To practice our therapy skills, there must be someone who has a problem, or a question, or a wondering that we can help. We need clients to practice with.
There are basically two ways in which to find clients:
- Someone hires us to see clients that they have available, or
- We find them ourselves.
I am aware from talking with practitioners, that marketing is something they find really difficult. And I find it curious that we want to do the work, but don’t want to do the work of finding the work. (There is a simple solution to this by the way – choose option 1, and let someone else find the clients for you!)
Shying away from marketing we demonise one side of a pair, the work is good, but the finding of it, or the looking for it, or the asking for it is bad.
I read somewhere recently that sales and marketing people are modern day spell casters. That they mesmerise us with their word pictures, conjuring up images of a future we can’t live without. The description stayed with me. I think of the amazing creativity that goes into advertisements, particularly on the big screen, and I can feel myself coming under their spell.
But then there’s also the pushy sales and marketing tactics of which we all have experience. I think of the stereotype of the second-hand car salesman, and all the jokes that used to be told, all of which reinforce the idea that if someone is selling second hand cars, they must be dodgy and dishonest. Incidentally, I was reminded of this recently when the motor dealer that sold me my last car rang me to ask if I would consider selling it, as they had an interested buyer. My ego would love to believe that someone can’t wait to give me money for my car, but since I drive a small, 6-year-old runabout, I think it’s most unlikely. The rational part of me suspects that a more likely scenario is that the dealer would like to sell ME a new car, and buying my old one off me is one way to do that. Still, I can admire the creativity of the approach. And then there’s the people who call to my door and who phone me, refusing to take no for an answer. The internet advertising company that used to ring on a regular basis have thankfully stopped, but not before I had to ask them to take my name off their cold call list or I would go to the regulator.
All of these experiences, especially those that are intrusive and bordering on bullying, can lead us to make negative judgements about marketing. And not wanting to be associated with visiting a similar experience on other people, we can then shy away from it altogether.
Walking down a shopping street in Budapest recently, Vaci Utca, looking for somewhere to have lunch, I was observing the different selling styles and the impact they were having on me. Some restaurants had salespeople out in the street, stopping shoppers and asking them would they like something to eat, and then before getting an answer, jumping in to tell them all the various delights in store. Others were less direct, but still obvious, waiting for the shopper to show some interest before pouncing on them with the menu. Some venues preferred the subtle approach. The menus were displayed outside, and no one approached you until you crossed the threshold and clearly indicated that you wanted to sit down.
There are as many choices about how you sell your services, as there are choices of places to have lunch. You can do the hard sell, the soft sell or the no-sell. The choice is up to you. The only constraints are those laid down by your professional body, and of course, your own internal constraints.
I watched those sellers in Vaci Utca, and I also observed my reactions to them. I didn’t want to gratify the hard sellers. I found their approach intrusive and off putting. I prefer the subtler approach, I prefer to be wooed, and I prefer to make up my own mind, out of the pressurised space where the seller is demanding an answer of me. I know my own lack of trust in myself in this. I have in the past made up my mind too quickly, and at times it has cost me dearly. At other times, I have deferred making a decision, and later regretted it. Which just goes to show I can’t get it right by making a rule!
In this case, I didn’t get as far as deciding about what they were offering, which could have been fabulous. I said “No,” purely based on their approach to me. However, I also noticed that others were not unanimously with me on that. All of the approaches worked for some potential diners.
Hard-nosed sales techniques continue to be used because they deliver results. The fact that I don’t like them does not make those people wrong or bad, but it does make them a less than ideal fit for me. If I had no choice, if for example, they were the only restaurant open when I wanted lunch, I might be very glad to avail of their food.
What is the moral of this ramble? The point is that there are horses for courses. There are clients to suit all types of therapists. There are marketing and sales techniques that suit all types of therapists and all types of clients. All methods can be effective if they are congruent with the person using them, and the person with whom they are being used. We each need to find our own level in it, and find a strategy and an approach that works for us.