This is the second of a five-part series written by BuildPT and Vantage Clinical Solutions founder Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, which first appeared on MultiBriefs.
My good friend Jerry Durham, PT, is known to preach that “it’s all about the conversation.” And he’s right … partially. Tell him I said that.
Said differently, conversations are the gateway to relationships. A step further, relationships are the gateway to sales. Borrowing from some simple algebra, conversations must be a gateway to sales (mathletes, did I get that right?).
My ever-so-slight divergence is that it’s not all about the conversations as we work to build PT ambassadors in our communities. Conversations are but one of five important ingredients. Specifically, it’s number two, and I call it “engagement.”
If you’ve followed from the previous article on “awareness,” you’ll recall that we are today discussing Step 2 of a five-step process that begins with little or no awareness of the value of physical therapy and ends with an ambassador who will amplify our message to all who will listen. We’re building PT by leveraging our natural strengths into a slightly organized and highly effective five-step process.
The five steps in the process are:
In Step 1, we are making ourselves aware. We are top of mind. People know we exist. Even though they might not yet know exactly what we stand for or what we do, they know we are there. And that’s always the first step.
Step 2 builds from this, transitioning our mere awareness into a conversation that engages both us and them. Here, we become human. Relatable. Likeable. It is through this engagement that we will build a relationship strong enough to take us further through the process of building PT ambassadors.
Here’s the three-part engagement recipe:

1. Use their channels

If you’re trying to sell to me, I don’t have time in the day to adapt to you. You need to find me. I do my thing, and those who are able to catch me at the right time and under the right conditions are able to bend my ear.
And the same goes for your [potential] clients. Though the value of our work is undisputed in the circles in which we hang, our clients have lives far beyond us. Especially when we need them more than they [think they] need us.
So we’ve got to meet them where they are.
This means if you want to engage clients who use email, you’d better use email. If your target audience reads the paper, get in the paper. If your targets rarely pull their heads from the virtual world that is social media, get to snapping and chatting. Seriously.
If you’re not using their channels, you’re falling on deaf ears. Falling on deaf ears is not engaging. And you’re not moving yourself toward the sale.

2. Let the conversation be about them

I’m gonna tell you something about me. I like to talk about myself, and I’m not ashamed of it either. I’ve got passion for the things I do and believe in. They are interesting to me. I think they’re great.
But you don’t care. Especially if I’m trying to sell to you. So I need to make the conversation about you. And you need to make it about them.
Ever been in a physician’s office when — given the all-too-precious 30 seconds to speak — you race from top to bottom of every reason under the sun about why you and your practice are the best thing since sliced bread?
Might as well just hand her the sandwich and walk away.
Physicians don’t care about you, they care about themselves. Same with your clients. Same with me. Same with you.
Just because we want to sell something, we are not immune to this fact. If we can’t direct the conversation toward topics that interest our audience, we are again falling on deaf ears. Not good for relationships. And relationships are good for sales.
Do you like dogs? What kind? Sailing? Wow, interesting — tell me about that. Starting a conversation is easy. It’s simply about asking a few interesting questions and allowing the conversation to go in a natural direction. But the questions have to be about them.

3. Be responsive

So, you’ve faced and booked and tweeted and snapped your way into the path of your audience. Then, you’ve successfully posed some great questions that can be answered by anyone but you. On to step three, right?
Not yet.
Perhaps the most challenging (and powerful) part of engaging in conversation happens next. You’ve worked your way into their path, they kinda-maybe-sorta have an interest in you, and they reciprocate with a question or comment of their own.
Now’s your chance. You’re here, you made it. Give the audience what they came for — a response!
The rules of engagement for building PT ambassadors.
Whatever you do, don’t flatline your social media page, your email inbox or your voicemail. It’s easy to do and we’ve all done it before, but it’ll kill the engagement — literally — before it starts. Yep, all that great work for nothing.
If you can’t be on-the-spot when they come calling, hit the pause button and start the five-step process when you can dedicate the time necessary to respond. It’s a critical part of engagement — too critical to leave any chance of failure.
In the next part of this series, I’ll introduce Step 3, the concept of education. We do it every day. It’s in our nature. We love it. Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s use education as the next critical phase of building PT ambassadors.