Five-Step Sales for Physical Therapists Who Hate Selling

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By Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA

I know you. Well, at least 80 percent of you.

You are a great physical therapist, maybe even the best in your area. You are passionate about quality care and you love the business side of physical therapy. Yet you are challenged by marketing.

In fact, you hate selling. You believe that physical therapy is not something to be “sold,” it is something that is needed.

Sound familiar?

While I, too, feel uncomfortable when stepping foot onto a used car lot, the concept of “sales” and “selling” is one that we cannot shy away from in physical therapy. It is a requirement for our survival.

Believe it or not, sales is something that can—and should—be delivered naturally, sincerely, and with authenticity.

Within physical therapy, this is best achieved through a five-step process, parts of which you are likely already doing today. Infuse a little strategy and polish into the process, and you will be well on your way toward sales efforts that work and that you will begin to love.

The five-step process looks like this:

  1. Awareness. Before all else, the target of your sales efforts must know you exist.
  2. Engagement. Once aware, you must engage their interest, or be forgotten.
  3. Education. Once engaged, you have the opportunity to share your value through education.
  4. Conversion. Once educated, you can comfortably make “the ask,” converting the sale.
  5. Amplification. Once the sale is made, you can now amplify sales through new relationships.

We will be diving into each of the above concepts over a five-part series in Impact, making you a physical therapy sales pro in no time. This five-step sales approach leverages your natural abilities as a physical therapist, moving you toward sales opportunities through an authentic and value-driven approach—one you can believe in.

In this article, we are going to start with step one:

Awareness

Before we can even hope to sell, our target market must know we exist. Concepts such as branding, mindshare, and top-of-mind awareness come into play during this step, but this can all be boiled down to a simple premise: People can only buy something if they know it is there.

Think of the last tube of toothpaste, bottle of water, or oil change you purchased. Each of them had to be positioned in front of you, in some shape or form, before you could evaluate the purchase. You had to see it. You had to be aware.

Once aware—whether by walking past the toothpaste aisle in your supermarket or driving past your local oil and lube shop—you can then begin the process of evaluating each. Replace the awareness of your favorite brand with another, and your decision would put money into another brand’s pocket.

This awareness can come about actively or passively.

It happens actively when a consumer is looking for something specific to buy. They walk down the toothpaste aisle searching for their brand. They Google “oil and lube.” They ask a friend for a recommendation.

It happens passively when a consumer is not specifically looking for something to buy, and they may be sitting on the couch when they see a toothpaste commercial. They happen across a web advertisement related to their industry. A friend volunteers that they just had the best experience ever with their urologist. (It could happen.)

The same goes for physical therapy. Before we can expect a client to schedule time with us, they must know either actively or passively that we exist.

Before we can expect a referral source to send a patient our way, they must know our name. Before our phone will ring, our number must be published. Before someone can “like” us on social media, we have to have a social media account in the first place.

You get the point.

The first step toward selling is simply to make sure your target market is aware of you. Once aware, you can then take the next step toward bringing them closer to the sale through engagement.

Here are a few examples that can be used to create awareness for you and your practice.

  • Display prominent signage in and around your location.
  • Have an active social media presence.
  • Provide free information and updates to your community via email.
  • Send periodic mailers to those within your neighborhood.
  • Visit your top referral sources each month (even if just to check in to see how they are doing).
  • Submit story ideas or business updates to your local press each month.

There are as many ways to get noticed as there are people to generate ideas on how to get noticed, so I encourage you to share your ideas with others.

Next month, we will tackle step two, the concept of engagement. Once you have got eyes on your practice, the next step is to start a conversation that leads somewhere. Engagement is how you will make this happen.

tannus_quatre

Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, lives at the intersection of physical therapy and entrepreneurship, spending his time helping physical therapists build and operate successful practices through his company, Vantage Clinical Solutions. He specializes in marketing, finance, and business planning, and authors and speaks regularly for the APTA and PPS. He can be reached at tannus@vantageclinicalsolutions.com.

A Shifting Landscape

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Growing your business in changing times.

By Connie Ziccarelli

In order to navigate through all of the changes in our field, and health care as a whole, we need to embrace its constant growth and development. To stay competitive in an evolving industry, overcoming obstacles and finding real-life solutions is imperative to our success.

As providers, the complexity of these changes in health care can be overwhelming—and one can only imagine how perplexing it must be to the consumer/patient. Educating ourselves on the shifting landscape is key to building confidence in our patients. Trust in the provider-to-patient relationship is imperative and should be established from the first touchpoint through discharge at our practices.

As an industry, we have a tremendous responsibility to offer our consumers information, tools, and, of course, quality treatment. Empowering patients to take control of their plan of care educates them on the importance of continued care. We should personalize and customize the care to ensure consumer loyalty and longevity.

Providing solutions regarding the cost of care can be the answer to a pressing problem: the financial burden of improving pain through physical therapy. Payers are pushing for new payment mechanisms: pay for performance (evidence-based medicine), higher deductibles and coinsurances, and assistance in managing spending. Relying only on insurance payments is a thing of the past. Educating the patient on the reimbursement options as well as offering creative payment options is critical. Formulating a script can alleviate the task of collection after date of service—and the risk of nonpayment.

Simply stating what may not be obvious to patients will help them decide how to pay for treatment. For instance, “We accept checks, debit cards, credit cards, Health Savings Account (HSA) cards, and cash for the out-of-pocket expense today” brings to light the patients’ options, and they are not left with perplexing insurance barriers.

Adding a payment portal on your website provides patients with one-click payment opportunities. Offering automatic payments via their checking or savings accounts also offers an easy way to conduct business and can eliminate unnecessary overhead costs.

Verifying benefits and giving the patient a road map to their insurance coverage and out-of-pocket expenses before treatment begins is proactive. Discussing payment options will empower the patient and help grow your business. In health care, our industry should be known as having several payment opportunities, which can meet a real need for our customers. When an excellent clinical plan of care coexists with an excellent financial plan of care, you will see a formula for success that sets you apart from your competition in 2016!

Digital Security

Another challenge facing our practices in 2016 is the digital safety of our patients’ personal information. According to a recent study, 68 percent of patients are worried about the safekeeping of their data stored in smartphone health apps and tablets, and 76 percent are concerned about the overall security of their medical data.1 The fear of data breach is a valid concern in today’s tech world. Personal health care information encompassing sensitive health history and financial information in the hands of the wrong person can be devastating. Therefore, taking a serious approach and safeguarding the patient’s information must be at the forefront of our office management. Using third party resources that monitor systems against cybercrimes will help protect our patients’ data and build trusting and lasting relationships. Being entrusted with an individual’s private information is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Alleviating fears that digitally stored records could become public knowledge is of the highest priority.

Through growing and adjusting to these changing times, we will accomplish a culture of constant forward momentum.

“Excellence is never an accident; it is the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, skillful execution, and the vision to see obstacles as opportunities.” —Anonymous

References

1. Don Antonucci. Top 5 health care industry issues and trends going into 2016. Website: www.regence.com. Published December 16, 2015. Accessed February 2016.

Ziccarelli,-Connie

Connie Ziccarelli is the chairperson of the PPS Administrator’s Council. She is also the cofounder, principal, and chief operations officer of Rehab Management Solutions in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, where she manages, grows, owns, and operates a nationwide network of private practice physical therapy clinics.

Top Ten Tips

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Selling strategies for the nonsalesperson physical therapist.

By Amy Lee, PT, MPT, OCS

Let us face it, marketing yourself to physicians as a staff physical therapist or even a new clinic owner is one of the scariest things that you can encounter in your workday. Marketing intrinsically pulls most physical therapists out of their comfort zone. It is a different discipline and area of expertise than what we studied in school. Yet everyone in your practice is a salesperson. Everyone—even the introverted physical therapist. “Researchers have found that being an extrovert has no statistically significant relationship with sales performance.”1 The trick is to capitalize on your staff’s inherent ability to sell and make it appear effortless. Daniel Pink says it best. “To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.”2 Is this not true for physical therapy? We are asking people to pay for a service or for a doctor to trust us with their patients in the hopes that they will be better off in the end. Who better to deliver that pitch than the very people who are providing those services? It is true. We are all salespeople whether we know it or not.

Here are my top 10 selling strategies for the physical therapist and the empirical evidence that I learned as a young therapist who dove right into the world of marketing and sales.

  1. Be patient. “The purpose of a pitch is not necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.”2 A relationship will really only occur once you have had approximately seven encounters according to Malcom Gladwell.3,4,5 So it is important not only to follow up but also to realize you do not have to bombard them with physical therapy–specific information day one. Keep in mind you will be back. Day one is to introduce yourself as a person. Kind-of like when you start dating someone. Do not give all your secrets away on the first date.
  2. Be present. Be in the moment in your encounter. Do not get on your phone or tablets during a meeting unless it is to write a name down or get a referral source’s phone number. If you get a personal cell phone number, consider your day a success. I would never share that number with anyone unless you ask permission. Handle it carefully and wisely.
  3. Be prepared. Are you like me and scared to death that you might run out of things to talk about? Try this. Review popular websites like ESPN.com or People.com right before meeting for random discussion points if the conversation gets dull. Always have a couple of things in the back of your mind that you can discuss if things go dry. Physicians are just like everyone else, and they typically love to discuss things like football, golf, and pop culture. Get yourself up to speed on these topics. If you do not know anything about college football I cannot help you.
  4. Ask questions. Ask about where the referral source is from, where they went to school, and if they have kids. All people love talking about their kids!
  5. Be cool. Keep in mind, this encounter is a way to show off your bedside manner. I think of it as though these providers are interviewing us to see how we interact with them. This tells them how we likely engage in conversations with their patients. So remember that you are just talking to everyday normal people. Have great respect for who you are talking to but just talk to them like you would talk to your grandpa or a good neighbor.
  6. Be punctual. Which really means, be early. Do not be the person who shows up fashionably late for a luncheon or meeting. It is the quickest way to be permanently fired from that referral source’s Rolodex.
  7. Be human. On the first encounter, I try to speak minimally about physical therapy and more about the people I am talking to and their interests or their company. Give them a chance to highlight their accomplishments or current work they are doing. Physicians are just like everyone else and they, too, are excited to highlight the accomplishments they have achieved. Let them have their moment.
  8. Be awesome. When mentioning your company, always point out the things that you have that no one else offers. Everyone already knows you are a physical therapist. But what else do you offer? Early and late appointments? Third party insurance? Are you board certified? Any specialty services offered? If so, be sure to mention that.
  9. Do your homework. Research pays off. Google search your referral source prior to the meeting and be certain that you know what company you are dealing with and who their competition may be. Find out where they went to school, where they did their residency, and most importantly what their Starbucks preference is. Boy Scout style. Be Prepared!
  10. And always keep this in mind: “The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are.” —Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People from Powerful Lessons in Personal Change6

Now get out there and show them all what you have got! And try not to faint. 

References

1. 2. Pink, DH. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Persuading, Convincing and Influencing Others. New York: Penguin Group; 2012.

2. www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2016-01-02/states-plan-renewed-debate-on-lgbt-rights-religious-freedom. Accessed January 2016.

3. Gladwell, M. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston: Little, Brown; 2000.

4. Schramm, J. “How many touches make a sale?” Nurturing Leads to Make the Sale. WordPress. http://blog.proresource.com/588/. Updated March 2, 2015. Accessed February 2016.

5. Starak, Y. “The Rule Of 7.” Entrepreneurs-Journey.com. www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/259/the-rule-of-7/. Updated March 2, 2015. Accessed February 2016.

6. Covey, SR. Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Free Press; 1990.

Amy Lee, PT, MPT, OCS, is one of the owners and marketing director for Physical Therapy Central’s 18 clinics in the state of Oklahoma. She can be reached at alee@ptcentral.org.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.