Listening is Key
Before you think I’m going to suggest you let your clients talk during the whole Pilates session let me just say that this is not about being a therapist or friend to your client. This post is about listening for key clues that help you teach them better, grow your business more and retain your clients for a lifetime. Rest assured you will not have to be the shoulder they cry on (although that can happen) or their dating advice expert. But, what you will hear when you are truly listening (and sometimes not with your ears) will be what sets you apart from the rest. Having good listening skills can be the difference between someone giving up Pilates when tough times hit. Good listening skills can mean client referrals and a healthy, thriving business vs one that is constantly trying to get more new clients to replace the ones that “got bored,” or “became too busy.” Think you listen well?
As teachers, we listen with our ears a lot. Sometimes (or maybe lots of times) we hear more than we bargained for. It’s easy for clients to over share, to use their session as a place to get their thoughts out and their sweat on. If you’re a studio owner you probably have spent your fair share of time trying to help new instructors balance talking that is too much conversation vs teaching Pilates and letting the client express their thoughts, questions during their workout. Instructors have to balance the line of “salon talk” and Pilates professionalism. It’s no easy task. And, even harder is actually hearing what the client is saying.
Take Time to Listen
Our eyes are a whole other form of listening. There are non-verbal cues our clients give us all the time. Learning each individual’s non-verbals is essential to converting a first time client and retaining a life time client (more on client retention in this course). Fear, permission, readiness, and willingness can be shared without actual words. It’s easy as teachers to be so focused on what the client needs to “fix” or “correct” that we miss the client expressing they are scared, they want more or they simply are not getting it.
If we take the time to listen with our eyes and our ears we can hear more than we think. We can hear feedback about the client’s experience and relationship to Pilates, their body, our teaching etc. For example, have you ever heard how a client talks about their sessions from you? Have you heard them describe Pilates? Does it sound like what you are advertising? Does it sound like what you want to be known for?
Here are some tips I live by when listening-
- New Clients: I listen to how they talk about themselves, how positive are they, how willing are they, how in touch with reality about where they are and their goals are they? I watch how they come in the studio, not just for posture but for openness. Do they shy away? Do they shake my hand? These are all clues that tell me how I am going to conduct my first session with them. Because my goal isn’t to fix them that day (or ever fix is not a goal). My goal is to make sure they experience an awesome Pilates session in their body so they come back again. I don’t talk more than I need to because I am listening to what they say about their: job, schedule, life, family etc. Everything they are saying is clues to how I can teach them again.
- Testimonials: Google yourself or your studio more than you would like. Read what people are saying about you and your studio. Before you make excuses or get frustrated by any of the posts just listen. Are they sharing what you hoped for? What are they saying? Is this something you can change? I once had someone tell my boss that I didn’t teach her cardio in her session. That we spent 30 ish min on the reformer and then did 15 min on some other pieces of equipment. Of course, I was bummed that I had a complaint. But, what was the complaint? Oh, yeah, that I didn’t do cardio. While I didn’t teach her cardio that is not my job, goal or experience I wanted this client to have with me. Her complaint said what I did well. A full Pilates lesson that moved around the room. If this had been on facebook or yelp I would have thanked her for coming in and explained why we didn’t do cardio. Not to convince her to come back but to show others what they can expect to experience. Testimonials are great for attracting clients. If they are sharing the message you want then go pat yourself on the back. If they are saying something different it’s not the client that is to blame. Take a look back at your systems, your messaging and your teaching. Where did the wires get crossed?
- Suggestions box: you can run a survey (survey monkey is a good one) or have a comment box to get feedback. Surveys are great because you can ask the questions you want answers for. Suggestion boxes are awesome because clients can freely express whatever they wish whenever they wish. Try the one that makes the most sense for you and see if what you are hearing is what you anticipated.
If we as teachers do not truly hear what our clients are saying, it makes it difficult to empathize with them. If we cannot understand where they are coming from then we cannot reach them. We won’t be able to help them connect to our cues, to the equipment, to the practice or to themselves. Listening is a key to buildings our client base and retaining our clients.
For more tips on client retention, click here.