Michael Gaeta

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Using Free Consultations to Grow and Expand Your Practice

A free consultation is a wonderful way to connect with a potential patient, and market your practice in a professional and ethical way. In-office or phone consultations demonstrating qualities of caring, patience and understanding make you a practitioner who attracts clients who resonate with your purpose and approach, instead of one just working to lure them in. Let’s look specifically at how and why to use free consultations to grow and expand your practice.

Free consults are frequently used by professionals in various fields to make it safe for people to contact them at no risk, no cost and no obligation. It invites people to make an initial contact. Consults are a tasteful thing to offer in your marketing materials and website. Your conversion rate from initial inquiry to appointment is higher with successful free consultations. They help you become a practitioner who is a magnet, who attracts people who are a good fit for your practice. Since consultations often happen by phone, developing strong phone presence is important.

A consultation is not an evaluation. It is perhaps 15 minutes spent with a person to assess their needs, goals and concerns, and explain if and how you can help. It is designed for those who are unsure if your approach is the right one for them. The potential client is at no risk and invests nothing but time. Block off fifteen minutes in the schedule for your free consultations, and see if that is a good amount of time for you. Inform the prospective client of your time frame. Don’t rush, and set aside enough time, because in terms of a complete course of long-term care, this could be a conversation worth several thousand dollars.

Here are some specifics that make for a good consult:

  1. Start by asking an open-ended question like, “What brings you here?” or “How can I help?” This is also a good opening question for your initial evaluations.
  2. Listen attentively and patiently, but use clarifying or redirecting questions to keep the consultation from going too long.
  3. Explain your approach to patient care—how it works, and how it will benefit the client and her specific condition. Be sure to start with your “Why” – your purpose or reason for working with people as a health professional. Knowing and communicating why you do this work is one of the most powerful invitations to those who might resonate with you and your practice.
  4. Estimate the cost of treatments and supplements. Speak with confidence and clarity.
  5. Give an overview of the frequency of treatments – more frequent visits at first, tapering off to maintenance/wellness/.preventative care as they improve.
  6. Ask if the prospective patient has any questions about your approach.
  7. Ask if she would like to make an appointment. Whether or not an appointment is made, be sure to provide educational literature about your practice, and nutrition. The Standard Process brochures “Are You Feeding Your Body,” and the DVD “Why You Need Whole Food Supplements” (available at no charge from SP), are great pieces to give to a potential or new patient. Thank the person for her time. If she is not ready to make an appointment, tell her that you will be glad to help when she is ready.

Then ask if the prospective client has any further questions. Repeat this question until all of their concerns are addressed, then ask if they would like to make an appointment (very important!).

During free consultations, you don’t need to take notes, do a physical exam, or conduct a detailed history or assessment. Save all of that for your initial evaluation. Keep the tone of the consult relaxed, and have an intention to be fully present, ask good questions, and listen well. The prospective patient is carefully sizing you up in a free consult, with the perspective that how you treat them in this initial exploratory visit is how you will treat them if they become your patient. If they feel cared for, respected, heard, accepted and understood, then you did a great job!

From the perspective of medical ethics, a free consultation is also an opportunity for you to ask yourself, “Is this person is a good fit for me, someone I can help, someone that I can enter into a successful therapeutic relationship with?” “Can I actually help this person, within my scope of experience, training and expertise?” Knowing our limitations as practitioners and not taking on cases that are beyond our abilities is essential to ethical practice.

In a free consultation, since you have not yet taken them on as a patient, you also have no obligation to begin working with them, and can decide not to do so for any reason. As one chiropractic professor said, “I don’t just want new patients. I want good patients.” In other words, people who resonate with your care, and are willing to actively participate and take responsibility for their own healing process.

One day, in my first year of practice 23 years ago, a new patient came in seeking a natural treatment for her colon cancer. I clearly explained that I do not treat cancer, but rather provide natural therapies and nutritional support to patients with and without cancer, to promote healing and repair, by supporting their own innate healing ability. I also referred her back to her oncologist to discuss treatment options, and explained that the care I provide can work alongside conventional treatments that she might choose. Appropriate referral is a key to safe and ethical practice.

Consultations are a low-risk way to help you and the potential client decide if you are a good fit for each other, if their condition is within your skill set, and sets a strong foundation for a successful long-term therapeutic relationship. Start sharing this opportunity to connect with you in your community, and watch your practice grow!

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