Oooh, sales. The very idea of selling stuff conjures up images of a slick sales dude, and sends a creepy feeling down my spine.
It used to, anyways. Now I know better. I shied away from selling retail products at my office for years. I was so worried that clients would feel pressured and turned off by retail items, I just refused altogether.
Then clients started asking where they could get the oil, or peppermint foot cream, or Biofreeze® I used during their treatments. And I was suggesting that clients use heat and telling them where to find the best heating pads online. Eventually I was just ordering the products for them and charging them whatever I paid. This was when I realized my Zero Sales policy was silly. Really silly.
So I got my act together, and once I got started, retail sales became less creepy and scary. But let’s start at the beginning.
Why we sell product
If the first and only reason you can come up with is “more income!!!” then please don’t sell stuff. Yes, more money is awesome. But sales, just like massage, should come from a place of service. That’s what keeps it from being icky.
We should sell product to help the client continue feeling good after their treatment and improve their self-care regimen.
We should sell products to be convenient. If I’m going to recommend heat, it’s much more convenient for a client to leave my office with the best heat pack available (Mother Earth Pillows), versus having to go to a store or search around online. And pay for shipping. And wait 5 days for it.
What to sell
Ideally, you’ll sell products that you already use and recommend. If you use a particular lotion or potion that would be great for self-care, sell it to clients to use at home.
If you give stretching or movement homework, what tools can make that easier for clients?
You can get creative here. You don’t have to sell just massage products. Hot and cold packs, tennis balls are great items to sell, right along with foot cream, Biofreeze® and Thera Canes.
Ethics (and what not to sell)
I have a hard opposition to massage therapists selling things like ‘skinny wraps’ or cellulite removal products. It’s not a far stretch for a client to see those products when they walk in the door and then feel like their therapist is looking at and judging their body. My friend Tracy wrote a great post on that here, if you want to explore that more.
I’m also not a fan of Multi Level Marketing (MLM) products. While many of the actual products are great, the nature of those companies, with uplines and membership fees and such, makes me very uncomfortable. There’s a lot of pressure involved in those transactions. I don’t want to be anyone’s dealer and I don’t want that vibe in my office.
Is the product, and its typical usage, in your scope of practice? This can become an issue with supplements or nutritional products. (And it crosses into that ‘do we want to come off like we’re judging bodies’ issue we already discussed.)
Yes, I know your neighbor swears by Shakeology. I know it’s legal for her to sell it, and she’s a bus driver with no health training.
You carry a greater weight. Clients see you as a trusted authority. By selling a product, you are endorsing it. Whether or not we ‘phrase’ suggestions properly, or stipulate that we are not nutritionists, etc., people look to us as an authority in certain areas of health. Take that seriously.
Otherwise, how are you gonna feel when you sell that fancy berry juice to a client, and they stroke out because it messes with their blood thinner? LIABLE. That’s how you’ll feel. Your neighbor the bus driver? She wouldn’t be. She’s just a layperson selling an MLM product. You are a health professional, and you know better.
There are a few hoops to jump through to start selling retail. Depending on your state and town, you may need to collect sales tax, and pay that to the state quarterly. It’s wise to check in with your accountant to get advice before you start. Also, SBA has a great resource here Sales Tax 101 for Small Business Owners and Online Retailers here.
Your state or town may also require a retail license, and you’ll want to be sure your office is zoned for retail sales.
You should also check your liability insurance policy. If a client buys a trigger point tool and hurts themselves, could you end up on the hook for a medical bill?
Be super organized about all the aspects of buying and selling retail products. Set up wholesale accounts with your favorite vendors and keep a record of account numbers and the name of your contact person.
Track inventory so you can, at a glance, know what you have in stock and what your best (and worst) selling items may be.
Use a spreadsheet to record how much you spend on products, how much you sell, and the profit and taxes. You also want to track what items are used in office and what is sold. We even created some spreadsheets to get you started!
Sales doesn’t have to be gross. In fact, I rarely even mention that I sell products. If you present them well, with a good display, you won’t have to. People will ask.
Set up a solid display area. Keep it clean and organized and well-lit. Print out a price list and put in a picture frame that matches your decor.
Use the products in your treatments and have a handful of samples to give away.
In the winter, I’m usually sitting at my desk and wearing the heated neck wrap when my clients walk in the door. They ask about it, I show them the display and explain how the wrap works (microwave, nothing fancy) and they sell themselves.
But I want to hear your stories! What do you sell? Did you make any mistakes when you were getting started? Have you made a decent income from selling products?