Top Ten Tips
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.