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You’ve probably heard it before the old ‘I’ve had a similar treatment elsewhere’ and the ‘I do not want to be sold to’, lines which make us cringe and curl back into our therapist shell. While it’s an awkward start to the treatment and stunts your client connection, I’m not even mad about it.

The way we have been treating the client consultation over the past 5 years is laughable. Imagine this; you ask the client to come in 15 minutes out of their day to ‘fill out a consultation form’, they arrive early, they complete the form and then the therapist skims over it for two minutes before leaving it in the staff kitchen. Therapist guides client into treatment room and client is asked the same old boring questions she’s been asked by every therapist ever, all of which mind you, have already been answered in the consultation form she came in 15 minutes early to complete! It’s no wonder the client ‘doesn’t want a consultation’ anymore – who can blame them?

From this stems the ‘she’s just a beauty therapist’ line, where clients think we sit around painting nails and doing make up all day, which is valid enough reason for them to not take us seriously when we perform diagnosis and prescription to solve their skin concerns. Enter low retail moving from our shelves and poor rebooking rates.

When we look at any other profession which consults; doctors, chiropractors, physiotherapists – the list goes on – at no time would a client ever refuse a consultation from their practitioner. In fact, in many of those cases, they’re actually having to pay for the consultation time!

So, what do we do? Giving in is not an option, because we are then risking the heath of the client and outcome of the treatment, but insisting can leave a client disgruntled prior to treatment, which too can take time on our appointment schedule.

What we need to do, is learn how to perform a consultation like a professional. We need to learn how to read the client card, ask savvy and open ended questions, and then listen for hearing rather than responding, while too reading our clients behavioural and body language

Let us start with reading the consultation form – which can’t be done without a highlighter.

When the client card is handed over to you from the receptionist, pick up a highlighter and highlight the client concern. We will use ‘breakouts’ as the concern for the use of this example.

From here, quickly skim through the consultation form and highlight everything your client has ticked or filled out that would directly influence their concern of breakouts.

You’ll want to take particular notice on lifestyle contributions like their occupation, their age, their daily environment, food and water intake, any cravings they may have, their stress levels and any cheeky drinks or caffeine they might sip on throughout the week. Questions like their past treatment history and their use of the contraceptive pill, menopause or pregnancy would all be highlighted during this time because they can all have a direct influence on the concern. These highlighted areas are now in your ‘bank’ and you are more prepared to ask about them when you’re having the conversation with the client.

As a treating therapist seeing your client on a monthly basis, we only have the capacity to see them for one hour maximum out of the other 720 hours that are in that month. This is why we put such emphasis on their lifestyle factors, over the products that they’re using. It’s what they’re doing day to day that is actually contributing to their concern.

For example, I’ll use my own lifestyle to draw you a picture. If you were to look at my consultation card in front of you right now, you would see that my stress levels are high because I have three arms of a business to run, I drink coffee of a morning and gin and tonic of an evening. I work in either my office with air conditioning where I sit next to a large window, or i’m out of the state travelling in planes where I always choose the window seat. In the mornings I run and complete a workout before having a shower and I always eat a piece of toast with avocado and a poached egg for breakfast.

While my product routine is extremely consistent and I have treatments every single month for our mystery shopping reports, I still have a concern of pigment. So in fact it’s not the product i’m using or the treatments I’m having which is causing the pigment, it’s the coffee, the alcohol, the running, the stress, the carbohydrates and the stress that is causing my pigment.

Can you see how important it is to gather this information during the consultation?

Open ended questions are your new best friend.

Typically, we tend to ‘confirm’ the answers the client has filled out, rather than exploring them further. For example, a therapist may confirm, “So Mary you have written here that you are on the contraceptive pill? That’s no problem!” or, “Mary, you’re having microdermabrasion treatments regularly? That’s a great start!”. These kinds of statements do absolutely nothing for your client connection nor explore where their concern is actually being created.

Try asking questions such as, “So Mary, I see you are taking the contraceptive pill – how long have you been taking this for, and is it for control of the breakouts, or purely for contraception purposes?” or “It’s great that you’re having microdermabrasion treatments – how regularly are you having these, and are they specifically for the management of the breakouts or just for maintenance?” These questions will have your client opening up the conversation and will give you more clues as to how you can further help them with product and service recommendations.

Our favourite open ended questions start with the T.E.D acronym, which stands for Tell Me, Explain to Me and Describe for Me – which will have you engaging with your client in no time.

During the time you are asking these questions, be sure to take lots of notes and hold all of your information to the end of the consultation, in fact hold it until you’ve cleansed and touched their skin and you’re about to perform your diagnosis – more of which we will be speaking about next week!

By holding your education, you are showing you’re client that you’re listening to them to hear what they’re saying to better understand them, rather than hearing to speak and presenting like a salesperson.

Watching your clients behaviour as they answer the questions is a big advantage during any conversation. If they are giving you short, sharp answers and their arms are folded, you’ll need to give them short, sharp sentences in return and get straight to the point during your diagnosis. If they’re getting distracted while chatting away about the weekend and mentioning their friends product and treatment recommendations, then you’ll most likely have someone who is quite interested in the latest trending products, and they may be drawn in by scents and colours, as an example.

One of our all time favourite consultation friends is the OBSERVE 520 who has 6 different observation modes, which will allow any therapist to gather further information that might be going on within the skin. The Observ allows you to see a Day light setting: how the skin is seen in a natural daylight environment. A parallele polarised mode which focuses on fine lines, wrinkles, texture and pores. The Cross polarised mode suppresses surface shine of the skin for an unobstructed view of vascular, pigment, inflammation, while your true UV setting shows what the sun sees which is our sun damage.

There is also a traditional woods lamp mode -and last but not least, our favourite setting which is the complexion analysis picture, which layers the previous 5 pictures on top each other giving you the 15 year plan also known as; if you did nothing today, this is what the skin would look like in 15 years – the ultimate lightbulb moment for the client!

By utilising visual diagnosis tools like the OBSERV 520 you are turning what may be a treatment client into lifetime client; so this is the first step of your seed planting – more on this next week. In your consultsation with the observ, figure out client priorities and skin goals such as pigmentation or an event for example. Your consultation with the OBSERV shouldn’t take more than 15 – 30 minutes for a brand new client, and even less if you’re doing a treatment review mid package because of the before and after modes, to show your client the progress you have achieved together. If you’re concerned about the investment of the OBSERV 520, you can charge for consults like most other beauty spaces do with the price of $49 which is often redeemable on product and service.

So let’s recap what we have learnt;

1. Put the things your client is doing to create their concern into the ‘bank’ by highlighting them prior to asking about them so you’re prepared for the conversation.

2. Ask open ended questions and use the T.E.D acronym to help start the question.

3. Mirror your clients behaviour. However they are giving you answers, is how you need to respond to them.

We would love to hear how you go with your new consultation techniques. Did you find they helped you better engage with your client? Did you find out more about their concern then perhaps you would have? Let us know by dropping us a comment!

Stay tuned for next week’s piece on performing a diagnosis and educating your client and don’t forget to tune into our Podcast, which further explores the conversation with Tamara Reid, Founder of Beaute Industrie.