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Physical therapy: Sales for recovery not money

May 6, 2020 • Orthopaedics • Nick Rainey

Sales has a negative connotation which can elicit reflexive negative responses. (Kind of like we teach the body’s response to past painful stimulus, huh?) It’s hip (and for good reason) to discuss the importance of therapeutic alliance for achieving results with patients. Basically, the patient needs to trust the provider and believe the plan of care will help them. This is precisely what good sales is. The person buying must feel that what they’re buying will help them with their desired goal. Most often we need the patient to buy some type of change. Either change in understanding of pain. Change in lifestyle. Performing a HEP. Are we going to achieve all this first session? Probably not. What’s the most important thing to accomplish first session outside of screening for emergency red flags? Get the patient to come back for a second session. If not, the person isn’t buying what you are selling.

Principle 1: Really understand

Recently my wife called a company to get a question answered. He tried to sell her on a package that is more than double what we are currently spending and isn’t solving a problem we are having. She tells me she didn’t even listen to him. There may be some things that he could benefit us with, but he was more interested in selling his service instead of solving our problems. It is vital our patients know we understand what their problem is. We need to match their language; use their words; clarify that we’re on the same page.

Principle 2: Get their head nodding

The classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie  references Influencing Human Behavior by Harry Overstreet. He describes the importance of avoiding a “no” response. “The entire organism- glandular, nervous, muscular- gathers itself together into a condition of rejection.” All salesmen know we want people nodding and saying “yes”. If we’re working to bring about change, we need multiple positive reactions. The goal is for them to continue nodding when we bring up change in thoughts or actions that would have been received with a head shake if not properly framed and set-up.

Principle 3: Ask for the sale

All good salesmen know you have to ask for the sale. If you hope they ask you to purchase what you’re selling then you will be finding another job as a salesman. How does this look in the clinic?

  • Will you do this exercise at home?
  • What do you think about the information we’ve gone over today?
  • Do you believe what I’ve told you?
  • Will you call the psychologist that I recommended?

The key with asking for the sale is that we confront the issue we are addressing. When a salesman is working with you their number one goal is to make a sale. When a physical therapist is working with a patient their number one goal is to elicit change. The change must be confronted and any barriers to that change. We can’t hope that they make the connections in their head.

As physical therapists we need a good therapeutic alliance with our patients. We need to understand them. We need to help them to buy in. We have to sell for recovery. If we really understand their problem, get them nodding, and ask for the sale we will have sold for recovery.

Nick Rainey

Nick Rainey is a physical therapist and a fitness, wellness, and sports performance professional. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University, earning his Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science, with minors in Nutrition and Business Management in 2011. Nick earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo,...

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