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7 Steps to Turning an Enquiry into a Booking: A Guide for Therapists

Tell me, how do you feel when a potential new client contacts you?

Do you feel in control and confident?

OR maybe you lack confidence and don’t really know how to handle it?

Well if you identify more with the second scenario, this episode if for you, because today we’re going to talk about taking initial phone calls from potential clients to increase the chance that they make an appointment and become your client.

So here are 7 steps to turning an enquiry into a booking so you know EXACTLY what to say. 


The problem with being a people pleaser

Confession: when I first started as a counsellor back in 2005, I really struggled with still being a massive people pleaser. Yes, I worked on it, but it really held me back. 

I had that inner conflict wanting more clients, working with more people, making more money and building my business, but also I’d be extremely anxious and just not know what to say.

And when I look back at that time, I can see how my own insecurities almost pushed the clients away.  

Here’s what happened to me:

In an attempt to not be pushy, I would be kind and empathetically listen to their story. And this could take time. Often, too much time.  

Because they might have called at an inconvenient time for me; I could have been cooking tea with kids running around, which just made me even more anxious.

So the call would go around and around frankly taking far too long because I’d be waiting for them to ask for an appointment.

And it would ultimately end with me telling them to think about it and get back me because I didn't want to appear presumptuous. 

So my heady mix of anxiety, people-pleasing and lack of training would leave the client lacking confidence in me. 

Have you ever done that?

If so, here are 7 simple steps to managing that initial call and turn an enquiry into booking.

A note about voicemail for therapists

Before I go on, I want to remind you how important is is to make the whole process extremely straightforward for potential clients to contact you.

Make it clear how you'd like them to contact you, and have your email address, phone number or however you prefer to be contacted obvious so they know exactly what to do. 

Where possible, answer the phone yourself because asking them to leave a message gives them an extra step to take, and we are trying to remove blocks for them.

I know many people that HATE answerphones. So check out 'Voicemail For Therapists: 6 ways to improve your message and hang on to that client' for some tips on how to improve your voicemail message to increase the chances of them calling you.

1. Mindset

It's no surprise that your mindset is the number 1 thing here on this list. 

Because although you are:

  • Qualified - possibly highly qualified, as therapists are obsessed with learning.
  • Possibly experienced
  • Undoubtedly passionate about the work you do
  • And stuffed to the gills with compassion, empathy, understanding, acceptance and unconditional positive regard….

You probably struggle with really acknowledging that.

You may have imposter syndrome spooking around in your head making you doubt yourself. Which makes hard to appear confident on the call when inside, you’re cringing!

Or maybe you struggle with perfectionism. Maybe you worry that you don't know enough (unlikely), or have enough experience. 

But being a therapist isn't about knowing the most, and it’s definitely not about being perfect.

It’s about being with someone fully. 

Most people accessing therapy have never experienced being listened to properly, and it's powerful. Never underestimate the impact of using the core conditions with clients.  

So yes, if that sounds like you, I’d like to remind you of the clients process:

They may have had your details for weeks, months - maybe even years, plucking up the courage to make the call. 

And of all the counsellors around (and these days, thats 100’s), this person chose you to call. 

Think about this and give yourself a big ole pat on the back. Your hard work is paying off, you’re marketing is working. 

Thats brilliant. Really allow that to penetrate and really sink in. Maybe journal about this. The more you acknowledge this, the more confident you will feel.

You're brilliant!

2. What to do when a potential client makes an enquiry

When you get an enquiry, it's important to stay in control of the conversation. The client needs to feel safe, and you can help them by gently guiding them through the process.

Remember, they are probably nervous and don’t know what to expect. 

So if you receive a lot of enquiries but not many actually book, or people make appointments and don’t turn up it may be that you’re taking too passive a role at this point.  

So before you start, take a deep breath. And here’s a quick tip - try standing up when you’re talking as this will give your voice more authority. 

Remember, of all the counsellors out there, you’re the person they decided to call.  They will already have either decided to work with you or you’re on their shortlist but want to get a feel for you. So relax and just be yourself, let your warmth show. 

Important: You don’t have to sell yourself. SO DON’T EVEN TRY.

The Therapy Rebrand Survey

A few years ago, I conducted a survey exploring the public perception of counselling, which I called ‘Therapy Rebrand’. And what came up over and over was anxiety about

  • Coming to counselling, and 
  • Talking to a ‘stranger’

So when a potential client makes an enquiry, it’s far more important to let your warmth shine through than be ‘Professional’ - whatever that means. This is your first chance to make a personal connection, thus starting the therapeutic relationship, which we know is key to successful work.

You can still check out the findings and my suggestions to improve your marketing in the free webinar I did HERE Voicemail For Therapists: 6 ways to improve your message and hang on to that client

Your first instinct will be to ask them about themself, but I recommend before you get into that, ask them how they got your name:

Before you tell me more about your situation, can you tell me how you got my number?

This will be useful information to know what marketing is working for you. 

3. Is this a suitable client for you? 

At this point, you need to get an idea if you are a suitable counsellor for them, because you don't want to turn an enquiry into booking if it's not a good fit.  

In my experience, some people can talk for a very long time over the phone on an initial call, so to enable me to manage the time spent on the call I would ask them:

Could you give me a brief outline of what’s happening for you at the moment? I need to check I’m the right person to work with you before we move on, and if I’m not the right person to help you, I’ll try and point you in the right direction

I'd ask this BEFORE they share their life story or ask questions about cost, length of sessions etc. because this sets expectations and lets them know that you might refer them on to another therapist. This can reduce the chance of them feeling rejected if this is the case, and will make it easier for both of you.

Listening: 7 Steps to Turning an enquiry into a Booking

Now, allow them to talk, and when they finish do a little recap:

So it seems you’re at a crossroads in your life and after always doing what’s right for others, you want to explore which way’s right for you now - is that right?'

The client will feel listened to and understood. 

4. If you can help

Ask them if they would like to make an appointment. 

This isn’t being pushy - remember, they contacted you and this is what they want, their mind is probably already made up, they just want to get a feel of you over the phone. 

If you’ve been following my other advice about forming a connection with clients with everything you do, that work has paid off as they will already have a sense of you.

‘It sounds like things are difficult for you at the moment. But yes, that’s something I can help you with [name].  Do you have any questions for me, or would you like to go ahead and book an appointment?

Answer any questions they have, and when you’ve finished ask again, but be sure to offer them thinking time - we don’t want clients to feel pressurised. 

Would you like to think about it [name], or shall we make an appointment to get started?

If they want to give it some thought, let them know it’s okay to get back with any questions. 

Important: please don’t get disillusioned if they don’t book in right now, it's part of a process. A friend of mine told me he’d originally called a counsellor more than a year before they actually made an appointment. 

And if they’ve decided you aren’t the right person for them, that's great too. Yes, it can sting a bit but it’s important for both of you that you’re a good fit. 

5. Booking an appointment

Now they have stated they want an appointment, again take control. 

It's easier for the client to make a decision if they don't have too many choices.

So first, see what appointments you would like to fill and offer those first.

‘I could see you on Tuesday at 2, or Wednesday at 3, which would you prefer?

If these aren’t suitable for the client, offer alternatives:

'Would you prefer morning or afternoon, Tuesday or Wednesday?'

Choosing between 2 slots is easier for them than choosing any time in the week - and even if you have a completely empty diary, this will give the impression that you’re busy.  

By offering your most convenient times first, it reduced the backwards and forward or working out a suitable time for you both. And remember, if you settle on a day or time that’s not good for you because you are trying to be accommodating, you could be seeing them at that day/time for month, even years. 

So if they want an appointment at 8pm on a Friday evening and you don’t want to work that late, or at the weekend etc, simple say you aren’t available then and offer an alternative. 

And you can learn more about this if you’re a member of Grow Your Private Practice in the Foundations Course and also the Quick Win training on time blocking. 

OR catch '8 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time and Get More Done

When it's booked, let them know your address, directions, transport details they might need, like tube stop, parking, car park fees etc. 

And take their number in case you have to cancel. 

6. Payment details

When talking about money, don’t panic!  Remember, they’ll most likely have checked out the price before calling you. But you should always mention it to avoid any misunderstandings. A simple

The cost is £x, payable by [whatever you use].’

Don’t complicate it. 

If you take payment in advance, go through whatever your process is. 

A nice touch is to send them a welcome pack including the contract, a welcome note, possibly something about how to get the most from your therapy. Snail mail is nice, but more costly and less convenient than sending by email. You can make your documents look good via Canva.com, a simple and free design app.

Or you could simply direct them to the FAQ page of your website for more info.  

In fact, you could take a listen to  episode 78 'Why smooth on boarding helps the therapy process, with Kim Simmons' who shares some great ideas.

And end the call with a quick recap of the date and time, and tell them you look forward to meeting them. 

7. How to refer a client on without the feeling rejected

Of course you can’t help everyone and there will be some people you need to direct elsewhere. It goes without saying that telling the client you can't help them is something to be dealt with very sensitively as they could perceive this as a rejection, or they may tell themselves they are beyond help.

If it took the a while to approach you, this could be quite a blow to them. 

So consider in advance how you might word this. I’d suggest something like:

That’s definitely something you can get help with, but it’s not something I personally deal with.  If you’d like, I can give you some recommendations of people who specialise in this area ’.

Then offer a couple of names of other counsellors with this niche - but only if you can personally recommend them.

End with ‘Good luck with that, and take care.’

How you handle a new therapy client enquiry is important, and it’s reassuring for them if you take control. But control in a very gentle way. 

The potential client could be extremely anxious and fearful and it could have taken them a lot of courage to pick up the phone, so allow yourself to be warm. 

But equally, it’s important that you aren’t talking on the phone for ages when it’s a really inconvenient time. It’s not good for you OR them to feel rushed.

If handling an initial enquiry is new to you, practice. Get a friend to call you and just practice what it feels like so you say the words that feel most comfortable to you. 

I highly recommend jotting down what you want to say so you will have that reminder when someone calls. 

So today we’ve looked at how to turn an enquiry into a booking, and:

  • Why whatever happens, you should congratulate yourself on getting a new enquiry
  • How to feel more confident
  • How to take gentle control of the call
  • How to set expectations
  • How to make the booking at the day/time thats best for you
  • How to refer the client on without them feeling rejected

I hope this has given you some ideas so the next time you get an enquiry you feel more confident

And if you want to attract more clients so you can transform more peoples lives, grow your practice and make more money, be sure to check out the Grow Your Private Practice membership, and see how it will help you.

 Just click on the button below. 

Join the Grow Your Private Practice Club, and learn how to attract more clients, more easily

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Jane lives in beautiful Lincoln with her 2 boys and rescue dog. When she's not talking about herself in the third person, she's usually found with her feet up and eating Maltesers. Sometimes she even shares them with friends.