by Dana Pharant

I am fascinated by the tendency among massage therapists to avoid selling—even though it is a vital part of any successful practice. Time and again I come across therapists who refuse to sell any product in their practice because they do not want to sell anything. They tell me they do not want their clients to think of them as pushy or just in it for the money. Yet, these same therapists will gladly send their clients to my store for the products they recommended. While I love the referrals and the presold customers, I often wonder why therapists will give up income on one hand and then complain about not making enough money on the other.

Selling is part of any business, whether you are in sales, service or health care. As a therapist, you first need to sell the client on why he needs massage therapy, and then on why he needs to see you. Sometimes this is done for you, but even when you get a client who is referred, and therefore presold, you will still need to sell him on more sessions. It is pretty hard to make a living on one-time clients, so at some point you will be doing sales!

I bet right now there are a number of products you have advised your clients they need to purchase in order to speed up their healing. I have yet to meet a massage therapist who does not recommend Epsom salts or an analgesic after a session—yet how many of those therapists actually have these products available for clients to pick up before they leave the office?

One of the keys to getting over fear of selling is to shift your perspective from one of sales to one of adding value to your service.

Let’s take a look at analgesics as an example. You recommend the client use this product after a massage because you know it will increase the effectiveness of your treatment and prevent any post-massage soreness or reaction, and therefore it would be of great benefit to your client. If the client is able to purchase the analgesic before leaving your office, the likelihood of him using it is dramatically increased. On the flip side, if he has to stop at the store on the way home, it is very likely he will not apply the analgesic. This means the client is robbed of the added treatment—and in the case of post-massage soreness, he could think ill of you and not come back because “that didn’t work” or “I was so sore after that massage.”

So by providing the analgesic for sale at your office, you are adding value to the service you provide your clients and increasing compliance with your recommended home care. A far cry from the pushy salesman image, you are in fact continuing to help your clients by offering the extra service of saving them time and effort to find the recommended product.

You spent great amounts of time and effort mastering your craft. Why make clients’ understanding of the full value of the important service you provide be dependent on a third party, when you can put the product in their hands before they leave your office?

When I first started my practice more than 15 years ago, I had the same fears and misconceptions. Over the years, I found the more products I offered, the more excited my clients got about them. They constantly told me how much they loved the added service of being able to get what I had recommended right then and not having to remember to pick products up later.

I was also surprised to see the increase in client compliance. This was seen most significantly when it came to strengthening exercises, after I added exercise bands to my small list of offered products. The clients had made a financial investment (albeit small) in doing the exercise. I found they were likely to do them at least half the time recommended, which was an approximately 80-percent increase from when I relied on them to use soup cans or to purchase their own resistive bands. The other bonus was I could see them doing the exercises and make any corrections before they got into a routine.

Again, this increases the effectiveness of the course of treatments, which adds to client satisfaction and referrals.
Here is the ironic twist: If you recommend products to your clients that you do not carry at your clinic, you are still doing sales—but you are an unpaid salesperson for another company. Why not put the profit for the work you are doing in your pocket instead?

Remember: It’s not selling; it’s adding value to the service you provide.

Dana Pharant, MASSAGE MagazineDana Pharant, R.M.T., has been in practice since 1992. She also owns and operates a therapy supply outlet ( that services the massage therapy and health-care industry with customer service and product sales.