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how i've messed up sales opportunities (and how i've learned to fix it)

Updated: May 10, 2021

I know that for a lot of therapists, when they're first getting started with their own business, sales is a totally foreign concept because in most clinics and in most settings that we work in, the patients are already there. It's like a never ending stream - they're always walking through the door, and whether they end up sticking to their plan of care or not doesn't really matter to us because we’re just concerned with the next patient and taking care of the people who are on our caseload.

On the flip side, I talk to a lot of therapists who say that they're really nervous about sales because they don't have any experience with it - but I like to argue with that, because if you have any experience at all with evaluating a patient and getting them to partake in the plan of care then you know sales! Sales is presenting your solution to their problem, and then working with them to make sure that they follow through on that solution. And so, I know that it can be a foreign concept, but for most of us, we've secretly done it before and we just didn't identify it as sales.

That being said, there have been quite a few times where I've flubbed a sales situation 🥴

While it does take practice and you gain confidence as you do it, sometimes things just happen, and feels like it's a complete disaster because it didn't go the way that you wanted it to. Just like how sometimes in our traditional settings evaluations don't go the way that we want them to.

So going into it with the knowledge that it may or may not go the way that you want it to kind of takes a little pressure off your shoulders because you know that as long as you show up and do everything that you know you're supposed to do and you give it your best try, that's all that you can really ask of yourself.

So I'm thinking of a couple of situations in the past where things have not gone how I wanted them to. The first one that comes to mind is when I was talking to someone about joining my business coaching program a while ago. I have all the confidence in the world that the way that I help people will help you get results. But sometimes the way I communicate about it isn’t super clear, especially as I have continuously improved the program and things have been changing quite a bit.

I remember on this call, I had an idea of the way that I wanted the conversation to go in my head, but then for part of it we just ended up getting off topic and then I ended up giving her a ton of advice. While I’m not anti-giving advice during a sales situation, there is a time and a place for that and in this situation it just ended up being like a lot more than that. Another thing is that I don't think I pre-framed the conversation, so we just dove into it and then when it came time to make the pitch, I had to kind of awkwardly go into it.

A sales conversation with somebody is really just a regular conversation to see if you have the solution to solve their problem, and if you do, you offer it to them. For those who don’t know, a pretty good way to set it up to increase your conversion rates, or just build like a better rapport with the person that you're talking to, is to pre-frame the conversation, even potentially before you meet with each other. So the day before you can send them some kind of message saying, “Hey, looking forward to talking to you tomorrow. This is what we're going to talk about.” Then when you get on the call with them you can say again, “Ok, here's what we're going to talk about today... By the end of our conversation, this is what you should expect.”

So for me in this instance, I should have started the conversation by saying something like, “Hey, I'm really happy to talk to you today. I think that we could be a good match. I think I could help you get the results that you want. But what we'll do today is we'll talk a little bit more about everything that you have going on, and we'll just see if it feels like a good fit for both of us. And at the end of the conversation we can talk about ways of working together. Does that sound okay?”

I like doing this because to me it’s kind of a gentle bluntness, and so if they're not interested in talking about any of that stuff, then you can just end your conversation and nobody wastes their time, but throughout the conversation they know what's coming. This way, everything is transparent, which is one of my company policies - honesty and transparency - so it really fits with the way that I work with people.

So, I start by pre-framing at the beginning, then having the conversation, asking all kinds of questions to see if we’re a good fit. Then at the end, I’ll decide based on what we talked about today, I either think we're a good fit, or I don't think that we're a good fit. If I think we're a good fit, I’ll say, “Would it be okay if we talked about ways that we can work together?” If we're not a good fit, it’ll be something like, “Let's talk about your next best steps. I have somebody else I can recommend for you, I have resources I can recommend to you, etc.”

And so with this conversation I had, like I said, I just dove in. I offered a bunch of advice, and it was just really messy.

The other big thing that I think I did incorrectly was at the end, instead of offering her one or two options, it was like Option A, B, C, D - a bunch of different vague ways that could work together. Seriously guys, I didn't know what I was doing. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was like, “What are you doing, Morgan?” 😳 But that's okay, you learn from it right. I just made too many offers and they were also just not specific enough, so she didn't really know if they were for her. But instead, if I just say option A or B (or even better, just option A) then the choice is either yes or no. It's super clear, and then you can move forward from that.

So that was just one example of how I’ve messed up a sales conversation for coaching. But this can translate to therapy. There are instances when you basically have a sales conversation with a patient - it could be on a consult or a discovery call, or it could be on an evaluation where you pitch somebody a package of sessions...anytime you're trying to convert somebody, that's a sales conversation. With evaluations, in particular, the way that we're trained is that the patients are just always there. They come in, you evaluate them, and say, “I’d like to see you twice a week for the next six weeks. You can go up to the front, and get scheduled.” That's it. But when it comes to selling your own services in your own business, you really need to make sure that you and the patient are on the same page with exactly what's going to be happening. Especially when there's cash involved, everybody needs to be on the same page.

So I remember one flub that I would make early on with evaluations for my physical therapy practice is that I would get to the end of the eval and say, “Well, I think we should probably work together for like six sessions... What do you think?” I remember saying that to patients, and now I’m like, oh my god. Why did you say that? 🤦‍♀️ The patient is not there to make their own decisions about their clinical plan of care, that's what you're for. So what I should’ve said, and what I say now is more like, “For the issue with your shoulder, most people respond in six to eight sessions. I think we should do eight just to be on the safe side because I really want to make sure that you get results and that you're pain free when you do snatches. Would you like to go ahead and get scheduled?”

The plan of care is not up to the patient. I've heard other therapists talk about when they have these conversations with patients they'll say like, “Oh, well why don't we do an eval and then if you want to come back you can, but you don't have to.” Don’t do this! You need to make money for your business, but more than that, your patients need to get the results they’re looking for. Most of the time one session is not going to do it if they're actually injured and having pain. It's not going to provide the solution.

So I want to be really clear on that: the plan of care is not up to the patient. They can choose whether to do it or not, obviously that's up to them. But the plan of care is completely up to you. The more clear that you can be on that, the better off you'll both be, because there's going to be an understanding of how to get from point A to point B. So that's another mistake I’ve made that is just not good at all.

Another thing is not being super clear on pricing, or like what packages costs, or letting people slide into paying for session to session. That's a bad idea. It has been my experience that it’s not worked out well, like, ever. I've had one client I think in the past year and a half, where it's been a pleasant experience, paying session to session. And that's out of probably 50 people or more. So, not great.

Even if you're only going to see them for four sessions I would much rather you sell a package and get confirmation that you're both on the same page for the plan of care and that it’s going to be a team effort moving forward. Have your prices ready to go and be really clear about them. If it helps you to make up a fee schedule, do that. One of my friends has a fee schedule that she printed out and laminated then and it is what it is and it's hard for anybody to argue, or more importantly, for you to negotiate with yourself.

So in summary, these are a few different ways that I've messed things up in the past...

1. Not pre-framing the conversation and setting expectations - that's huge. Not being straightforward with the content of the sales session and letting the conversation go all over the place. And then either making too many offers or being really vague on what the offer is.

2. Negotiating with yourself and saying, “Oh, I really need the sale so I'll just figure out something that works for this person.” You have to hold strong to like what your prices are because then you're going to attract better clients. You can always figure out a way to do payment plans, so that it makes it easier for people to pay you, but you know don't negotiate your prices or let people slide into a single session.

3. The plan of care is not up to the patient. It's up to you. You decide because you're the professional. You pitch them a plan of care, and there's no discussion about what needs to happen.

A big part of this conversation is just confidence. Clinical confidence, sales confidence, business confidence. And that all comes with time. But the more that you're aware of it, the better off you're going to be moving forward.

Are you struggling with sales confidence? Let's talk! Book a call with me:

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