When a client visits our business for the first time we often do an initial consultation. There is often where we ask for insights into their history. It is here where we seek to understand their preferred outcome. Often there is an expectation issue. Occasionally the client wants to ‘quick fix’ or has an unrealistic timeframe or outcome. Therefore, sometimes we need to start negotiating a consultation to develop an agreed outcome. Negotiating a consultation is a skill. This is something I am looking to explore during this article.
Negotiating a consultation.
What do I mean by this? In simple terms I mean that we have to be honest conversation with another human being about the reality of the situation. At times these conversations can be challenging and awkward. On occasions this can lead to the clinician failing to deliver the full story.
It is not uncommon for me to speak to therapists and they admit avoiding telling the true length of the recovery period. Some are unsure how long some injuries or conditions take to recover. Others may just talk about pain and timeframes to pain free rather than the complete anatomical or physiological (A & P) adaptations the human body takes to make a full recovery. Especially if your goal is based around prevention or reoccurrence.
All because they want to avoid the confrontation this conversation COULD bring.
Therefore, for a true honest consultation sometimes we have to be the bearer of bad news (of the truth about how long the body takes to adapt!!). This means we must begin negotiations. Allowing both parties (therapist and client) to fully understand the roles and responsibilities each have in the treatment journey.
According to the online Oxford English dictionary, negotiation is ‘Discussion aimed at reaching an agreement’. In my opinion, the key words in this are ‘discussion’ and ‘agreement’
A discussion can be described as ‘The action or process of talking about something in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas’. With agreement meaning ‘Harmony or accordance in opinion or feeling; a position or result of agreeing’.
So basically negotiating a consultation means having a chat and coming to an agreement on the actual outcome.
Negotiating the perfect consultation
In our 10 Step Process to the Perfect Client Journey Masterclass, or as a client on the Elevate Program, we explain a perfect consultation is broken down into 3 stages.
- The Consultation
- The Education
- The Plan
This is where we do our listening skills. Seek to understand the issue. What the issue is stopping the client from doing. How much pain they are in. We do our subjective and objective assessments, and all that includes. Then we need to understand what the desired outcome of the client is. Plus the timeframe for this outcome. This can be where the fun starts. (we have all had those who expects the quick fix. “can you not just click it back in?!!!!”).
This is where we can be scientific. We still need to be mindful of the language and choice of words we use. In my opinion, it is not clever to use technical terminology which the client could misunderstand. This can only lead to more issues at a later date. Instead you can use the evidence based timelines for recovery of issue and make it relateable to the client themselves. You can explain the A&P of tendons or muscle recovery or neural adaptions but in a relatable way.
If you find this challenging then this could be an indicator that you lack the depth of knowledge to do that. If this is the case. Get up to date with your learning ASAP!
In my experience, many clients want to understand their issue. Most have googled before they have attended anyway! So this stage must be done correctly and enough time taken to explain it well enough to be understood. If you are unsure if they do. The best question to ask is. “Just for clarity, can you in your own words repeat to me why you have your issue?” You will then know if you are both on the same wavelength or not. If not, explain again in a different way.
Getting this stage right will make the journey to the outcome a more pleasant one and avoids conflict when things fail to go to plan. (Which we know can be often).
This is where we set the timeline for the journey. We start with the outcome at the end and discuss each stages of the recovery journey. Explaining the roles each play in the journey. You can refer back to the science to strength your reasoning.
If you have listened well, educated well, then by this stage there SHOULD not be much negotiating needed. The client should be well informed and therefore an agreement can be made. This become the outcome. I choose to explain two options with the knowledge in some cases plan A can be ineffective so we can move to plan B. In my experience, when I have done this up front and at the first consultation then the majority accept when you need to tweak the plan.
Using FBI negotiation tactics in a consultation
I recently listened to the audio book, Never Split the Difference – Negotiating as if your life depends on it, by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz. Chris talks about his life as a elite FBI negotiator. I will not spoil the book for you but I will summaries. Whether you are negotiating with terrorists or with a customer, the art lies in understanding the other person. What they want from their life. They want to be understood.
In the book, Chris uses many examples of situations where he just listens. In fact the FBI have a team of listeners. All they do is listen! They listen for clues about the person so they can seek to understand them more.
All of us can do this. Chris also goes on to explain the importance of your tone, choice of words you use plus the importance of body language. All the things we explore in our masterclasses.
So next time you are in a consultation, seek to understand and negotiate like the FBI 🙂
Stay brilliant. Andy