hot chocolate with marshmallow snowman

If you ask a massage therapist why they entered the field, you’ll probably receive some variation of “I want to help people reduce stress, relieve pain and promote good health.” One response you’ll most likely not hear is “I want to sell products.” By their own admission, most massage therapists are not comfortable with or adept at sales pitches.

The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to hone your sales skills — since people are not only buying things for themselves this time of year, but for the people on their gift lists, as well.

Felicia Brown, massage, spa and wellness business expert and educator and owner of Spalutions, started carrying topical products in her practice as a way to provide pain relief for clients in between appointments. By using the products and engaging in conversations with the client before, during and after massage, she sets the stage for a potential sale.

Start a Conversation

Before a massage, Brown asks clients their goals in receiving massage or another spa treatment. “Then I ask if they are interested in getting recommendations that will help them reach their goals,” she said. “If they say yes, then they have essentially opened the door to anything I’d like to share with them about future visits, referrals or product purchases.” 

Brown does not follow a set script, but rather listens for cues and asks questions throughout the treatment so she is able to recommend suitable products that address clients’ concerns.

Massage-and-wellness practitioner and spa educator Kim Collier uses a similar approach and also takes advantage of three instances during treatment protocols when product knowledge can be shared.

“Prior to beginning a spa service, the products to be used are artfully presented and briefly introduced, so the client knows what to expect,” she said. “During the treatment, brief information is shared while applying the products, stating the benefit of this product or treatment specific for the client benefit or result.”

“To complete the spa experience, products may again be presented or corresponding retail items prepared at the reception desk, for client home care consideration,” Collier added.

Use Sales Skills to Build Trust

Therapists at Spalutions use the topicals they sell during treatments, which are also the ones clients are most likely to use at home.

“The great thing about selling products you are already using in your treatments is that the clients have already tried them,” said Brown. “This eliminates the need for sampling and the client can determine whether they like it and if it is effective before they even leave.”

She added, “I usually will pull the product off the shelf and show it to the client after the appointment, saying something like, ‘This is the product I put between your shoulder blades. We have it available in two sizes. Do you want to take any home?’ It’s important to do your research and have the right products for your practice and clients. I only carry things I personally would recommend or use.”

While the massage therapists at Spalutions focus more on client retention than on retail sales skills, Brown finds that those who do best in retaining clients are more successful in selling products.

“Product purchases are often based on the level of trust and rapport between the client and therapist, so we focus more on teaching our therapists how to build trust and rapport with their clients than selling products,” she said.

Brown indicated that selling is just a matter of changing perceptions.

“Try to think of selling products as a way to help your clients solve problems, rather than a way for you to make money,” she said. “Ideally both things should occur, but if your ultimate goal is taking care of your clients’ needs and trying to help them feel better between appointments, then selling products can be a natural extension of that endeavor.”

Educate Clients

Nina Fersko Gross of Hand and Stone has an edge on the typical massage therapist, having been a buying and marketing major in college. But she asserted that the task of selling draws upon the sales skills and training of the therapist by not only extending the benefits of massage, but also educating and informing clients.

“Basically, to sell you have to know the products, how they work and their benefits,” she said. “It’s really a match game.”

By that, she means the therapist must listen to the client to understand any issues or goal for that particular day. With that knowledge, the therapist can select the most appropriate product, use it during treatment that day and hopefully educate the client so they purchase the product for at-home use.

Collier emphasized that education is the key to helping both client and practitioner understand the “why” of products and the importance of daily home care rituals.

“The healing of massage therapy carries through with compassion from the practitioner, offered with suggestions based in education and research,” she said. “This is not about ‘pushing’ products, but is about helping the client have optimal health with intentional support from a caring practitioner.”

At the end of treatment, Gross talks about the retail products she has used, explaining the benefits of continuing use of the product at home. “I tell the client it will help them feel good in between massages and often tell personal stories, mine or someone else’s,” she said. When a client does purchase a topical, she jots that down in the SOAP notes and asks how they enjoyed the product when they return.

Every product Gross carries is something she has used personally and in her practice. She is well-versed in what ingredients are in the product and what benefits they provide. “I believe in being honest with the client. I tell them everything to build a trusting relationship,” she said. “I make it so it’s not an effort for the client to use the product at home.”

Make Some Deals

Gross also draws upon her background in marketing to create enticing deals involving products. “I offer discounts to members. If they buy a service that day, they get a discount. When it gets close to the holidays, I suggest that the products might make good stocking stuffers,” she said.

For massage therapists who are still reluctant to sell a product, Gross reminds them that they are not really selling, but rather helping the client. “You encourage the client to use a product as a health benefit,” she said. “Consider that you are still doing your job when the client goes home.”

Part 2 of this series will publish on on Dec. 12.

About the Author

Phyllis Hanlon has written nonfiction articles and book reviews as well as human interest stories, profiles and award-winning essays. Her specialty areas include health and medicine, religion, education and business. She regularly delights in the joys of massage.