Last week’s post about the Paralysis of Analysis – the situation that many almost-professional private patient advocates find themselves in – those who hesitate to take that last step – the step of reaching out to new people and asking for payment for their services – the switch from volunteer (I can do this, I’ve done it dozens of times before) to paid professional, in business, make no excuses, doin’ it for a living paid patient advocacy….
It really struck a nerve.
One advocate wrote and asked whether I’d been reading her diary. Another said she felt like Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver (“You talkin’ to ME?”) A dozen posts in the AdvoConnection Forum (undoubtedly representing dozens of others who read those posts but didn’t comment themselves) indicated that yes – guilty as charged – they just can’t do it.
What’s “do it”? They just can’t ask for money. They’ve been helping others for free for years, either loved ones or friends – and they hesitate to make that leap from volunteer to paid professional.
I understand that! It’s hard to ask for money in the same ways it’s hard to toot your own horn by telling the world about your successes. Asking for money for your professional expertise is a lot like bragging – and of course – as we were raised, we were all told not to brag! This is particularly true for women, those of us who have grown up in a society where our contributions and hard work have often been undervalued. (I note that none of the emails or Forum posts came from men…. )
So how is it that some advocates HAVE been able to make the leap successfully? What do they know, and what are they doing – and doing well – that others just can’t bring themselves to do?
I think there are a few distinctions. So, the first “M” word is MINDSET.
• They realize that business is business. Lawyers provide legal services and charge for them. Do they help out a friend here or there, or a family member who’s in trouble too, without charging them? Of course they do. But lawyering is their business and so, for people who need legal help, non-fmaily, non-friends, they charge money for the work.
• They don’t take rejection personally. When a potential new client calls them to discuss hiring them (even if they don’t realize that’s what the discussion will be) successful advocates tell them, “Yes, Mr. Smith, I do think I can help your mother – and you. Let me tell you about our process.” And then they go on to explain about the contract they require and what their charges will be.
• Especially those who worked as nurses or physicians in their earlier career…. they’ve realized (sometimes one of those “aha!” moments) that people have always paid for their professional expertise – but they’ve paid someone else! Patients pay for nurses – but they pay indirectly because they pay the doctors or hospitals who employ those nurses. Patients pay for doctors – but they pay the insurance company, not usually the doctor directly. The only real difference is that professional advocates are paid directly by patient-caregiver-clients – and not through a middleman.
• They are proud of what they do – PROFESSIONALLY. They don’t apologize to anyone for charging for their professional services. They are, instead, proud of the fact that they are so good at what they do that people will pay them. It’s a badge of honor, not something to apologize for.
• They aren’t locked in by worrying about how much they should charge whom. When they first started, they charged one amount – say $100 an hour. Then, as they got better, they told the next potential new client that they charge $150 an hour. Since that person balked, then they told the next one $125 an hour. They continued in that vein until they arrived at the “right” amount for them over a period of time, over a period of conversations. Did some people pay a little less for their services? Or some people pay a little more? Yes. Big deal. That was no reflection on their professionalism or expertise.
• They understand that their work – for at least the next year or two – is as much about education as it is about advocacy. With few exceptions (pockets of the US, like Boston or the Bay Area of California) most people are unaware of the existence of private patient advocates to help them. So successful private professional advocates are putting as much effort into marketing the CONCEPT of private advocacy as they put into marketing their own capabilities.
• They realize that their work is all about providing quality and (possibly) extended life to their clients – two benefits that those clients may not be able to enjoy UNLESS they work with a patient advocate. Private advocacy services are not about providing something “nice” that people have options for. Short of helping themselves, there aren’t other options. No other aspect of healthcare will work directly, one on one, focusing on a client’s needs. Private professional patient advocate provides provide services that help their clients get healthier, or at least maintain their level of health, and save their hard-earned money. So for every day you delay making your leap, you are letting those potential clients get sicker and poorer.
They need you – but instead, you are playing hard-to-get.
After last week’s post, the question was asked repeatedly, “So how do I find those people who will pay me?”
Frankly, sometimes I just shake my head at that question. It’s asked over and over again, not because the people who ask it don’t already know the answer – they do. They just wish it was a different answer or that it will be easier. Like my grandpa at the age of 100 – they pretend they can’t hear it because they don’t want to deal with it.
The second “M” word is the answer: MARKETING.
And perhaps another bit of a shift in that first “M” word: MINDSET:
You don’t have to find them. You just have to make it easy for them to find you.
Successful already-in-business private advocates are doing any or all of the following to be sure potential clients can find them:
- They have joined AdvoConnection – and are Premium members so they show up in the AdvoConnection Directory (so potential clients can find them.)
- They have read, highlighted, scribbled notes in, and then executed The Health Advocate’s Marketing Handbook.
- They participate in teleconference call-ins to learn about how to set their prices, how to talk to clients about money, how to market themselves, how to purchase the right insurance – and more.
- They ask questions and share strategies and tactics with other advocates and almost-advocates in the AdvoConnection Forum.
- They speak to local groups on topics of interest to those groups as a way to garner trust – and so potential clients can find them. (Sign up now for next month’s call-in: Doing Your Podium Thing (Public Speaking for Advocates) )
- They blog or participate in social media – again – so potential clients can find them.
- etc etc etc….
And there are a few things they don’t do:
- They do not just sit idly by and wait for the phone to ring, or lament the fact that it’s just so hard to pull the trigger.
- They recognize that paralysis and procrastination will never get them where they want to be, and that the longer they put off the going into REAL business, the more people will get sicker and poorer.
So there you go. I imagine some of you will feel lectured (never went to Catholic School, don’t have a ruler nor an eraser to throw at you – so no, that’s not it 🙂 )
No – my real intent is to light a fire under a few more folks who are ready and capable and just need some motivation.
Aha! MOTIVATION! Another “M” word.
Now let’s MOVE!
(And – as last week – let’s continue this conversation with comments in the AdvoConnection Forum – thanks!)
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