|The Business of Private Practice|
Four Tips for Serving Your ‘Customers’
By Deb Legge, PhD CRC LMHC
Private practice is a business. Like most businesses, clinical mental health counselors have customers. As service professionals, however, we make a distinction between our “clients” (those for whom we provide clinical services) and our “customers” (referral sources, people who hire us to speak or write, and businesses for which we consult).
1. Find out what your customers need.
Meeting a potential source for referrals, handing them a stack of cards, and asking for referrals usually doesn’t generate more business (clients). How can you tell people that you can help them until you know what they need?
best help. You might be surprised at what you hear. The collaboration might spark a synergy that brings about great ideas. At the very least, right from the start you are showing your prospects that you care, and you are willing to listen to their needs; you are there to serve. (Consider this quote attributed to author and motivational speaker Simon O. Sinek: “There is a difference between offering a service and being willing to serve. They may both include giving, but only one is generous.”)
2. Develop trust and credibility with your customers over time.
People want to do business with people who are highly regarded in their field. You must become an authority. To do that, establish yourself as a likable expert in your field. When making a decision, best-selling author Michael Port says people follow a consecutive series of steps:
(Port’s 2013 book is, “Book Yourself Solid Illustrated: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling.”)
3. Let customers know you are willing to help.
As you are building your relationships with potential referral sources over time, you will have opportunities to let them know whom you serve and what you do. Most important, you will be able to let them know why you do it.
4. Offer “invest-able” opportunities to your customers based on the level of trust you’ve achieved.
You can’t expect to be a primary referral source based on an email or a brochure. In fact, you may have to reach out to help for a time (offering to write an article or newsletter, doing a free Q&A on a relevant topic, providing information) in ways that will help you establish trust and credibility.
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