This article is the third step of a five-part series on building PT ambassadors in communities throughout America: Step I | Step II | Step III | Step IV | Step V

There are a few things I can say with confidence about physical therapists.

The first is that we're helpers. We got into this profession to help people. We do it every day and every way under the sun. We love people, and — generally speaking — people love us, too.

We're also smart. We've worked hard to get to where we are, and we've relied on the stuff between our ears to get us here. There's a lot to know, and we know a lot.

And we're teachers — smart helpers who share their knowledge can help the world. Most of what we do has an educational component, even when it means helping our patients to not need us in the first place. Definitely not business 101 — I mean, who does that?

So why don't we use this inherent trifecta to bring patients in the door? We can, and we should.

If you've been following this series, you'll recall that we're discussing a five-step process for building PT ambassadors throughout America. First, we discussed the need to establish awareness. If they don't know we’re here, we've nobody to sell to.

Next, we discussed engagement. Some estimates indicate we're exposed to as many as 6,000 brands per day. Awareness as but one of those 6,000 brands isn't quite enough. Engagement through two-way conversation is what allows us to develop relationships that stand out. It's a fun part of the process, and it sets the stage for today's topic: education.

Let's first look at the stepwise merit of educating only after engagement.

Imagine for a moment that I'm a street vendor (secret dream job). From my cart, I sell jewelry. It's made locally, and I have a diverse assortment of stones, metals and accessories. I've been doing this a long time, so I know lots about the jewelry, and I only sell quality stuff.

My buyers are diverse as well, and they buy for all kinds of reasons — some as gifts for loved ones, others as personal accessories, etc. Often times they just buy on impulse — they see something they like, and it's at the right price.

And herein lies the challenge. I've got a lot I can sell, a lot of people I can sell to, and they buy for a lot of different reasons — feeling the parallel? It's a blessing and a curse, but mostly a curse unless I know what to sell to whom.

While I know a lot about the gold I sell, if I spend time educating a customer who only wears silver, I've wasted my time and theirs. My gems are outstanding, too, but if I don't learn that a potential customer has wife with a birthday coming up, I've lost the opportunity to educate him on our birthstone selection.

Education after engagement provides us with the opportunity to know what to educate and to whom. We can teach to what they need (better yet, what they want) to learn. It's an important step to helping others with our knowledge. Also, to selling.

So how do we do it? Here's a simple road map.

  • Pace yourself
  • Teach one thing at a time
  • Keep regular office hours

Pace yourself

Education takes time. Remember, we're operating on the heels of a two-way engagement that has successfully developed a trusting relationship. Rushing the education process — put simply — doesn't work.

To continue down the path toward the sale, trust must always be at the forefront. In our world, our customers (or precustomers) are vulnerable. Skittish. They can spook easily if you rush them.

It takes time to understand the value of what we do. If our services were free it may be a different story, but we're not cheap and our clients know this. So we have to give them time to understand fully what we can do for them, and how we are one of the best investments they can make in themselves.

So don't rush it.

Teach one thing at a time

Let me start with an acknowledgement. We must contend with the curse of knowledge, passion and energy.

As stated above, we want to help people we love through all the stuff we know. Unfortunately, without a conscious filter that only educates in small chunks, we can also overload our clientele by becoming a verbal fire hydrant. And our clients don't like to drink from the fire hose.

Teaching one thing at a time doesn't overwhelm our clients. It allows them to better understand our value, and it also gives us the opportunity to continue to engage the relationship by sharing information over time. A little today, a little tomorrow ... and some next week or month.

Teach your clients to fish, but don't try to do it in one lesson. You'll both starve.

Keep regular office hours

Most of our schooling didn't happen in the lecture hall. True knowledge made its way into our brains by way of study groups, library time and professors' office hours. The same applies to those you are educating.

Give them some information that will help them, then make yourself available to answer questions and fill in the gaps as they occur. And they will.

Even the smartest educator in the world can't compete with an educator who simply makes him or herself available. Office hours — as institutional as they may sound — are the key to relationships that will not only transfer knowledge, but will also lead to the sale. And the sale — the pièce de résistance — is what we're here for, right?

Next week, we'll dive into just this — converting the sale. Inking the deal. Making it happen. It's why we're here after all. Without the sale, we're merely potential unrealized — not value itself.