Keyboard keys illustrating the concept of taking control of calls and questions from clients.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Your business line rings, and you answer the phone excitedly because this could be a new client calling to set up an appointment. It is indeed a potential new client, but she’s not calling to make an appointment—she’s calling to “find out more about your services.” Ugh.

This happens to practitioners all the time. I remember when I was starting my CranioSacral Therapy (CST) practice, I constantly got these calls because so few people even knew what CST is—or how to pronounce it!

Watch What You Say

There are two big mistakes practitioners make when people call about your services. The first is that you talk too much. I loved CST so much, and I could talk until I was blue in the face about everything that I loved about it—the anatomy, the subtle touch, the energetic components—all of it.

What ended up happening is I would start talking about all of these wonderful things about CST, trying to explain to potential clients what it was, its history, what a therapy session was like, and on and on and on. And then the person on the phone would say something like, “Well, OK, thanks,” and hang up. 

I would think, “Wait, what just happened? I’m so enthusiastic. And I told this potential client everything that they could ever possibly want to know about CST, and they just weren’t interested. How am I ever going to have a full practice at this rate?”

Say Enough

The second mistake therapists make is they don’t talk enough.

Maybe someone contacts you and says, “Hi, such-and-so said that I should contact you. I have this condition and that hospitalization and this surgery. And then I tried this modality, and then I saw that specialist …”

They go on and on and on about their entire medical history. Twenty minutes later, you realize you haven’t really said anything, and worse, you’re about to be late for your next appointment.

You start to think, “This has been a total waste of time.”

So you say something like, “Well, I think CST could be helpful for you.” And the potential client responds, “Well, I don’t know. I’ve tried everything.”

Then they hang up, and not only do you not have a new client, you are also exhausted from the exchange. 

Set Boundaries

Here are a couple of pointers for what to say when a potential client calls and asks about your services.

The first thing I want to suggest that you do might make your brain explode, but I want you to think about it: I want you to think about not answering your business phone. 

I know that this goes against the grain of everything you’ve heard—that you should answer on the first ring and all of that—but if you allow all of your incoming phone calls to go to voicemail, a couple of things are going to happen. 

First of all, you’re going to screen out some of the tire-kickers, some of the people who are just calling to find out if you’re the cheapest in town, because they won’t feel like leaving a message. 

The people who leave a message are going to be more serious inquiries. They are truly going to want to find out what you offer and if they can make an appointment with you, because they’re willing to leave a message. 

Of course, you’ll need to get back to them as soon as possible.

The second thing that happens when you let calls go to voicemail is that it allows you to set the boundaries of the phone call. 

You don’t have to try to answer people’s questions on the fly, as you’re going from one client to the next, in your treatment room office. You can actually take the time to have an elevated conversation with a potential client to see whether or not your modality may be of service to them.

This is something I want you to think about: Would it make sense for you to let your incoming calls go to voicemail, listen to the message, and then get back to the person as soon as you can?

Once you do get back to the person, I invite you to think about three things: 

First, set the tone of the call with strong boundaries. You don’t just say, “Hi, this is Mindy Totten. You called me?” You say something in the very beginning that lets them know exactly where you’re coming from. Exactly how much time they have, and how you can get down to business.

You might say something like, “Hey, this is Mindy Totten. I’m returning your telephone call. I would be happy to answer any questions that you have about [your modality]. I’ve got about 10 minutes until my next client, what can I help you with today?” 

You could also say, “I’ve got about 10 minutes for this call. Is this time good for you? Or should I call you back at another time?” 

This shows respect for their time as well, but right off the bat, tell them you have about 10 minutes for the call. Now, that might swing into 12 minutes or so, but they’re going to know you’re not going to be on the phone with them for 45 minutes. You’ve got about 10 minutes, and you want to answer any questions they have to see if your modality is a good fit for them.

Set the tone for the call with the boundary, right from the beginning. 

The second thing I invite you to try is counterintuitive as well.

Ask Questions

If you let the person calling control the conversation, they may just meander on about this and that and the other. This is certainly not their fault; they’re trying to express themselves. They’re trying to get their ideas across, but you have a limited amount of time to find out whether or not your modality and your services can help this person.

I’ll say something like, “I’ve got about 10 minutes, and I’m happy to answer any questions you have.” 

The potential client might respond with something like, “What is CranioSacral Therapy?”

Phew, that’s a big question! You can answer with, “I’m so glad you asked that. And I’m happy to answer that question, but first, can I ask you, why are you calling today about CranioSacral Therapy?” This will help you discover whether or not your modality could be helpful for the caller. The more information you have, the more likely you’ll know whether this person will be a good fit for your work.

So ask them as many questions as you can: Why are you calling today? What symptoms are you experiencing? Did someone recommend you or the modality I practice? Questions let you guide the conversation so that it doesn’t get out of hand. 

Then, depending on the answers you get, you can say something along the lines of, “Based on what you’ve told me, I think that CST could be a good fit for you.” 

So number one is, set the boundaries. Number two is, ask good questions. On to number three.

Make a Recommendation

You’ve asked your questions, they’ve answered. You have a sense of whether or not this potential client would be a good fit for you and your work. Now it’s time to make a recommendation. I know this can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Simply let the caller know whether your modality is going to be good for them or whether you recommend something else. 

Say something like, “Based on this conversation, I do think that CST will be a good fit for you. I’ve got an opening next Thursday at 2 o’clock. Is that a time that would work for you?” 

If they say yes, you book the appointment. If they say, “No, I want to wait,” you say, “Great. Here’s how you can make an appointment when you’re ready.” Give them your booking information, and then wish them the best on their journey. 

Do your very best to detach from the outcome. No matter what the potential client decides to do, your job is to make a recommendation.

You can’t just do what I used to do, which is kind of sit there on the phone in awkward silence.

Be the professional that you are and make a recommendation for going forward. If you don’t think it will be a good fit, you still need to make a recommendation, which can be something like, “Based on what you’ve shared with me, I’m not sure CST is going to get you the results you’re looking for. It sounds like [another modality] might be a better fit for you. I can recommend Sally O’Neal, down the road, who does this modality. You can contact her and tell her that Mindy Totten sent you. Thanks so much for calling today. I wish you all the best on your journey.”

That way your conversation is 10 or 12 minutes. It’s not an hour. It’s not 45 minutes. You don’t feel like you’ve just wasted your time and energy, and you can be more present for the clients you are currently seeing. 

Step Up Your Game

It’s time to step up your game so you can engage positively with potential clients who contact you about your services:

• Set boundaries at the very beginning of the call. 

• Ask questions that are relevant. 

• Make a recommendation for going forward. 

And then detach from the outcomes.

You don’t need to spend an hour on the phone with every person who calls about your services. You’ve got this. You can do this. 

Mindy Totten

About the Author

Mindy Totten, LMBT, CST-D, helps bodyworkers build profitable businesses so you can serve more people and make a great living doing it.