Learning how to sell products through your massage practice may seem complex and overwhelming, and you might assume making sales means being pushy.

Check these assumptions at the door and consider the benefits of selling products.

Expanding your practice to include retail sales can increase both revenue and client wellness, as these products tend to encourage client self-care. Here, we break down the sales process into seven basic steps for success.

1. Pick the Right Products

This first step can make or break your retail success, so take the time to consider which products your clients would appreciate most. Fortunately, there are a few guidelines you can use to assess whether a product might mesh well with your practice.

“Make sure the products you sell are professional grade, reliable, support your clients in meeting their needs, are a natural extension of your business and have a reasonable profit margin,” said Cherie Sohnen-Moe, an author and educator who has been working in the field of massage for more than three decades. “Ideally, the majority of products you sell should be those that are not commonly sold directly to the public.”

Sohnen-Moe also advises taking a close look at one’s scope of practice when it comes to deciding which products to sell — and which to avoid. For example, if you use hot or cold applications in the session room, then it would make sense to sell hot or cold packs for your clients to use at home.

“You put your reputation at risk when you sell products that are not within your scope of practice,” Sohnen-Moe said. “For instance, if you sell any type of nutritional supplement and you are not a trained nutritionist or herbalist, clients might question your motives.”

2. Get Sales-Tax Savvy

Instead of allowing your concerns about sales-tax laws deter you from selling products, face the unknown and learn the guidelines for your city, county and state. Once you have the facts, dealing with sales taxes should feel less threatening.

“People tend to get nervous any time they have to deal with paperwork and bureaucracy,” Sohnen-Moe said. “It really is fairly easy to do, even if a therapist is keeping track manually.”

Your first step will be to find out whether you need a transaction privilege tax license. Call your city, county and state business-licensing divisions for answers, or use the Business Licenses and Permits search tool on the U.S. Small Business Administration website. You might also try searching your state’s department of revenue website.

Next, find out the sales-tax rates for your city, county and state. Your state government should provide this information, often online through the department of revenue or division of taxation. Add up your state, city and county sales-tax rates, then multiply this by the product’s purchase price. The result is the amount of sales tax you must tack onto the product’s price, to be collected and remitted to the government.

“Hopefully, the therapist has a computerized accounting system,” Sohnen-Moe said. “If so, that system most likely can automatically calculate the amount of tax you need to charge and fill out the required sales-tax paperwork.”

3. Make Room for Retail

When it comes to setting up your retail space, begin immediately by planning and visualizing the various ways you might showcase products in your reception area or session room. According to experts, the quality of your retail space can have a direct effect on sales.

“I have seen displays that are out of date and in a place that is awkward to get to, and I wonder how much more retailing they could do if they only made the display more up to date and put it in a place that is convenient for customers to look at the products,” said Jean Shea, founder and president of BIOTONE, a massage-and-spa products manufacturer.

If you are setting up a retail space in your reception area, focus on having enough products displayed to make the section visually interesting, but not crowded or unorganized. Make sure there is plenty of light on the products, and keep them clean and free of dust at all times.

“If your products are going to be displayed in the session room, you will most likely choose to display less product,” Shea said. “Your session room is focused on you and the client, so do not have a distracting amount of product. Keep your backup stock stored away.”

As for the structure of a retail display, you may need to purchase an attractive set of shelves, baskets or containers to create the most appealing product showcase. Keep in mind that quite a few companies ship their products with easy-to-display packaging, so you may wish to take advantage of this convenience when available.

4. Create a Product-Centered Service

Learning how to sell and blending retail sales into your massage practice can boost income not only through the basic act of selling products, but also through the creation of a signature service, using one or more of the products you sell. When your clients get a chance to experience a product in the session room, they may be more inclined to purchase that product after the session ends.

“Any time you can create a service around a product, it will give you the opportunity to sell that particular product,” said Pat Mayrhofer, president of Nature’s Stones Inc. “If you have a product you believe in, build your signature service around that product, so your clients can experience the benefits.”

For example, you might offer massage with a nourishing shea butter product, which clients may then wish to purchase to keep their skin well-nourished at home. If your retail stock includes essential oils, you could use your signature service to introduce the benefits of aromatherapy.

For those who practice sports massage, designing a session around pain relief and the use of a pain-relieving product can be a great way to sell both the service and the product, which the client can take home to alleviate pain between appointments.

The basic concept is to take one or more of your favorite retail items and use them to create a high-quality signature service. The concept applies to a host of potential products, from lotions and oils to hot packs and cold stones.

“We do a cooling face rejuvenation with cold marble stones,” Mayrhofer said. “The service creates a temporary face-lift, and it’s a great way to sell those small marble stones.”

5. How to Sell by Educating and Communicating

When you learn how to sell high-quality products with client benefits you believe in, there is no need to employ aggressive sales tactics, which can make you and your clients uncomfortable. Instead, use clear communication to educate your clients about the value of the products you offer.

“Use a soft-sell, consultative approach,” Shea said. “You are there to help, and you want to suggest some products that will help the client look or feel better.”

Experts report the best time to discuss retail products is after the massage session, when the client is getting ready to leave, rather than before or during the session. Your communication should focus on educating clients about how the item can be used for home care.

“Inform clients about the benefits, proper usage and possible contraindications, and if possible, demonstrate how to use the product,” Sohnen-Moe said. “If a product doesn’t have much consumer information printed on it or in the package, create an information sheet describing the proper usage.”

Educating clients about the benefits of your products allows you to avoid a pushy sales pitch in favor of a sincere effort to help your clients enhance their own well-being between sessions.

“Selling products is very similar to attracting new clients,” Sohnen-Moe said. “Inform them about the benefits, and then let them choose if they want to make a purchase.”

6. Balance Your Inventory

When you are new to retail sales, knowing how many products to keep in stock, when to order more, and when to add new products can be an exercise in trial and error. The goal is to find the balance that works best for your practice.

“Inventory control is an art — particularly when just starting out,” Sohnen-Moe said. “Be careful about ordering a lot of inventory that has a short shelf life, [and] when adding a new product, order a small amount first or make sure that you can return any unsold items.”

However, while you do not want to have too much of any one product, you still need enough to create an attractive display and meet client demands.

“I would not overbuy, but I would keep the display stocked and looking fresh,” Shea said. “If there are too few products on display, it looks like you may be discontinuing your efforts.”

The key to keeping enough products in stock is knowing when to reorder items, which will depend on how long it takes for the goods to be shipped. You will want to place your order when you still have enough product to last until the new shipment arrives, whether that will take one week or one month.

Obtaining client feedback about products can be another important aspect of balancing inventory. When clients offer positive feedback, it can give you the confidence to order more of that item when inventory starts running low.

“Always follow up with clients about their purchases,” Sohnen-Moe said. “The next time clients come in after having made a purchase during their last appointment, ask them how they liked the product, how often they used it, and if they have any questions or concerns about the product.”

As for finding the right time to add new items to your retail section, keep your eye out for products that seem like they would appeal to a majority of your clients, and take note of any goods your clients seem to ask about on a regular basis.

7. Market Your Products

Writing brochures about the products you sell, then posting information about these products via social-networking sites, can be a great way to market the goods and boost sales. Here are a few tips for the writing process.

“Talk about results, results, results, and a little bit about the features of the product,” said Irene Diamond, developer of The Diamond Method and creator of SuccessfulMassageTherapist.org, an online resource that aims to help other massage therapists achieve success. “People want to know what it will do for them, not necessarily how it does it or what kind of box it comes in.”

As you compose brochures about your products, with a focus on the efficacy of each item, you should pin down specific words and phrases that can be used not only to describe the product, but also explain why a person might use this product and the nature of its results. These keywords will come in handy when you turn your attention to marketing through social-media sites.

“It’s really helpful to use social media within your marketing, if you use the right keywords for your products, to capture your customers’ online searches,” Diamond said. “You can mention the name of the product if it is something they already know …  but it is also really important to use words they are thinking, such as pain relief, back pain or sciatica relief.”

Diamond advises massage therapists make posts on social-networking sites using keywords connected to their retail products as often as possible, within reason.

“Mix it up and cover a wide variety of sites, such as your Facebook business page and Pinterest,” she said. “You can also write up articles covering the usefulness and application of the product and, if possible, include testimonials from third parties, and submit them through article directory sites.”

Step Toward Sales Success

Broken up into these seven basic steps, the process of expanding your practice to include retail sales and learning how to sell should seem far less complex. Remember, by selling useful products through your massage practice, you can make more money and help your clients achieve greater self-care. Such a win-win situation should provide strong motivation to move into the realm of retail sales.

About the Author:

Brandi Schlossberg is an avid bodywork client and full-time journalist based in Reno, Nevada. She has written for MASSAGE Magazine on many topics, including “California Integrative Medicine Program Relies on Massage Therapy.”

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