Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fear of The Follow-Up

Does this sound like you? 

You dread listening to your voicemail and having to return a new client call. 

You see outdated information on your website or your therapy profile, and you feel tired and apathetic.

You call a potential client or referral source and they don't answer, so you never try them again. 

It's a depressing way to be. You always feel like you're just "missing the boat." That no one likes you and wants your services. That you're lost. 

But it doesn't have to be that way. Once you know what you're looking at, the problem is quite solveable. 

So what are you looking at? I call it the "Fear of the Follow-Up."

Whether you're a newbie looking for hours or a private practice counselor needing financial support, we all must have clients to succeed in our business. ;) But we're unknowingly sabotaging ourselves by with this fear - a fear most of us don't even realize we have.

But this fear results in:
  • Clients not booking appointments.
  • Being unable to pay your bills. 
  • Plummeting self-esteem
Fear of the follow-up comes from a place within most counselors - most people, in fact - that hates to "bother someone else." We're afraid of being pushy, or sales-y. We don't want to sound like we have an agenda.

Those are all excellent things to avoid. But they don't necessarily correlate with following up. 

Following up is really just checking in. 

"Hi, so-and-so, I saw that you said you were going to call me back about making an appointment with me, but I don't have one on the books yet. Were you still interested in doing that?"

There's a bunch of easy ways you can accomplish the goal of following up without being pushy. Try this simple formula, accompanied with a patient, easy tone, and tell me for yourself whether it doesn't take away some of the fear of the follow up.

To segue into a follow up, simply reference the point from which your first contact was made. This might be when they called and chatted with you briefly, requested a phone call on your website, left a message on your machine, or requested through someone else, like a family member, that you give them a call. 

Then, after catching up to speed with their situation, ask them something along these lines: "Were you ready to make that appointment we talked about?" "Did you say Tuesday was good for you?" "If you still need more time to think about it that's fine, but we could also put something on the books and you have 24 hours before to cancel it if you like." 

None of these is rude, aggressive, or takes away the client's free will. 

After all, if someone reaches out to you to set up an appointment, they're displaying interest. If you follow-up with them once, and they don't reach back, or you never follow-up with them and they don't call back, it doesn't necessarily mean they're not interested. 

Instead, it could mean they're:
  • Tired.
  • Distracted.
  • On vacation.
  • Working.
  • Voicemail is full.
  • Walking the dog.
You get the idea. If they don't want what you have to offer, there's nothing in calling them and gently asking them if they're ready to make an appointment that will force them to meet with you. In fact, most of them will be grateful that you cared enough to encourage them to follow through with their plan. (Sometimes, clients have fear of the follow-up too!)

I wish I remembered the exact moment when I stopped being wishy-washy and started assertively following up with potential clients. But I do remember the first difference that happened when I put the power of the follow-up into play. 

Clients started making appointments. It was that simple. And I believe that it can be the same for you. I'd love to have you try it in your own practice and tell me what you think. 

Has fear of the follow-up ever cost you in your private practice? How did you deal with it? 

This is #6 of the 9 Ways You Are Sabotaging Your Private Practice And How To Stop. Listen to it by signing up here and going to our Facebook group through Thursday at 7c/8e.