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Five-Step Sales for Physical Therapists Who Hate Selling

Step 3: Educate in bite-sized chunks.

By Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA

In this 5-part series, we dissect—and challenge—the notion that physical therapists (PTs) hate selling. Believe it or not, selling is something PTs are inherently programmed to do well. Huh?

That is right. Despite the fact that the vast majority of PTs I consult with have started with a hatred of selling, most come to realize that with a little work they are pretty darn good at it.

So herein lies the demand for a recipe of sorts that taps into our natural abilities as PTs, and allows us to sincerely and effectively take a prospect across the finish line, transforming them from perfect stranger to lifelong ambassador.

Interested? Read on.

To recap, were in part 3 of our 5-part series on selling, the steps for which are:

    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.

    First, we discussed Awareness, acknowledging that before we can sell to someone, they have to know we exist. Awareness is where it all starts. Click here to read about Awareness.

    Next, we discussed Engagement and I shared a set of tips for embedding yourself in conversation with both the community at large as well as your professional referral sources. Click here to read about Engagement.

    This month, we build on engagement, taking it to another level. We leverage this newfound relationship into an opportunity to share your knowledge, to educate your prospect.

    We educate every day, and as PTs we are good at it. Just today you have likely instructed someone on the importance of better posture, the need to remove throw rugs from the home of an elderly patient, or how to properly ascend a staircase while nonweightbearing on the left.

    We know our stuff, and we love to share it. And this same emphasis on education is part of the sales process, with a few slight modifications.

    When educating a prospect on the merits of your sales proposition, there are three rules you need to follow:

    • Pace yourself
    • Teach one thing at a time
    • Be available

    Pace yourself.

    Remember, you have successfully engaged your prospect. The conversation has begun. They like you. Now you take the relationship one step further and offer up some friendly advice (a code word for education).

    Here, you gotta take it slow. Rein in your passion for everything you know about your subject matter. Remember that education comes on the heels of engagement. The intent is not to blow engagement out of the water.

    As an example, say that you have been successful at engaging the owner of a local running store. You made yourself aware by walking in one day to introduce yourself as another local business owner, and over the past couple months you have continued to nurture the relationship.

    On this day, you have stopped by and are talking about the great weather and how the community has really begun to embrace the outdoor lifestyle once again. He mentions the uptick in customers buying running shoes and how business has been really good.

    You see an opportunity. “Hmm . . . I bet I could hold a community class in this guys business to discuss the importance of gradual transition to distance running, you tell yourself.

    And you could. But you need to pace yourself.

    Instead of jumping in to ask him if he would be interested in having you hold a talk for his customers, you tease him with a drip of education here, a drop of knowledge there.

    “Yeah, its funny how ambitious people get this time of year, you tell him. ͞LIke we hold it all in during the winter and as soon as good weather hits, we try to make up for lost time. This is also the time of year that I see a lot of folks in my PT clinic who have overdone it on the trails before their body was ready.

    Interesting, that actually makes total sense, he chimes back.

    You have dropped some valuable information now, and if you pace yourself correctly, you will lead him down a path that will eventually lead to you to talk to his customers, about what you do.

    If you pace yourself.

    Let him nibble on that piece of information a bit, and come back to him later with some thoughts about how you help runners make the transition between seasons, and how you have held community classes in your clinic over the past several years.

    Teach one thing at a time.

    I tell you, knowledge + passion + a bit too much coffee can be a real curse.

    Ever find yourself educating a patient when you realize you have not paused for breath for 5 minutes? While it is never good to put the glaze on anyone͛s attention span, doing this with a patient is one thing; they͛ll forgive you. With a prospect it is totally different; they will find a way out of the conversation. Then you have lost them.

    I always advise focusing your sales message on only one thing at a time. And this applies especially to the education phase.

    We are in constant competition for mindshare, and the more people remember us, the better we can sell. Note: mindshare is not the same as brain dump. We can only handle so much.

    The purpose of your education is to convey trust, knowledge, and peace of mind. “This guy can help me, is what you want them to be thinking. Teach one thing and this can happen. Try to leave ͚em with everything you know and they will be looking for aquick getaway.

    Instead of telling your referral sources about your valuable credentials, your skilled staff members, and your dedication to customer service, pick one thing.

    “One thing I would like you to know is that we care about our patients, you might say.” So much so that we have a standard for how long it takes us to pick up the phone, and we never allow a customer toleave the office without opening the door for them.

    Does that make a point? Yep. You have clearly educated your prospect that customer service is a top priority. They will remember this.

    Do not stress about the fact that you have not told them about every credential you have ever earned. The truth is that they do not care anyway, and if you really want to get that point across, save it for your next encounter.

    Be available.

    When you’re educating a prospect, most of the value materializes after you stop talking. If you have been successful at pacing yourself, and teaching only one thing at a time, you have left plenty of opportunity for a question to arise.

    And questions are equity in a sales relationship.

    A question from a prospect means they are interested enough to engage you back, which opens the door to working your way further toward conversion.

    But you have to be available.

    To be available, your prospect needs to know how to reach you. Always leave a business card or contact information when you are leading someone down the sales path – especially during the education phase. I encourage leaving a personal contact option such as a mobile phone number or email address, but this is up to your personal preference. In today͛s social culture, a Twitter handle or Facebook page might also be appropriate.

    OK, so that is education—pretty simple, right?

    Remember, you are good at this. You love it. Do it right and you will turn the corner and head down the homestretch toward making the sale. Next month well dive into the piece de resistance: the conversion.

    Until then, find me online at @tannusquatre or tannus@vantageclinicalsolutions.com and let me know how you are educating your prospects. And if you have any questions—I am available 😉

    Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, is a physical therapist and entrepreneur dedicated to improving the profession through innovative business and marketing solutions. His work can be seen in such projects as PT Pub Night® and BuildPT.com, as well as through numerous speaking and authored contributions to APTA and PPS. He is president of Vantage Clinical Solutions and can be reached at tannus@vantageclinicalsolutions.com.