The “Learn to Coach” Series: Your very first conversation with a new client

March 1, 2021

Written in conjunction with Strength Coach Podcast Ep. 306

Today, in part one of the “Learn To Coach” series I want to start at the very beginning and discuss how to have your very first conversation with a new client.

When you first talk to your client on the phone or when they first step into your facility what questions to do you ask? 

How do you find out what is motivating them to train, how do you begin setting goals and start your training relationship out on the right foot?

Deep down everyone wants to talk about themselves but often in an intimidating atmosphere like a gym, a new client will naturally want to defer to the trainer and will prefer short one word answers in hope of pleasing the coach and accelerating the conversation.

The key here as a coach is to ask better questions.

Choose to ask Open Ended Questions that require longer answers and will motivate the client to talk about themselves. This encourages the client to open up more and will allow you to find out more about the client in the initial interview.

Instead of asking a question like:

 “Have you ever worked out with a trainer before?” to which they could simply answer yes or no 

instead ask them:

“What are some of your past experiences with exercise?

It’s likely that their answer will provide you more information that will help you understand them better and allow you to ask more thoughtful follow-up questions that lead to a free flowing conversation.

My go-to intake questions with a new training or rehab client are usually as follows:

  • “Tell me about how you feel today”
  • “Ultimately, what is your ideal outcome from this training experience?”
  • “Where would you like to be 6 months from now or what activities can you not do now that you would like to get back to?”
  • “What things have you done in the past that have found helpful in dealing with your pain?”
  • “What activities have you found increase your pain?”
  • “What activities and exercises do you enjoy doing?”
  • “What exercises do you dislike or don’t feel confident about?”
  • “Tell me about your weekly physical activity and exercise routine.” 

Be sure that when your client is answering that you’re listening intently and seeking to understand not just simply waiting to reply. Often, as coches we have good intentions and hope to help the client by telling them all about how we can help them but as a result we find ourselves dominating the conversation and at times even interrupting them and cutting them off.

In fact, a study looking at physician and patient interviews found that physicians actually interrupt their patient an average of every 20 seconds, limiting the patients ability to share their concerns.

Make a habit of pausing and work on actively listening to your clients’ responses. Take a moment to pause and write notes and ask follow-up questions that will encourage more conversation.

When it comes to interviewing new clients language matters. Building good rapport and setting a solid foundation all comes back to asking the right questions and ultimately listening to what your client has to say.


Our Certified Functional Strength Coach Level 1 Online Course is designed to provide you with the same experience you’d get attending our live Level 1 workshop. Complete with the same pre-workshop materials, our Online Course includes a ‘Virtual Live Workshop’, where you will follow a CFSC instructor through an entire Level 1 Workshop complete with instruction, demonstration and question and answer as if you were spending the day at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. Keeping with our rigorous practical standards, all enrollees will be required to complete an online exam and a coaching practical featuring video and open ended questions to complete their certification.

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