After more than 20 years in private practice, and then having the privilege of mentoring hundreds of private practice professionals through Relationship Coaching Institute and MillionDollarPractice.net, I have learned five secrets and five distinctions that are critically important to getting clients and building a successful practice:
Distinction #1. Practice vs. Business
Your practice is helping your clients. Your business is all the other stuff that comes with the territory of being in private practice, such as paperwork, billing, marketing, etc.
Why is this distinction important? Most private practice professionals prefer to work with their clients and resist some or most business activities, which can seriously sabotage a practice.
Recommendation: Identify business activities you resist and find ways to implement them effectively.
Secret #1: Your business will take care of you, only if you take care of it.
Distinction #2. Marketing vs. Sales
Marketing is communicating what you do, which will generate prospects. Sales is converting prospects to clients.
Why is this distinction important? You can market till the cows come home, and not get any clients! Many private practice professionals resist selling, which becomes an obstacle to getting clients.
Recommendation: Implement effective strategies for converting prospects to clients that fit your values and personality.
Secret #2: Marketing, by itself, will not fill your practice.
Distinction #3. Selling vs. Enrollment
Selling usually refers to attempting to influence someone to buy a tangible product. Enrollment is building a relationship with a prospective client and inviting them to work with you.
Why is this distinction important? Many private practice professionals feel like they are “selling” themselves and are uncomfortable with the enrollment process, and as a result struggle to get clients.
Recommendation: Reframe “selling” to “enrollment” and focus on authentically connecting with your prospective clients, being of service to them, and building your relationship with them.
Secret #3: Be “The Chooser.” Fill your practice by enrolling the clients you want to work with.
Distinction #4. Your Services vs. The “Real” Product
Your services are what you do to help your clients. The real product, however, is YOU!
Why is this distinction important? You offer a very intimate, personal service that requires your prospective client to like and trust you.
Recommendation: Prioritize connecting with your prospective clients and building your relationship with them individually.
Secret #4: The real product is YOU!
Distinction #5. Bluebirds vs. Boulders
“Bluebirds” are prospects that are so attracted to working with you they almost enroll themselves become clients. “Boulders” are prospects that are interested and attracted, but have reservations and questions and require effort and follow-through to enroll.
Why is this distinction important? Many private practice professionals focus on the bluebirds and don’t follow through with the boulders. They interpret the boulder’s behavior as not interested or ready; then struggle to fill their practice because they don’t have enough bluebirds. Since you offer such a personal, intimate service, many, if not most of your prospects will feel vulnerable and experience fear, and need your support to make the leap to hire you.
Recommendation: Design your marketing and enrollment systems for the boulders, and the bluebirds will follow. Learn and practice effective enrollment strategies to help boulders overcome their fear and resistance.
Secret #5: No-one is successful alone. Just as your boulders need your support, you need support to learn and apply the skills needed to get clients and build your ideal practice.
The common theme of the above secrets and distinctions is that private practice professionals tend to sabotage themselves by focusing on what they want to do, and resisting what they don’t want to do. We want to help our clients and make a difference in the world, and don’t want to put our limited time and energy into activities that take us away from our mission.
Well, what you resist, persists. Much of what we might resist above can be addressed simply by reframing the way we interpret that activity. We might hate selling, but love to connect with people and build relationships, which is effective enrollment. If a prospective client appears genuinely interested and attracted to working with us, but has reservations (a “boulder”) that is NOT the same as someone who is not interested in working with you, and reframing their resistance as fear might be helpful.
It is critically important to understand that marketing alone will not create clients, and we must identify, learn, and practice the skills and attitudes necessary to effectively get clients. They didn’t teach this to you in graduate school, so you must embrace learning to get clients as the final piece necessary to your career success. I recommend taking this as seriously as any graduate school class or professional training and get the information and support you need to be successful.