Salespeople are sometimes stereotyped as being kinda’ cheesy—too slick, too manipulative, too self-serving. This is probably not the way many SLPs perceive themselves. But if you work for yourself—or hope to—you need to come to some sort of peace with selling your services.
I sat down with an experienced salesman and came up with important basics to get started.
- Use open-ended questions. If a potential client asks for a child’s developmental milestones, for example, provide the facts and follow-up with a probing question like, “It sounds like you have some questions. Help me understand your concerns.” Focus on listening and allow them to provide you with information. At this point, it’s key to build rapport, establish trust and ease any concerns.
- Prepare an elevator speech. You need a quick—two minutes or less—description of your philosophy and services. Make it easy to follow without any technical terms or acronyms.
- Be generous with appropriate referrals. If the person’s concerns or questions fall outside your scope of practice or expertise, recommend another provider. Not only will you avoid an unhappy and dissatisfied client, but the good will you cultivate might lead to a word-of-mouth recommendation. Go ahead and re-emphasize your specialties, however: “My expertise is selecting and then training families on communication devices, but for voice concerns I recommend _________.”
- Talk price with confidence. I think this can be the toughest, most uncomfortable part of a discussion. When potential clients ask about costs, give your set price or range without wavering: “A full articulation evaluation runs between $110 and $160.” If the potential client asks about price first thing, you may want to probe for information first: “It would help me to understand your needs. What do you hope to gain from speech-language treatment?” It helps you to make a more accurate estimate.
- Carry business cards. These days, people don’t save business cards. Instead, they simply file your information into a contact list, so no need to go ultra-fancy. Create a tangible, professional reminder of your services and contact details. Ask the potential client for a phone number or email address in return.
- Keep the conversation going. Follow up within a week—most families prefer this via email—with a recap of your in-person conversation and a next step: “Would you like to schedule an evaluation?” Or: “Please sign and return the attached release form, so I can discuss classroom goals with her teacher.” If you follow up by email, be sure to include your preferred phone number and website address in your signature line.
Even though we work in a “helping profession,” learning to market yourself and your business allows you to reach out and help more clients. It takes time to develop your sales skills, so welcome opportunities as they come up and don’t fret if you feel a bit tongue-tied at first. You’ll be filling your schedule in no time!
Kim Swon Lewis, MS, CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in Greensboro, North Carolina, and also writes the Activity Tailor blog. She wrote this post in collaboration with her husband, vice president of sales at Blue Sentry. firstname.lastname@example.org.