Last week you met your client, Donna Jean, and were provided all kinds of information about her that made your job of writing her program rather painless.  Do you currently have systems in place to gather all that information for your actual clients?

Regardless of whether you’re sitting there saying yes, or no—wait, you’re not talking to the computer again, are you, ?  Okay, okay, who am I to judge?  Even if you have your own systems in place, sit back and take the time to digest today’s lesson, and maybe you can pick up some ways to make yours even better-er.


The Introduction

“I love making new friends and I respect people for a lot of different reasons.” – Taylor Swift

Meeting new clients for the first time can be about as awkward as this ill-placed Taylor Swift quote.  Depending on your setting, there’s a variety of ways that they come to meet us…

  • Referral
  • Google
  • Social media
  • Yard signs
  • Passing by the facility

Chances are, you don’t actually know each other at all, and now they’re supposed to waltz into your facility and tell you all of their hopes, dreams, and desires, as well as their deepest, darkest fears, challenges, and failures before handing over their credit card and entrusting you with their success for next X number of [sessions, classes, months].

Further, you’re perceived as a salesman, whether you want to be or not.  And how you begin that initial meeting can very quickly make or break their trust in you.

*Pete Dupuis used this video a few years back at a seminar, total credit to him for this example.

So, this first part is—well—very, very important…

Be prepared for their arrival, greet them by name, and talk zero business or training for the first few minutes, at least.

It’d be impossible for me to say exactly what to talk about, just be casual.  I typically open with the same exact first line, and then BS whatever comes into my head for the person in front of me.  That might go something like this:

Me: You must be [their name here]—I’m Chris Merritt, and it’s so great to meet you!  Guessing you found the facility okay?

Prospective new member: Yeah, those directions to look for the yellow flag made it easy.

Me: Perfect, because I handmade that thing just for you, and I would have been soooooo disappointed if you couldn’t find it.

Seriously, for most people, I find starting off with a joke lightens the mood immediately.  However, you’ve got to do whatever works for YOUR personality.

As we continue the small talk, I show them to our consultation office and have them drop off anything they’d rather not carry around on a quick tour of the facility.  The tour simply gives them some time to see other folks training and realize that we train completely normal people, at least lightly meet or see the other coaches currently there, continue the small talk throughout, and answer any initial questions they bring up.

I know, I know—a lot of big box gyms use the tour as a time to show off their equipment, but that’s not what this is about.

What is it about?  The person walking alongside you.

Give them the time to get comfortable in your space before sitting down for the formal stuff…


The Formal Stuff

(bet you didn’t know that was coming)

After the tour we settle into the consultation room where I typically check in on any questions one more time before getting to the intake form.

Once we’re good to go, I present each section of the form, one at a time.


Basic Info

Not a whole lot to say here, but I read off the items they’ll be filling out anyways, making sure they don’t have any questions or concerns off the bat.


Medical/Health/Injury History

This is one of the most important aspects of our intake form—probably tied for first with “Expectation Management.”  I am always very clear to say that I would like them to circle and/0r document anything that comes to mind, regardless of how long ago it was, or minor they believe it to be.


Training History

9 times out of 10 we’ve chatted about this during our small talk, but I ask them to document it here anyways.  Typically I ask them to think of this in terms of not just listing program names, but expressing likes/dislikes and what has or hasn’t worked for them in the past.


Sleep and Stress

Not a whole lot to expand on here, I basically just read off the questions.


Expectation Management

This has been the most game-changing aspect of our intake process for the past year or so.  We used to just ask about goals and would get the typical answers:

  • “I want to be in better shape.”
  • “Get stronger.”
  • “Lose fat.”

But we tend to forget that, regardless of what the goals state, people have these preconceived notions of what it takes to get there, and it doesn’t always align with what we understand or believe they need.

Like all the other sections prior, I simply read through the questions, making sure they are clear on what’s to come.



“If something ever happens, we’re calling 9-1-1, but after that we’ll call whomever you write here.”


Leave them to fill it out

After that I leave the room, giving them all the time they need to fill it out.

I just find it a) really awkward to sit there as they fill it out, and, b) can lead to too much distracting small talk, making the session go way over an hour.

But, before leaving, I let them know that I’ll be available for any questions and to call my name if anything comes up.


The Review

As I see them finishing up I head back in and review their forms with them.

Starting out in big box gyms, it always blew my mind when I would see “training directors” (salesman) have people fill out forms, and then basically toss them aside only to run them through same B.S. circuit to smoke them and show them how much they needed a trainer.

Don’t do that.

Instead, we actually read every last thing on there, typically asking for them to expand on things as we go, especially as it pertains to injuries.  We take notes, making our lives that much easier when it comes time to write their program and coach them.

The most common questions we run into pertain to the “How would your best friend describe you” and “If you screw up…” questions.

How would your best friend describe you?

It allows them to step outside of their own head and think of how they’re perceived, or say something that they wouldn’t normally be comfortable saying about themselves.

it’s not what I think I’m hilarious, but my best friend does.

Whatever they’re putting here, with some additional conversation you can usually uncover some personality traits that will help you with coaching them.  I’ll be providing a really cool example of this with the presentation you’re getting in week 8.

If you “screw up,” how do you like to be approached?

Credit goes to Andy McCloy for this one.  Understanding personality in terms of accountability is important.  For example, this person commits to training three times each week, but after the first month they start dropping down to only one or two times.  Obviously this needs addressed, but some people are completely terrified of in person confrontation, regardless of how gently the accountability is delivered.  But you know from their intake form that they’re great with an email.

That’s pretty important to know, wouldn’t you say?



After wrapping up the formal stuff with making sure they don’t have any new questions, we proceed to the FMS.

Now, before you say, “well I don’t use the FMS, I’ll be skipping this session,” hold your horses and give me a chance to show you how WE use the FMS.

Even if you’re not using the FMS itself, are you getting the information you need to put people in the best positions to be successful?  Be careful not to major in the minors…


Optional Additions

Depending on the individual, we are usually done with the assessment after the FMS and head back to the consult office to finish their membership paperwork and schedule their Personal Orientation Session.

But, with some folks we go on to the Fundamental Capacity Screen (typically athletes, but use the lower body Motor Control screen for a lot of folks as well), a Modified Cooper’s Test (also rare, unless they are an athlete and/or have a very specific conditioning-centered goal), and/or postural pictures (the same ones you took on intake to the Faction, which double as before and afters).

Again, for 99% of our general population clients, we have the info needed to move on from the FMS and head to the Personal Orientation Session.


The Personal Orientation Session

The Personal Orientation Session is the new member’s opportunity to get acclimated with navigating the environment of our gym and systems.  Our coaches work off of the following sheet (be sure to advance the page, there are three of them):

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”New Member Orientation Outline”]


The following video playlist of our warm-ups is a good representation of how we introduce these movements.  You’ll notice we really don’t use any professional jargon, but rather keep things as simple as possible and create context that will carry forth into their training.

As for the core 4, we do what’s on the sheet, but referring back to “Prep Week’s” movement videos will help you to see troubleshooting that may come in handy based on what you run across.  Remember, the goal is to acclimate them to navigating your environment, but also gather the information we need to put them in the best positions to be successful.

As we take someone through the Personal Orientation we take concise notes, making sure not to spend too much time with our head down, and then compile them into a simple summary after the new member leaves.

Here’s one from for a recent new BSP NOVA member’s Personal Orientation:

If we did our job correctly, the new member should leave feeling like they’re ready to walk in the next day and get to training, and you should have really valuable information that will make your life easier designing their first program.  Does this mean they’re independent on day one?  Hell no.  But, they’re way ahead of where they’d have been if we went from the assessment straight to their first day with their program.

Speaking of their program…


Next week

we’ll dig into our systems and menus of program design!

In 2010, two dudes Chris and Todd, started the business that would eventually become Strength Faction.

You know how they say the rest is history? Well, it’s not.

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