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The business aspect of the massage profession is one that many therapists shy away from. Uniting the desire to genuinely help and care for people with a desire for success and financial prosperity can seem like an unlikely union; however, the two desires can be simultaneously fulfilled. It is possible to be a great practitioner and ethically sell your clients a product that benefits them. The client appreciates the therapist’s valuable contribution to their healthcare between massages, and the therapist gains trust, referrals and an increase in profits. In the world of sales, this is what is called “a win-win situation”.
In the Expert Advice column in Massage Magazine, Sari Spieler, LMP, co-founder of the Northwest Coalition of Massage Educators, a massage consultant and an ethics instructor in practice-management courses, insists that a massage therapist’s intent is the cornerstone to ethical product sales. In order to sell products to clients with integrity, Spieler implies that the intention of being a healthcare provider or resource person should overshadow the intention of being a retail provider. Additionally, she says that when you make the decision to try to sell something, carefully consider your clients’ interests, needs and vulnerabilities. Make sure the client is not in a vulnerable state, as this can cloud their decision-making ability.
In a 2005 issue of Massage Today, a massage supply company Vice President, Steve Keller, outlines three steps to achieve the goal of ethically selling products to clients:
- The first step in ethical sales to clients is to believe in the product(s) you choose to promote. This involves ensuring the product upholds the claim made for it. The therapist can try the product personally, give it to family and friends to try and/or get input from trusted individuals in the industry. It is also important to continually monitor feedback from clients, so that any necessary product adjustments can be made.
- The second step is to thoroughly educate yourself on the products you intend to sell. It is very important for the therapist to know all there is to know about the products they are selling. This includes how the product works, why it works, the best way to use it, any possible side effects it may have and how it will benefit your client. When a therapist takes the time to train clients on the proper use of the product and the results they can expect, increased patient compliance will be the end result.
- The third step is to use a distributor you trust. This is one of the most important and one of the most overlooked aspects of sales. When choosing a distributor, look for one that will support you in every kind of situation. Do some research to find a distributor that will provide the best support for you, which will foster this trust. Some of the supportive aspects to seek are:
- The ability to ship a product the day it is ordered. This prevents the massage therapist from carrying excess inventory and spares the need for product storage space.
- An excellent customer service department which will respond quickly to any issues. Product damage, shipping errors, defective products, etc., should be handled instantly by the distributor to minimize any impact on your clients.
- Companies that have a “No Hassle Return” policy makes returns a breeze. If a client wants to return a product, never hesitate to accommodate them. Your distributor should take care of you, just as you take care of your clients. This enables the therapist to concentrate on the well-being of his/her clients, not on money that could be lost.
- Low price guarantee. If a distributor extends this benefit to the therapist, the therapist can extend the same benefit to his/her clients.
Believing in your products, educating yourself on the products you offer and trusting your distributor are gems capable of enhancing any massage practice. Additional factors to consider when choosing appropriate products are the types of clients seen, your legal scope of practice, the applicability of a resale license and the comfort level of the therapist with selling that product.
Confidence in one’s knowledge is the primary contributor to success in the sales arena. Believing in oneself as a practitioner is a precursor to trusting your knowledge. Developing practitioner self-confidence is a significant addition to the previous suggestions. Confidence can come with experience but more importantly from believing in your value to the healthcare profession.
Hard to find items capable of continuing the effectiveness of your bodywork session in the client’s own home are great products to consider. Selling heat packs to clients suffering with chronic pain is an example of a highly appropriate sales venture. Many people are incredibly appreciative of their therapist’s research and recommendation for a high quality, natural fiber, heat retaining pack, so that they can manage their aches and pains in between office visits.
Product sales needn’t be sectioned off for wealthy clients or greedy therapists. When following these steps, the possibilities for the advancement of a massage practice are limitless. It can be ethically done, profits can increase, relationships with clients can expand, and the best part is, your clients will appreciate your efforts as their health and well-being improves.
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