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In Conversation with Luke Carlson: The Biggest Mistake When Selling Exercise and How to Avoid It

Luke Carlson is a familiar face to many in the world of high intensity training, CEO of Discover Strength, the main man behind the Resistance Exercise Conference and the instructor behind HITuni’s The Art of Selling HIT course. In this article we go behind the scenes to reveal more about Luke, his perspective on the current state of the fitness industry and some top tips for successful selling.



Discovering ‘intelligent exercise’

Luke grew up around exercise, he recalls being aged three or four when his police officer father started taking him and his brothers to a gym above his police station. This was a gym full of heavy bags, sparring sessions… and weight equipment. A place suited to his father, a Golden Gloves boxing coach for over 30 years, a man who trained most days of the week and never skipped a workout.

By the time Luke reached high school age, he was both playing football and involved in competitive boxing.  What was clear to him even at this age was that he loved his weight room strength workouts just as much as participating in sports. The high school he was at happened to run a Mentor program in senior year, which enabled students to spend the last two periods of the school day involved in practical work experience, rather than classes. Luke jumped at this opportunity taking a longshot by writing to Minnesota Vikings strength and conditioning coach Steve Wessel. Much to Luke’s surprise and delight he got a positive response to his letter and throughout his senior year found himself in attendance at Vikings afternoon training sessions. This also marked Luke’s introduction to HIT and what he refers to as logical, intelligent exercise. He learned that it was possible to get the job done with one set per exercise, and that strength training 5 days per week was not required to achieve results.

Luke’s connection with the Vikings continued during his college years and beyond, as a sophomore coach Wessel invited Luke to return as an assistant. With some handy juggling of his class schedule Luke was able to take up the offer, meaning he attended college in the mornings and was assisting at the Vikings in the afternoons.  This proved to be a great combination of academic theory and practical application.

At the age of 24, Luke new that he wanted to start a fitness business, he spent the next two years thoroughly researching and refining his business plan and visiting facilities for inspiration. In 2006 Luke opened his first Discover Strength facility in Minnesota.


It’s a great time to enter the à la carte fitness market

Luke opened the first Discover Strength facility back in 2006, so what changes has Luke observed in the fitness industry over the last 14 years? His answer, in short is specialism and segmentation.

Luke points back to the early 2000’s as a time when big health clubs ruled the exercise roost, facilities that provided everything exercise all under one roof: an array of  classes, machine filled gym floors, saunas and juice bars. Then the fitness industry started started to segment in a similar way that the retail sector had before. Luke expands on the comparison, at one time large department stores had been the shoppers favored go to, a place where they could buy everything from pots and pans to a new suit all under one roof, the department store was for a time the king of retail. The department stores were blindsided when consumers started to seek out and spend more and more of their dollar at specialist and independent boutiques. Despite the convenience of “all under one roof” consumers were quick to pick up on the passion, specialist knowledge and uniqueness that boutique stores offered.

In the fitness industry consumers also started to venture out and away from the big health clubs, many preferring to pick and choose from specialist boutiques and studio concepts that were popping up. These facilities were usually places created out of a passion for a specific type or approach to exercise, and the owners and trainers are perceived by clients as knowledgeable experts.

Luke believes that this makes it a great time to be opening a HIT based strength studio, the specialist approach fitting the à la carte fitness market of today. Offering one on one, or small group, time efficient and effective strength training workouts is a key point of differentiation from the rest of the market, clients will be drawn to the passion you have for your specialization- you will be considered their strength expert, even if they choose other items from the fitness buffett too.


Learning to sell strength is critical

A critical aspect of a thriving personal training business is knowing how to sell your service effectively. Luke considers this aspect of the business so fundamental to success and one that many HIT trainers need some help with, that he designed a winning course specifically on selling HIT.

Luke explains the reason sales is worthy of study is that, it is ultimately the gateway to actually being able to help people and change their lives through strength training. We all know, or know of personal trainers who appear to have a great intellectual, even encyclopedic grasp of the subject of exercise, but fail to have a successful and sustainable business. The bottom line is, if you cannot build a bridge between your area of expertise and your potential clients, in other words if you don’t know how to sell, then you are simply not going to do very well.

It is therefore unfortunate that some trainers feel that selling is a four-letter word, an innately “bad” or “evil” thing. Luke suggests that this perspective comes about from misbelieving that sales and selling is something we do to a person rather than for them. Think of it like this, what are you selling your clients: physical condition, strength or as Luke puts it the ability to “live in crescendo”. Selling HIT is simply opening a potential client’s eyes to something that will change their lives for the better.


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Take the course now for just $100 ($129) by using coupon code LUKE100 at checkout.


In the end of the Art of Selling HIT training course, you will be able to:

  1. Learn the key fundamentals of selling exercise
  2. Improve your close rate
  3. Improve your customer service skills
  4. Handle client objections confidently and professionally
  5. Convert an enquirer to a client
  6. Use proven email templates and phone scripts for different client interactions
  7. Download a step-by-step map of recommended customer interactions covering the entire buying journey
  8. Run a top-notch introductory appointment that makes the sale for you
  9. Design an overall customer experience that suits you, your brand and your clients
  10. Ultimately, master the art and science of selling strength.

Luke adds that it is not just about the act of selling, it is also about practicing, tracking and refining of every aspect of the sales processes and steps that he provides in the course. It is of huge value to get a clear understanding of your close rate, sales performance and retention of clients.

Bottom line, selling is worthy of your study as it provides that bridge, the gateway to actually being able to help and support individuals who are looking to make positive changes in their lives.


The biggest mistake when selling exercise

What are the biggest mistakes personal trainers and sales team members make? From Luke’s perspective it is simply talking too much and teaching too much right from the get go. And whilst this may well be coming from a good place, and may be derived from your passion for strength training it is far from an optimal approach for selling your service.

Instead of talking and teaching, Luke suggests that we flip that script and ask questions, let the client talk and most importantly listen to the answers they give, listen to their story. Great selling can start simply with asking the right questions and taking a genuine interest in the client, Luke adds there is no need to aggressively teach and lecture up front. Remember, it is about how you can assist the client with their individual needs, rather than how you can educate the client, particularly during an introductory appointment.

Luke adds, after you have sold the client on your service, you will have plenty of opportunity to share your valuable knowledge, but leading with that, sharing too much, too soon is more likely to alienate a client than draw them in. Think of an introductory appointment like a first date- if you sit there and talk about yourself the entire time the other person is going to walk away thinking “They just didn’t get me, didn’t understand me! They couldn’t even be bothered to make the effort to, and instead I had to listen to them tell me how great they are.”


Every personal trainer can and needs to learn to sell

Can you learn to be a great salesperson from an online course and a few books?

Luke believes so, he suggests that you don’t need to have an innate aptitude for selling, it is a skill you can develop mastery of by putting the right tools into practice. Luke provides his blueprint of sales skills and processes in the Art of Selling HIT course, the same ones he and his team use on a daily basis at Discover Strength. He combines a number of approaches that will enable you to sell HIT like never before. Luke’s method gives you the know how of a proven process to put into action immediately. He has seen some of the most adamant “I don’t want to sell” personal trainers transition into people who consider themselves a salesperson first and a trainer second. Having both sides of the formula – great trainer/great salesperson provides the winning combination for businesses success.


Books on selling

In addition to the HIT specific sales content of The Art of Selling HIT course, Luke recommends three sales books which provide perspectives on the generalist knowledge and mindset required to master selling.

  • To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink
  • The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gittomer
  • The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino


Continue to master your craft

Luke’s parting advice to personal trainers out there is to continue to become a master of your craft, stay passionate about the career. That passion is kept alight and fanned by continual learning: from individuals, books and courses. The passion for your trade is a fundamental part of what keeps you engaged in being a great personal trainer, and it is the wellspring of an enthusiasm will be felt by your clients. Ultimately it is what will keep them coming back to the service you provide.

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