Business skills are the other half of what is needed to create a fulfilling and prosperous OBT practice (the first half is practical/theoretical skill). This is the first in a series of offerings about the business side of bodywork therapy. This feature is also a forum for questions, where members at any stage of practice can ask about practice management issues.
Let People Meet You
When asked, "What is the greatest barrier in the way of new patients entering a practice?," students offer different responses. "The cost of treatment," or "Lack of consistent insurance coverage," or "They're not sure it will work" are a few common ones. Actually the main limiting factor, as it often is in life, is fear. In this case, it's fear of the unknown. "What's it like in there? I wonder who does this kind of thing?" people think as they stand outside and look at your sign. "I don't know much about Oriental bodywork. Is it like massage? Can it help me?" they may ask of a current or past client of yours. These questions are good ones, and the only thing in the way of their walking in or following up on that referral/recommendation is fear of what is unfamiliar or uncertain. Ultimately, folks come to you not because of what you do, but because of who you are. Your energy, character, professionalism and integrity speak more than a stack of ads or informative literature.
So the question comes, "How do I dispel these fears?" The most important thing is to let people meet you, get a sense of who you are, and hear you talk about what you do. I have wasted thousands of dollars over the years in print advertising, which at best produces mixed results (except for the Yellow Pages "big book," which works well). Ten minutes spent in a free consultation, or a few hours invested in giving a talk or writing an article, produces far more reliable results.
Why a Free Consultation?
The purpose of a free consultation is twofold. First, you need to determine if you can help this person, and if they are someone you can successfully enter into a therapeutic relationship with. Second, the potential patient needs to learn enough to determine if you are the right therapist for them.
Ideally, consults are done in your office. This removes half of their fear, gets them accustomed to coming in, and teaches them, through your office environment, what kind of person you are and what kind of care they will receive. If a live consult is not possible, phone consults are a good second best. Some patients will choose you over another therapist simply because of the care, patience, confidence and clarity you demonstrated in your phone conversation with them.
A consultation is not an evaluation. It is 5-15 minutes spent sitting down with a person to assess their needs and explain how you can help them. It is designed for those who are unsure if Oriental bodywork is the right approach for them. The potential client is at no risk, and invests nothing but time.
There a few basic steps a good consult:
- Ask an open-ended question like, "What brings you here?" or "How can I help?"
- Listen attentively and patiently, though not allowing them to dispense their life story. Use clarifying or redirecting questions as needed.
- Explain your approach to Oriental bodywork, how it works, and how it will benefit them and their specific condition; also explain your fees. Speak with confidence and clarity.
- Ask them if they have any questions about your approach, and if they would like to make an appointment. Whether they do or not, be sure to give them educational literature about OBT and your practice. Thank them for their time. If they are not ready to come in yet, remind them that you'll be glad to help when they are.
Business is not about business. It's about people. Making personal, authentic connections with people is the key to success in business and in life. When polled, people consistently state that the most important qualities they seek in a health professional is caring, patience, and a sense that they are important as a person. Being your authentic self, making yourself available and accessible through lectures, articles and consultations, is how you become not someone who uses a net to lure people in, but a magnet, who attracts all that is needed easily, naturally and without strain.
"Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things. Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things." -- Lao Tzu: Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 13
About the Author:
Michael Gaeta, BPS, is a New York State licensed acupuncturist, licensed nutritionist, licensed massage therapist and certified Amma therapist, and holds a diplomate in Asian bodywork therapy. He is a graduate of the New York College of Health Professions, where he has been a faculty member since 1993. Michael is a certified instructor and state representative of the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia. Michael also serves as President of the Acupuncture Society of New York. He writes for local and national publications, and presents seminars nationally on practice management, nutrition, medical ethics, herbal therapy and Oriental medicine. He is also a pianist and composer. His passion is to give, love and serve through teaching, hands-on therapies and music. Michael founded the Hands-On Health Wholistic HealthCare Center in 1990.