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Most Speech-Language Pathologists, when faced with the tasks of private practice, will say that their toughest job is finding clients. Most of us know how to perform assessments, how to do treatment, and how to create a cohesive plan for improvement for our clients… But getting the clients into that workflow in the first place can be daunting.
Here at Accent Connection we do the work of finding leads (possible clients) for you, which can reduce the pressure significantly, but then when someone contacts you how do you convert that lead into a paying client?
First Things First!
The answer starts even before they message you! As a member of Accent Connection, you have already taken the first step, but just creating an account is not enough.
Take the time to upload your photos, fill in all of your information and really work on making sure that when someone clicks your profile, they have a good reason to choose you over other therapists.
Remember, you are special! There is only one person in the world with your personality and our research shows that 75% of survey respondents rated the personality of a therapist to be either “very important” or “extremely important” when choosing which therapist they want to work with. Some people want tough teachers, some people want fun teachers, some people want serious teachers, etc. Do not sell yourself short, exhibit who you are and trust that the world is full of clients who want exactly you!
The First Message
Exciting times! A lead just contacted you! What do you say? How do you respond?
Well, there are 4 simple rules to follow.
Reply quickly! Remember, this lead might have contacted several therapists, you want to be at the top of their inbox and to make a good impression. If you take a long time to respond the person on the other end may assume that you will also be unresponsive for scheduling, questions, etc. When given a choice the vast majority of people like to work with professionals who are quickly responsive to their needs.
Tell your potential client what you can do for them. Answer their questions and do so in such a way that helps them choose you. If I am asked “Will it take long for my accent to change?” my answer should be along the lines of “How long it takes depends heavily on how hard you work, no one can reasonably guarantee you a time frame but I can absolutely promise that between your hard work and my skills, knowledge and guidance, we will work to change your accent as quickly as possible.” I am honest, positive and transparent.
Speak true to yourself, but also make sure you are your most professional self. Most English language learners are quite focused on correct grammar and vocabulary since they have been studying it for so long. While you absolutely want to be yourself and not come across as stiff or unnatural, you also want the potential client to see you as an expert and an authority they can trust to help them improve an aspect of their English language.
(Always) Be Closing!
The ABCs of sales are, as so eloquently stated in the 1992 film, “Glengarry Glen Ross” starring Alec Baldwin, Al Pacino, and Jack Lemmon, Always Be Closing. This means that at all times you want to be watching for when and how to convert this lead into a client, or at least moving them along to the next step in the process.
For us, that next step is generally doing an initial consultation. In that very first message I want to make sure that I set up a time to have a video chat. We HIGHLY recommend that you offer a free initial consultation, not doing so will likely lose you a lot of clients. I want potential clients to keep the excitement they had when they first messaged me, and excitement drops quickly over time.
Now there are many people who send messages such as “Do you want to have an initial consultation?” which, while a reasonable question, frames the possible responses in a way that you don’t want. A better message is “Let’s get together and have a consultation. I have time free on Monday at 6 PM your time, does that work for you or would you prefer to meet on Saturday at 9 AM your time?”
Notice how this message is about when to schedule, not whether to schedule. This is important because it creates a frame for their response while still offering them a choice. They can, of course, still say they do not want to meet, but by framing it this way you’ve given yourself the best chance to get an answer you want.
The Initial Consultation
Now we have arrived at the most exciting, and for some of us, the scariest part of the process! So, what do we want to do in order to make sure it is successful?
First, connect with them!
Give them the opportunity to tell you a bit about themselves, to share what is important to them and to develop a relationship with you. Often therapists will dive right into what they do, often out of nervousness, but this is usually the wrong approach. A better approach is to ask a question like “So what made you want to seek accent reduction?” or “Why is accent reduction important to you?” This allows your potential client to open up and share and it allows you to consider tailoring your plan to meet their needs. It may be that they intend to travel to some English speaking countries soon and just want to improve clarity enough to be well understood during a vacation, which is a very different goal than someone who is being transferred into a long term job in New York City by their company and wants to achieve a native-like accent.
Next, be prepared!
Make sure you have practiced explaining how you work on accent modification. You want to be able to explain naturally what you do and how you do it. Have your facts and plan down pat, know your pricing and offers. Most of us have had clients we’ve done mirror work with, now it’s our turn. Don’t be afraid to turn on your camera and watch yourself as you give your pitch. Practice, practice, practice. Focus on everything from how you maintain eye contact even though you may have to look at the camera, to how your background and area around you looks.
Last, make your sale!
Now that you have shared with them what you can do, they’re excited, and you’re ready to move on, close the deal. When I first started in private practice, I would say something like “Well, let me know if you want to work with me on that.” and let them go. This is the wrong approach. Again, it frames it wrong. I was not making it easy for them to move forward. Now I say something more along the lines of “It sounds like we have a great plan for going forward, Is this a good time for you on a weekly basis?” In this case if they say no, they are saying no to the time, which is something I can easily adjust to better suit their needs. My goal is to close the meeting with a planned time for my new client and I to start our sessions.
So now everything is finished, right? Not so fast! It is always good form to send a follow-up email for two purposes. First, to confirm your plan (including rates), and second to provide your client with any forms you need signed prior to the first session and any handouts or other materials they need. It is wise to have everything in writing in case later there is any disagreement about what was discussed, and the more quickly you do it the fresher the information will be in both of your minds.
Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas for how to go about converting leads into clients. I know that as a Speech-Language Pathologist it was a steep learning curve for me to effectively sell my services, so even if you are nervous or unsure just know that many of us have been in that same position! You can do this!