We’ve all been there: In an Uber, at an appointment, or a social gathering where the inevitable question is asked: “What do you do?”
You launch into, by this time, a well-rehearsed monologue that details factoids about Pilates, what it’s good for, where it came from, what you love about it and who you work within your practice. Someone tells you about a distant relative that does Pilates, at least they think it’s Pilates, maybe it’s yoga. Someone else talks about how it’s on those scary machines that look like they came from a torture chamber and yet another says that their Physical Therapist or Personal Trainer did “soma-that” Pilates with them one time. They tell you about a class at their gym that they took that was harder than their usual HIIT Bootcamp. They say “I’m not flexible enough to do Pilates. And worst-case scenario: They drop the A-bomb of all Pilates-conversation killers: “My core is too weak for that.”
You feel dejected and frustrated. First of all, you were just out in the world trying to live your best life, but now you find yourself in a vortex, questioning what it is you actually do and if anyone will ever actually “get it.” You begin to feel anger towards fitness trends and picture cross-fit boxes across the land suddenly going out of business to make yourself feel better. You dream of a world where everyone is sleeping on a “bednasium” and has living room chairs that flip over to reveal instant access to breath, balance, coordination, and control. “Patience and Persistence,” you repeat, “Patience and Persistence…..”
Sound familiar? If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I have a penchant for dramatizing the situations we face in the Pilates Profession. But behind every dramatization lies a bit of truth. The frustration game is real and so for this week’s post, I’m offering some communication strategies to get beyond the cliche conversations and move towards converting your Pilates-chats into potential new customers.
Question: What Do You Do?
Answer: “I work in wellness. I teach a movement method called Pilates that focuses primarily on improving alignment and posture through a series of exercises to help you understand how to use your body more effectively. For example, what’s a movement that you do every day? (Pause while they answer or help them by saying – “It can be anything – walking stairs, driving etc.”) Yes! So if you came to a session, we’d move to find an optimal alignment, challenge the areas of your body that need strength with resistance, elongate the areas of your body that need stretch with good feeling stretches and then strategize together to see how we can apply what we did to (insert their movement here.) “Give me another one – harder this time!”
This is where you get to use your assessment and creative skills and speak about how Pilates can help them without going into a hard sell or expecting them to understand fully what you are talking about. Turn the tables to something of value to them and you’ll have a more willing audience.
Question: Can Pilates Help Me Lose Weight?
Answer: Hmmm, big question. I’d first be interested in hearing about your relationship with food, diet and movement habits before answering that. You see, any program designed for long-term weight loss will typically include a lifestyle shift. The great thing about Pilates is that it is chock full of healthy lifestyle tenants. For example, Joseph Pilates said that “Patience and Persistence are the ingredients to any worthwhile endeavor. This is a great thought process when trying to shift your habits. The more important question is, however, what are you hoping to gain by losing weight?”
This is a great place to dive deeper into the conversation and then LISTEN. When you listen, they can talk and give you some areas from which to gain valuable information. Showing interest in their desires can begin to form trust, which as you know is integral to a fruitful client relationship!
Question: How Do I Get Flat Abs?
Answer: “Common question – but I’ve got one for you first: What do flat abs represent to you? What do you believe will happen if you get them? I ask this because generally speaking, the clients that I work with come in believing that they want an aesthetic benefit but soon realize that they just want to feel more connected with their body in general or to experience less pain, etc. What do you think it’s about for you?”
When you open the dialogue up in this way, one of two things will happen:
- They’ll run to the bar for another drink
- They’ll drop into the conversation and get more out of it than a canned answer would have given them.
All in all, we must remember that the title of Pilates Teacher is our occupation and for many of us, also our vocation. But at some point, we’ve gotta shut it down to also be human beings. If I can’t get a meaningful conversation about movement going outside of the studio then I’m not going to waste the energy that is meant for my current clients. Question asking is my go-to strategy for steering the chatter away from myths and towards meaning. And when all else fails, I’ve found that saying I’m a “consultant” is a sure-fire way to move the conversation on to the next thing!
I’d love to hear your creative strategies for these types of conversations. Drop me a line in the comment and I’ll respond back!