Rocking the consultation
How to rock a consultation (interview)
When I train a new group of doulas we always spend a fair bit of time on discussing consulations (many people call them interviews). This is where a potential client has expressed an interest in having you as a doula and you go meet with them to “sell” yourself…I mean… to see if you’re a good fit.
And THIS is exactly when I see a look of DREAD cross most people’s faces in training. They’re thinking “ew, sell myself? Gross!” I’m not quite sure when sales became so gross to us socially. Was it the door to door stuff our parents/grandparents experienced when people would come and use high pressure sales tactics and basically not leave until you purchased? Is it the idea of the greasy sales person who won’t take no for an answer and who does things like tell us the product “sells itself” and who pull out their calculator to tell how they’ll give ONLY US a special price? I’m not sure what it is exactly, but for some reason many people in the helping field dislike the idea of selling themselves and their services. But here’s the plan ol’ fact people…if you can’t use effective strategies to sell your services, it’s gonna be super tough to actually do doula work. So here are my thoughts on how to sell in a way that doesn’t feel ‘sales-y’.
The intention of the initial phone call or email is not to fit everything about your services into this short exchange, but rather to create a connection with parents so that they want to hear more about you and book you for a more in-depth consultation.
Goal of the consult
I always say there are really only two main goals to a consultation: Connecting and evoking emotion. You can skip a LOT of things, but not those two.
Meeting potential clients
Marketing research suggests that the decision to hire or not to hire is primarily subconscious and has more to do with the feeling someone gets from you than the things you say. Think about what feelings are most important for you to bring out in your interviews and HOW to bring them out.
How do parents feel with you?
What do you say when someone asks “What do you do?” or “Tell me about doulas?” Do you give them the general definition, tell them what you’re not, or list the tasks you typically do at a birth? How much time do you spend answering this question?
A common mistake for people to make when answering this question is to go into the tasks of their profession as opposed to stating the purpose or difference that they make in their practice. The tasks of birth support are harder for people to relate to than the difference that you’ll make for them. When you are asked “What do you do?” think of it as someone asking “How would I feel differently about my experience with your services?” How will they experience pregnancy, birth and postpartum differently with your support? How might they see themselves or each other differently with your care?
Grab a piece of paper and write down your thoughts on the following questions:
- How do your clients feel differently in your care?
- How do your clients relate to birth differently in your care?
- Now you tell them how you make that difference:
- What is it you do to make that difference for parents?
Parents are more likely to hire you if they feel the difference you’d make for them while they’re getting to know you. Instead of simply telling them about how you’d make them feel, practice phrasing your answers in a way that invokes feeling in the parents.
Example A (Listing): “As a doula I don’t do anything medical, but rather support you emotionally, physically and informationally during labour by helping with positions, pain coping and advocating for your preferences.” (this isn’t wrong but it doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy)
Example 2 (Invoking a feeling): “You’ll feel more confident in your ability to maintain a coping mindset throughout your labour because I’m able to stay at your side for the entire birth to help you if you’re scared or caught off guard by the sensation of labour.” (Yes, exactly! Love love love this)
Do you feel a difference when you read the two statements?
Client Centered Conversation
Another misdirected approach that some take when speaking with parents is that they focus the direction or subject of the conversation on themselves. As a result, the parents can get a feeling of being ‘sold to’ instead of feeling a connection with you. If you can talk about your services and experience in way that appeals to the parents’ interests and personal experience, you’ll more likely build a connection with them receive a call back.
Pay attention to the next few commercials or ads you see/hear on TV or radio. What’s the focus?
There are a lot of things I cover in a consultation, but I ALWAYS begin by asking the client about them and what they envision for their experience. The ENTIRE rest of the consultation, how you describe your role, the words and tone you use, and what you focus on should be based on what the client has shared with you. It’s not that you’re not telling the truth, it’s that you’re focusing it appropriately. Just like we do our doula services!
It’s not important that you tell them all the details about your background, doula package and other services right away. Instead, focus on building a connection with what you have to talk about and make them want to hear more!
In my trainings I describe two clients:
Shelley and John are having their first baby. Shelley shares that she struggles with anxiety, is not interested in feeling a lot of
pain in labour, and is always thinking that there’s something wrong with her pregnancy and that birth will be horrible. It took them 3 years to conceive and they are pregnant from IVF.
Desirée and Charles are also expecting their first baby. Desirée was at her youngest brother’s birth – a home birth. They have a hobby farm and are planning a home birth with midwives. They have a very natural approach to life and birth. They are super excited about this birth and very confident about it all. They are looking to hire a doula to have an extra set of hands for the logistics of setting up the birth tub and just to have an extra person who can focus only on the non-medical aspects of their birth.
If your consult sounds the same for BOTH of those people, you definitely need to reconsider your strategy. Get together with another doula and brainstorm how you’d describe the role of the doula to each of those clients. It should be pretty different in terms of what aspects of care you focus on.
Talking about fees without feeling icky
Similar to your relationship to speaking about your approach to doula care, the messages you carry about your fee influence they way people will respond to your conversation about payment.
What beliefs do you have about charging for doula care?
Do these beliefs positively influence your ability to communicate with clients about your fee or are they limiting?
Think back to the list of experiences that influence your doula care and they way that you’ve made a difference to clients. When you speak about your fee, call on the more positive associations you have with the value of your doula care – speak from a place of self love instead of a place of fear (abundance versus scarcity). Avoid explanations – just re-cap what is included in the package and the payment options.
Although some clients will be ready to book you during your interview, many parents want to take some time to think about it or interview another doula before they make their decision. Even on your way out the door, we can continue to deepen their connection with us and make ourselves stand out in their minds.
How would you say goodbye to a client while taking into account what you’ve learned about building connections with the way you speak?
Example A: “It was really great to meet you. Is it alright for me to follow up with you in a few days?”
Example B(Parent-Centered): “You mentioned that you were worried about postpartum support. I have an article that goes over basic things to think about to prepare for postpartum. Is it ok for me to get your email to send it to you?”
Your Tone, Your Eye Contact, Your Pace
Eye contact goes a long way in terms of building a relationship and often tells someone how present you are to the conversation at hand. Similarly, if you’re speeding through information, parents may feel that you’re rushing them and consequently, they may feel an urgency to get your attention or simply end the conversation.
Practice speaking comfortably and concisely about your work before you attend the consult and take note of your tone, pacing and eye contact. Do you have a tendency of looking around the room? Do you speak faster when you know your time is almost up? You may also want to record yourself with a video camera so you can observe yourself and listen as if you were the parent at the interview.
How do your pacing and your tone influence your feelings as the listening ‘parent’? Are you remembering to check in? As the listener are you captivated by the recording or does your mind drift?
The timing with which clients are followed up with is an essential ingredient in representing ourselves as available and accessible doulas. The content and timing of the follow up call or email can be the turning point for a client when deciding between two doulas. I’d suggest following-up within a couple of days.
Timing/length of the consultation
I feel fairly strongly that a consult under 45 minutes is likely missing out on some opportunities to connect. I feel equally as strongly that if it’s lasting a lot more than an hour, you’re probably discussing things that are better suited for a prenatal visit once you’re hired. Also, it may seem ok to spend 2 hours with someone in a consult when you’re a new doula, but once you’re doing 2-3 per week you will probably begin to see that you can be effective in about an hour and spend the time saved on yourself, your family, or your other clients.
I know that’s a LOT to think about. Try breaking these ideas down into chunks and thinking about them a little at a time. I’d love to hear your ideas too and if you’ve found other things that work well for you.
#WorldDoulaDomination #RockingTheConsult #DoulaSchool
About the Author
Stefanie is a visionary in the childbirth field. She leads the Discover Birth organization providing a variety of services to expectant parents and training for those wishing to pursue work in the childbirth field. Stefanie is a board member with the Association of Ontario Doulas, former Public Relations Director for DONA International, and sits on many local boards and coalitions to improve our communities. She is a DONA-approved Birth Doula Trainer, runs an Approved Program for Lamaze International and runs two doula agencies Discover Birth and The Nesting Place.
Stefanie is the founder of The Birth Doula Program at the Scarborough Hospital.
Stefanie is a contributing author in the best selling Power of Women United and the book Bearing Witness: Childbirth Stories Told by Doulas. She is a regular contributing writer and blogger, and has done many interviews online and for TV/radio.
Before becoming a doula, Stefanie worked in corporate intelligence, helping large companies keep abreast of their markets and competitors. She now works to bring some of those same skills to the doula profession, helping it grow and prosper, along with its many doula members.
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