Many of us who were attracted to the massage profession are here because we like the idea of working with clients one on one, in a relaxing environment, and we don’t put a lot of thought into what it takes to get those clients in the door and coming back in regularly.
As a natural introvert, I was completely unprepared for all of the various skills I would need to be a successful massage therapist, and later a business owner.
I quickly learned in my first spa job that just giving a great massage was not enough; to really be in my success zone, I was also expected to invite clients back and sell spa products.
The problem was, I didn’t have any idea how to do either of those things, and we weren’t offered much training.
I could see that my paychecks would be much better if I learned to sell more products and services—and thankfully, these skills, like anything else, can be learned. The first step I had to take was to step out of my comfort zone.
This means in order to learn the skills I needed for success I had to look at some of my beliefs surrounding money and selling.
Excuses abounded in my mind: Wouldn’t a client feel awkward or pressured when I suggested a rebooking? What if they said no when I asked them to try a new product?
The last thing I wanted to do was make someone feel uncomfortable after a nice, relaxing massage.
You Know Where Your Success Zone Is
There was only one way to find out, and if I didn’t try, my paychecks would suffer. So I started just simply asking clients if they would like to reschedule and to my surprise, about one out of every four clients said yes.
What I needed to realize was that I was the expert in this situation. My clients wanted my recommendations for keeping their bodies feeling good or to work on a problem that they were experiencing.
In the same way that a stylist recommends when to come back to keep your hair looking great or a dentist recommends how often to return for the health of our teeth, it’s our job to guide our clients. We are the massage experts.
Most clients will appreciate your knowledge and recommendations even if they can’t follow through right then.
If you don’t feel confident making specific treatment plans, give general recommendations about the benefits of regular massage while you learn more about massage for different conditions and injuries.
You can also say things like, “Most clients find that a massage every two weeks can really help with reducing headaches.” This gives clients a suggestion without you having to make any promises.
I know these ideas might sound like common sense, but many therapists are missing out on money and growing their clientele because they aren’t recommending effectively or consistently. Put simply, they aren’t living or working in their personal and professional success zone.
Get Over Sales Fears
As massage therapists, our incomes can be limited by the number of massage sessions we can do each day. Selling home care products is a great way to earn more money, and help our clients relax, pamper themselves and prolong the benefits of massage at home.
I didn’t always look at product sales this way. I had a lot of preconceived ideas about being in sales; just the word sales brought up images of used car salesmen tricking people into buying things they didn’t need.
However, the more I learned about selling, the more I overcame my biases and realized that selling is just another way of helping people, by connecting them with products and services that they need and want.
In fact, without the sales industry we wouldn’t have most of the products and services that we use every day.
Do you need a quick, healthy lunch, or tires for your car? Thank goodness there are people who can sell us those things. What we do is no different: We provide quality and value, and it is our job to tell people about the options we have for them.
And, if you work at a spa, sales might even be a job requirement, so it is very smart to examine your beliefs about sales and let go of the ones that no longer serve you.
Now, I absolutely love selling. I sell in a way that feels good to me and works for my clients. That’s the best part; you can learn to sell in a way that suits your personality and values.
Most people really like to support small local businesses and would prefer to buy from someone they know and like, rather than a big box store. I recommend products based on what services my clients receive, any problems they discussed with me and what I noticed or observed. I simply offer what I think they would like.
Examine how the terms sales and selling make you feel. If you feel uncomfortable with them, educate yourself. We are usually uncomfortable with things that we don’t understand. That education will help elevate you into a success zone with sales.
How to Learn Sales
As a business owner, massage therapist and esthetician, I kept on learning more about rescheduling clients, selling and marketing. I took training materials for hairstylists, estheticians and salespeople—whatever I could find—and thought about how I could translate the information for my massage and spa business.
My esthetics training was very helpful because the entire rebooking and product sales process was taught as part of the service; it was just another professional step. (I would love to see these skills taught in every massage therapy school.)
In addition to selling, I also needed to learn about marketing. It’s one thing to ask clients to rebook, or buy a neck wrap; it’s quite another to get them in the door to begin with. I had to stretch myself to get out there, network and promote my business.
I learned a few tricks to help me along the way. First, the more you get out there, the easier it gets.
Find a friend to go with you to networking events and talk with other business owners, or to visit other businesses and leave brochures and business cards.
Reward yourself, with a nice lunch or a pedicure, after a day of marketing.
Practice what you are going to say in the car before you go in. This all gets easier every time you try.
I also went to business expos, attended and hosted meet-and-greets, did chair massage, shopped locally and met almost every other small-business owner in the neighborhood.
Before I knew it, I was having a great time! Sure, occasionally someone was rude or grumpy, but overall people are nice and want to help you succeed. I also returned the favor, by having an area in my lobby for their informational materials, and referring clients to local businesses as much as possible.
Network for Success
Networking is a part of any well-rounded marketing plan, and networking with health care providers has the potential to give us a great stream of referrals. However, this can be a bit intimidating. I get a little nervous just massaging a doctor—like he might give me an anatomy pop quiz. (That’s never happened, by the way.)
How can we professionally approach doctors and chiropractors, and impress them enough to build a referral relationship?
I decided to ask my good friend Kelly McLaurin, D.C., who was a massage therapist before going back to school to become a chiropractor, about working with massage therapists.
Kelly said she would be most likely to work with therapists who approached her by setting up an appointment to speak with her. Bring a résumé, professionally printed price sheets and your marketing materials to the meeting. She would be very interested in knowing about anything that you specialize in or advanced training that you have.
Also, a sample of your work would be important, as she would want to be confident of your skill level before referring. This sample would not be a full hour, but enough to assess your massage skills; say, 15 minutes.
She would want to work with therapists who can communicate using medical terminology and proper anatomical terms, so she can communicate quickly and efficiently, because she is very busy.
Also very important to her is general professional behavior, such as being on time and having a professional appearance. She also says that she is frequently asked if she knows of any massage therapists who can take insurance, and she would be likely to refer more patients to a therapist who does so.
Improve All the Time
It’s OK to ask for help, because when you start stepping outside of your comfort zone, it can be very easy to get stuck. Investing in a business coach who has been there can help you figure out the next step, brainstorm ideas, and even identify unhelpful beliefs, so you can kick them to the curb.
A business coach can help you set goals and stay on track. Just knowing you have a weekly meeting with your coach is a huge motivator. You will have someone on your side who is focused on your business and your success.
In short, a business coach can help you get from where you are now to where you want to be: your success zone.
You really just have to decide to try something new and step out in faith, and you will continue to improve every day. (If a shy girl like me can step out of her comfort zone, you can, too!)
About the Author
Gael Wood has worked for more than 20 years in the massage and spa industry, and now concentrates her energy into educating and training massage-and-spa therapists in the areas of marketing, business start-up, customer service and spa services. Read more and enjoy free business-building resources at her website.
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