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Massage Today
January, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 01

Are You Convinced?

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

Massage therapy comes as a second career for many people. Often, a large part of our identity is wrapped up in that previous profession. However, times have changed and many people are coming to this profession first.

That thrills me because massage therapy is being considered a viable career path. However, if you are young and coming to massage therapy from your primary education, you still might have your identity invested in other things. Either way, if you are not comfortable with whom you are in this new role, how can others be? It's hard to successfully market oneself for a new position you are not yet completely comfortable in. If I may borrow an analogy, it's like putting on someone else's overcoat. It will suffice, but doesn't quite fit right.

It takes a certain amount of effort and time to make that mental transition; to convince yourself you are a now a massage therapist. I had a similar experience coming from a corporate career that I had been in since college. It was all I knew, and for many years, it was my identity. It was hard for me to introduce myself as a massage therapist without some sort of internal giggle. Was I really a massage therapist? Could I pull it off? Did I sound convincing? Add to that the fact I was so elated with my new identity; I was already giddy. What I found was not that I had to convince others; rather, I had to convince myself.

In the big picture of marketing, convincing yourself of your new profession seems like a natural place to start. If you are ambivalent about whom you are and what you are doing for your profession, no one else will be convinced. You must be secure in the product you are bringing to the table if you want the public to react favorably. In this case, you are the product. You have to know what you are selling and be able to communicate it. If you hesitate about your new profession, others will pick up on the insecurity and the initial impact of the first impression will be diminished. The first contact with a prospective client must be positive. There should be no wavering about whom you are or what you can offer. Your interaction must be clear and compelling for it to be truly successful. You know the saying: "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression."

Consider the following example. You run into an old friend from college. You have not seen each other in a few years and you have no idea what they are doing for their profession, so you ask them. With a weak and indecisive answer, they tell you they are in business for themselves. The type of business is irrelevant if the answer is unsure and faltering. Are you anxious to utilize their product? Do you feel comfortable and secure about their ability to provide good service? Suppose their response is upbeat and affirmative. Would your reaction be different? If they express themselves with enthusiasm and eagerness, would you want to learn more and invite a dialogue?

Put yourself in the same situation. You run into a friend you have not seen for a while. They ask you what you are doing now. Do you have an answer? Does your answer sound secure? Is your dialogue filled with "ums" and "you knows"? Do you meet eyes, or do you stare around in other directions? Do you sound convinced about what you do? Say to yourself, "I am a massage therapist." How does that feel to you? Only you can answer these questions and judge what your feelings are. If they are less than convincing and there is any hesitation, practice is needed. If you feel confident, you are ready to continue.

I am a big believer in having a "canned response" for the question, "What do you do for a living?" The question comes up all the time. From the dinner party to the kid's soccer games, it's the number-one greeting question. Are you prepared with an answer? Remember, the average attention span is about 30 seconds, and in that time, you can attract a new client, educate someone about massage or lose the opportunity completely. Your words and the way you relay them have the power - so why not be prepared?

This is not to say the answer needs to be a monologue or sound like it was rehearsed. Rather, a prepared response should roll off your tongue and not have to be labored over. It should be sincere and come from the heart. It should show enthusiasm for your work and be articulate. It can be altered for the audience and the event. However, the basic outline can be memorized and perfected for any occasion.

I encourage my students to practice their "spiel" and have several versions in their bag of marketing tricks. This usually is one of the homework assignments and is done in front of the class. Through teaching and watching students present their spiel, I have found that many of them get tongue-tied saying "Swedish massage." Try it yourself. How does it sound? Now, imagine being nervous. When a situation is charged, wouldn't you prefer to know the phrases that hang you up? If you can't say it well, don't say it. Instead, I offer the solution of saying "Swedish-based massage," and it works great!

Often, my students approach me about how difficult or silly this exercise seems. Only after they graduate do they recognize the importance of the activity, and many have thanked me for forcing them to do it in the first place. Of course, your spiel will evolve as you evolve in the profession. That's the fun. Keep practicing and stay focused.

Click here for previous articles by Jenn Sommermann, LCMT.


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