as important as having the knowledge to begin with.
It is helpful to be aware of the simple fact that a person's perception is their reality, even if that perception is incorrect. Let's use the example of the doctor in the above paragraph. If you heard through personal references that Dr. John Smith wasn't a very good doctor, the chances that you would ever go see Dr. Smith are pretty slim. However, do you actually know for a fact that Dr. Smith is a bad doctor? No - you just have the perception that he is a bad doctor because that is what you heard. Do you see how your perception is your reality, and how Dr. Smith is unlikely to be getting any of your business?
Your mission is to make sure that you are always viewed as an expert in your field! Otherwise you will end up like poor Dr. Smith, and your list of clients will be short indeed, as will the life of your business. However, if you have done your job and created the impression that you are an expert in your field, then the opposite will hold true. People will have "heard" that you know what you are talking about, and your reputation and your business will grow as a result. In order to get to this desired end result, three effective ways for you to build your reputation include media exposure, writing books, articles, or success tips for your field, and approaching any given situation from a "position of power".
The most common ways to get viewed as an expert using media exposure include news programming on television, magazine and newspaper stories, and radio time. Each of these methods has one thing in common: mass exposure via a publicly accepted system of obtaining information.
Consider this point from your own perspective. If you see an interview on the news, read an article about a company in the newspaper, or hear about a professional organization on the radio, your natural instinct is to believe that the company or organization has a firm grip on the ins and outs of their product or service.
Why do you think that? Is it because the radio program included a long list of professional references for the company? Is it because the magazine article listed a passing grade by a professional review board or other certifying agency qualified to judge the advertised organization?
The answer to those questions is most likely "no". Why then do you believe in the company's ability to provide the product or service that is discussed? The answer is simple: because you were exposed to the company via a publicly accepted system of obtaining information. Whether that system was the six o'clock news, your local daily paper, or your favorite magazine, chances are that you believed what you read or heard simply because of WHERE you read or heard it!
Ideally, all consumers - including professionals such as yourself - would use other additional methods to determine the qualifications of a company before purchasing their product or service, but in reality, does that happen very often? No, not really. Most people believe what they read and what they hear, and as a Fitness Professional, you can take advantage of that fact. Granted, you should not profess to be an expert if you aren't, but assuming that you really do know what you are talking about, use the media to let others know, too!
Writing Books, Articles, and Success Tips
Comparable to the "expert" status that is afforded a company based on their mass media exposure, a similar assumed professional status can be taken on by any company or individual that publishes written works in their field.
Refer back to the power of the mass media that is referenced above, and you will see a very similar effect generated by published works. If someone writes a book, publishes articles, or generates a regular flow of "success tips" in any given field, it is automatically assumed by the reader that the author of the book, article, or success tip knows what they are talking about.
Is it true that the author is an expert in their field just because they know how to write or type? Of course not! However, the mass media phenomenon applies to published written works just as much as it applies to interviews done on the news, in magazines, or on the radio. The author is assumed to be proficient in the field that the book, article, or tip discusses, even though there is rarely indisputable evidence of the writer's expertise included with the written works.
Again, it is not being suggested that you write books, articles, or success tips unless you really do hold expert status in your field. However, since the "assumptions of excellence" apply as much to the written word as to audio and visual exposure, take advantage of that fact and write as much and as often as you can!
As a side note, writing is also an excellent way for you to enhance your own knowledge in your field. Frequently during the process of writing a book or article, you are called upon to reference the sources of your information, and gathering that type of information expands your own knowledge, as well as your understanding of how to find information for similar projects in the future.
Assuming a "Position of Power"
Utilizing a "position of power" is one of the most effective methods of positioning yourself as an expert in your field. Approaching a situation from a position of power is simply the art of assuming that whoever you are talking to already perceives you to be an expert. Remember that a person's perception is their reality, so as long as the other person believes that you are an expert, then in their eyes, you are!
For example, let's use the story of a talented personal trainer who is applying for the position of Director of Fitness Programming at a small but successful local gym. We will call our imaginary professional Joe Trainer, and we will say for the record that Joe does indeed hold an effective track record in the personal training industry. His clients have benefited from his knowledge and guidance, and he has successfully changed many people's lives in a positive manner. However, Joe Trainer has never been a "Director of Fitness Programming" before. Is he qualified for the job?
Let's review Joe's history. He has worked or worked out in dozens of gyms over the years. Joe has utilized all manner of fitness equipment, from paint cans in his garage when he was a teenager, all the way up through the most modern computerized workout machines available in some of today's fitness facilities. Joe has put together hundreds of different workout programs for hundreds of different people over the years, and we have already determined that his client track record is excellent. Joe has also been called upon many times over the years to recommend fitness equipment purchases to his many clients, including a cost to benefit ratio analysis (in other words, if the equipment is worth the money). Joe has also been exposed to many different lines of nutritional supplements, dietary guidelines, and he has even taken aerobics classes and yoga from time to time.
Has Joe Trainer ever been a "Director of Fitness Programming" before? No. However, is Joe Trainer qualified for that position? Most likely yes! However, now Joe has a dilemma. He has scheduled an interview with the local gym, he really wants the job, but he is nervous about the fact that he has never really been a "Director of Fitness Programming" or a director of anything at all, for that matter. Joe now has 2 choices.
Choice number one is for Joe to go to the interview, ramble on uncontrollably about the hundreds of clients that he has successfully trained, babble about how many different gyms he has been in, and go into mindless detail about why he thinks Supplement A is better than Supplement B.
Do you think Joe will get the job? Let's try a different approach.
Joe mentally prepares for the interview by reviewing the many different ways that his experience will benefit the facility. He puts together a few examples of how he successfully recommended or used one type of fitness equipment more effectively than a different type. Joe puts together mental notes about how aerobics and group exercise classes have added success to his training programs over the years, and how incorporating a cross training approach has kept his clients motivated and continually seeing results from their training programs.
By this point, Joe's confidence in his ability to be a "Director of Fitness Programming" has increased, and he honestly believes that it is not him who is being interviewed, but it is he who is interviewing the facility. Joe doesn't need this job - he has proven his ability to make a living as a personal trainer dozens of times over the years. He is applying for this position because he believes that he can be a great asset to the facility, and he wants to expand his experience in the field. In fact, the facility would be lucky to have him! For that matter, he may already be considering countering the posted pay scale with an increase if they want to hire him. After all, he is Joe Trainer, and his success record speaks for itself!
Now, do you think Joe will get the job? Pretty safe bet.
Is the Joe Trainer in the first example any different than the Joe Trainer using the second approach? No - we're talking about the same person. What is different then? Joe's belief in himself - and more importantly - Joe's ability to show the facility how they would be missing a great opportunity if they didn't hire him. It is Joe who is interviewing the facility, not the other way around. Joe assumed a "Position of Power" before he even got to his interview. He walked out with a new title and a nice salary, an increased confidence in his own abilities, and the opportunity to mold an entire staff of personal trainer into successful, results-oriented Fitness Professionals!
This same concept can also be applied when negotiating with potential new clients. Remember that you are the fitness professional. You are the one with the knowledge and the experience that the client needs. You are not asking them to be your clients, but rather you are giving them the opportunity to become your clients.
As you can see, as Fitness Professionals in the ever-growing field of health and physical fitness, we have many tools at our disposal when it comes to positioning ourselves as experts. However, we have an equal amount of responsibility to not utilize these tools unless we are 100% confident in our status as experts in our chosen disciplines. Use your knowledge and your tools wisely and appropriately, and you will see your professional and personal success grow beyond your wildest dreams!
Aaron Potts is the author and creator of The Ultimate Complete Personal Training Business Kit, a quick-start kit and business guide for new as well as seasoned fitness professionals. Aaron's experience as a Fitness Professional has included management positions with local and nationally known fitness facilities, as well as in-home and outdoor training with clients from all walks of life. Find out more about Aaron's programs at http://www.completepersonaltrainingbusiness.com or his personal training site at http://www.aaronspersonaltraining.com