Karol Ward, LCSW offers advice for building your practice through the use of good communication skills.

by Karol Ward, LCSW

A while back, I caught an interview on a local talk show where a nutritionist was discussing some general tips on how we could improve our diets. At one point the host of the show said something to the effect of, “I’ve noticed that more people are incorporating salads into their meals.”  The nutritionist turned to her and said, “Not nearly enough.” There was an awkward pause and I could almost see the host figuring out what to do with that sentence because she now had a choice. She could either get into a discussion on how the public was not doing enough or continue offering suggestions to improve within the time frame. She went with the later and the interview drew to a close. I remember thinking that the guest, perhaps unintentionally, had turned off some potential new clients.

As practitioners we work very hard to create the kind of practice that supports us financially and meets the needs of our clients. We go to school, do internships, attend conferences and put tremendous energy into maintaining our businesses.  We chose the healing professions because we want to give to others and help then reach optimum health in mind, body and spirit. But we don’t want to lose sight of how we can maintain and build our practices through the use of good communication skills.

One of the ways we build our practices is through referrals from current clients and word of mouth. Those are excellent methods to expand your business and don’t require much effort.  However, if you want to take your practice to the next level, you can do so by fine tuning an important aspect of communication. Matching the description of your services to what the general public is telling you they need.

In the story I mentioned above, the nutritionist missed an important opportunity to communicate her expertise; using the opening offered by the host and taking it to the next level. I call it the spring board effect, which is where you acknowledge what is being expressed to you and then use it as a starting point to expand upon your topic. It’s a tool that’s a staple in improvisational comedy. In improv, when an actor says something to you, the standard rule is to affirm whatever the other performer says, use the information and move on from there. It’s what keeps the sketch going. You want to do the same when you are in conversation with potential new clients.

Communicating your services to an audience beyond your current base includes listening for the issues that are on their minds and using those concerns to genuinely offer help. Notice how the news media is using terms to describe what people are going through these days.  I’ve seen words such as stress, housing anxiety, financial worry and depression. These are the issues being written about both in print and on line. Those who follow these outlets start to incorporate and use the language being expressed. These are and become the concerns that the general public is talking about.

So if you hear these issues being raised by people you meet, how can you adjust your explanation of what you do, to address those needs? In the story above, the nutritionist, using the spring board method, could have said, “Yes, people are making the effort to have more salads and that’s a great way to incorporate more vegetables in their diet. I’ve also taught many of my clients, who are super busy how to add even more greens by juicing. I’ve got some delicious recipes and easy ways to juice on my website and let me share one with you now.” In this imagined conversation, the guest agrees with the host’s statement, uses it to expand on the topic, directs consumers to her website and then offers a specific suggestion for the listening audience.

I’m sure there are many aspects of what you do that provides relief. Think about how your acupuncture, massage, cranial sacral or nutritional services can alleviate what is affecting many people today. Here are some questions and suggestions to help you prepare.

  • How can you adjust the explanation of your skills to match the current issues on the publics mind?
  • In what specific ways does your service offer support?
  • What’s one general suggestion that you give away for free?
  • What’s one anecdote that you can share that illustrates the effectiveness of your work?

You already have the desire to help and now it’s only a matter of listening for the verbal cues in order to get the dialogue started. When you do so, both you and your potential client are seen and heard. Your new audience base will feel you understand and get what’s concerning them. In turn, you won’t feel limited in what you can talk about because you can spring board the conversation forward. This will allow you to communicate your services, reach new audiences, and expand your practice.

Karol Ward, LCWS  is a communication consultant and author of Find Your Inner Voice: Using Instinct and Intuition Through the Body-Mind Connection, which is to be published by Career Press in January 2009.  For more information on Karol, go to www.karolward.com.

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