Learn About The Sales Process, To Avoid “Selling” To Your Clients


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I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard from my massage students, “I’m not the salesman-type,” “I don’t want to sell, I just want to help people,” “I don’t like talking people into things,” “I’m much better at massage than business.” If you are a CAM practitioner reading this, you probably said something similar to your teachers. You probably came to your training from a job you didn’t particularly like, maybe even from a retail sales job. You decided to pursue a healthcare-based service career because you want to help people feel better, add value to their lives, and feel good about what you do, right? In addition, you wanted to have the freedom to establish your practice your own way, set your own policies and procedures, and choose your ideal clients. I know, because that’s how I felt when I attended massage school 12 years ago. I didn’t want to talk people into things, I wanted them to just “know” that my services would benefit them, and they would come looking for me.

I was wrong. I needed to learn how to market myself, my practice, and yes, I had to learn about sales. Because the truth is, your practice is a business, and you cannot avoid the sales process if you want have a successful business. But the good news is, if you learn about the sales process, you don’t have to “sell” anything at all.

So, you’re not the salesman type, eh?

First of all, you probably think of the pushy car salesman type when you think about sales. Those are the folks you try hard to avoid, because they are going to twist your arm until you finally buy that car, even just to get them off your back. Pushy! Well, that is not the only type of salesperson out there, in fact that is not even the most common, and is definitely not the most successful.

Let me ask you, have you ever been so passionate about a movie you just watched, or a book you just finished, that you wanted everyone you know to watch that movie, or read that book? You probably posted about it on Facebook and any other social media you use regularly, you called your closest friends to tell them, and you may have even mentioned it to those clients who love movies or love to read. You were selling that movie or book! That’s all sales is really, the process of sharing something you are passionate about with the people you care about. That’s it.

I want you to make the shift from thinking of sales as the process of getting someone to give you money for something, to thinking of sales as the process of sharing something you are passionate about with the people you care about. That’s where the most successful salespeople focus.

So, let’s take a look at the sales process, in terms of your healthcare practice.

The Sales Process Translated

Step 1: Prepare – This is the process of learning about the product you sell. What product are you offering? You are offering yourself and your particular style of alternative health care. If you don’t know the benefits of your own work, if you don’t believe that you can help people, you aren’t prepared for success. Your initial training is only a small part of this. You must continually educate yourself about the benefits of your particular modality, and the current research that demonstrates those benefits.

Your clients come to you for the benefits of your work, but they also come to you because of you. You know yourself, so don’t be someone you are not. Authenticity is the most important part of sharing anything. People are actually attracted to (or repulsed by) your personality and style, before they even hear a word you say. So, prepare by being yourself.

Step 2: Look For Customers – This is the process of finding and qualifying potential customers. At first, you think that every person is your potential client. But that makes finding a new client much harder, like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.  You have to determine who your ideal clients are and look for them in the areas that they hang out. For instance, don’t look for athletes at the grocery store, look for them at the local gym or fitness event. If your ideal client is in the elderly population, don’t put an ad in the local hip music magazine. Some of your most ideal clients are people with whom you have things in common, so you are already frequenting the places that they hang out.

Step 3: Connect – This is the first time you approach a potential client. This could be in person, but it could also be when someone visits your Facebook page or your website for the first time. This is your first impression, so be ready with your “elevator speech,” and make sure each of the other avenues are pleasant, informational, and accurate. The two most advised approaches in sales are to 1) provide a gift, or 2) ask a question. I prefer the “ask a question” model, because it most closely matches my personality. I want to know about this potential client, because I want to help him, and I want determine if my services can help him. This requires me to gather information, so I ask questions such as, “what are your health goals?”, “what are you currently doing to reach those goals?”, “have you ever tried massage?”.

Step 4: Present Your Product – This is where you present yourself, but the most important part of this step is to listen! Don’t bother asking them questions (step 3) if you aren’t going to listen to the answers. If someone tells you they want to be able to get out of bed in the morning with less pain and stiffness, don’t tell them how you can improve their running game. Listen to their needs and interests, and then demonstrate how your services can meet those needs. And don’t be afraid to refer them to another healthcare provider if they present something that you really don’t think you can help. You have then actually set yourself up as a resource for healthcare issues, just by providing a useful referral.  If you are genuinely interested in helping them, your inquisitiveness and suggestions will come across to them as helpful, not as a sales technique.

Step 5: Deal with Objections – This is the step in the sales process where most people end the process. As soon as someone says, “well, I don’t like needles” to the acupuncturist, or “I don’t really feel comfortable getting undressed” to the massage therapist, or “I don’t like to be twisted around” to the chiropractor, the practitioner usually stops the sales process and moves on. But are you really helping that person by not continuing to educate them about the work you do? Most objections are simply fears of the unknown. Here’s your opportunity to ask where they got their information, or what their previous experience was with this particular modality. Objections are still engagement; don’t leave this potential client hanging when they have shared with you. One of my most successful responses has been “did you know that you do not have to get undressed to receive therapeutic massage?”

Step 6: Close – The most difficult step in the sales process is often referred to as “the close;” this is where you actually ask for the sale. In the case of the CAM practitioner, this is where you set an appointment. Remind them of the healthcare goals they shared with you, and ask when they are available to come to your office to explore how your work may be able to meet their needs. Tell them when you are available. Show them your excitement at the possibility of being able to help them.

Step 7: Follow-Up – Oh how I hate when practitioners miss this, the most important step! If you have set an appointment with someone, please make a reminder call or send a reminder email. Please provide the treatment upon which you and your new client agreed. And once the treatment has taken place, please call to follow up. Why would you go through the hard work of steps 1-6, if you do not follow up to see how the client felt about the treatment? The most successful sales process continually repeats at step 7 for every single client. When you produce repeat clients, they eventually become clients who participate in the sales process with you.

Ask – Listen – Teach – Help!

If you are truly interested in helping others, you must truly be interested in people. And if you truly believe in the benefits of your work, you must want to share the benefits with those people.

All you have to do is take an interest. Ask the potential client about herself; listen to what she shares with you, what she cares about; teach her how your work can help her with her own health goals; and give her a spot on your schedule to explore the benefits for herself. Then do it again. That’s how you help, one person at a time!

Ready for the next step?

If you can make that shift in thinking from “selling,” to “the way I add value to my clients and potential clients,” then you may be ready to consider product sales. If so, be sure to read our earlier posts about how to sell products and how NOT to sell products.

You should also check out our blog on the 5 Stages of the Purchasing Cycle.
For more detailed information on marketing your practice, check these out:
Marketing Mastery, free newsletter
Retail Mastery, free webinar
Business Mastery, 5th edition, by Cherie Sohnen-Moe

Please share your experiences with “selling,” both good and bad, in the comments section below!