February 29, 2012

Leap Day--and Leaps of Faith

Today is the last day of February 2012--Leap Day, in fact. And today is my last blog post after three years of doing the job. Thanks to all of you who've read my blogs, contemplated and commented.

I've been rather busy in this month of February. My daughter, Nola Grace, who was due to be born May 11th, 2012, came by emergency c-section on February 6, 2012. She's still only 29 weeks old now, stable, but critical, and living her tiny life in an isolette in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Swedish Hospital in downtown Seattle. I know she looks rather rough to most people--tiny and skinny--but I think she's just about the prettiest thing I ever saw :-)

I could not describe how tired I have been or how surreal this whole situation has seemed. And what occurs to me that it has all served as a reminder of how little control we actually have in this world, how plans can change in an instant, how quickly priorities can shift, and even how, yes, you can love someone at first sight.

Nola's birth also brought the following into clear definition:

1. Life moves on for others even when you are stuck in a surreal loop.
2. People you never thought of turn up to help you.
3. People you expected to help you may rabidly disappoint you, even when they are related to you.
4. Somehow you get by, even when you are desperate for funds--I hope, usually.
5. It really doesn't matter how clean your house is.
6. There are so many times you can wash your hands up to the elbow before your nails and skin start to dry out and flake off.

Okay, that last one wasn't as profound, but true all the same. I'm a massage therapist, for heaven's sake, and I haven't washed my hands so many times a day in my whole life

My work--in this case, my work as a massage therapist--has always taken a top spot in my life and consciousness. If someone had told me I could go almost a month without thinking of work/massage, I would have laughed, but that is exactly what has happened. I've spent my days pumping milk for my daughter's immune system and going back and forth from home to the hospital, looking forward to the few times a day we get to touch her. For the first time in my life, other work has to wait. For a few months at least, and maybe a little longer. We chose the name Nola because we liked the sound; we added Grace because it was the grace of God that saved her life.

My best to all of you massage therapists out there, fighting the good fight. I'm on the bench right now, doing something else of great importance. But I hope to rejoin you soon.

February 20, 2012

Nutty Massage and Flaming Oils

A client wants to come in who is allergic to everything. I mean everything. And as desperate as she is for a massage, she is willing to take a chance on hives in hopes of getting the pain out of her hip.

First, we talk on the phone. What detergent do I use? What oil? Where do I do my laundry? All-cotton sheets?

Ok, I use clean and clear hypo-allergenic everything detergent and organic, cotton-only sheets, wrinkles and all. Oil? Anti-inflammatory plant oils, no additives. I know where my sheets have been because I do my own laundry. Quaint, I know. Most clients probably don’t even notice it or care. But I do.

This lady with the thousand questions has chemical sensitivity syndrome, something that is rare but becoming more common as people react with additives in foods, detergents, clothing, computers, etc

She is allergic to lots of things the result of spending years working in a chemistry lab developing pharmaceutical products. It is not known what exactly started the problem, but she reacts to everything from latex gloves to baby powder to fragrance oils to silicones and parabens.

I first ran across this sensitivity syndrome when I worked at a newspaper. A couple of firefighters who had fought a chemical-ridden fire had developed a weird batch of symptoms, seemingly allergic to everything. They were presumed to have been sensitized to chemical additives through exposure to toxic smoke with the chemicals.

Their illnesses were controversial, largely because some people didn’t think they were sick at all, but reacting hysterically. As they did have a definite extreme exposure to toxic chemicals, they eventually won their disability cases.

Occasionally I’ve had folks come in for massages with specific allergies to things such as nut oils – almond and peanut – and a few additives. Once I had two brothers who were allergic to other plant and mineral oils but were just fine with almond oil.

One of the things I have learned is to respect people’s accounts of their allergies and run as anti-inflammatory an office as I can. I even keep a 50-ingredient super-glide lotion handy because I have a former football player who swears it is the only one that doesn’t give him acne.

Go figure.

As a massage therapist, I figure I’m there to give massages, not comment on the worth or oddity or politics of what people react to. Now, there was a time the soap-opera actor told me he couldn’t have any back acne and handed me a tube of K-Y….

February 16, 2012

How to Sell Without Selling Out – Part IV

“Identify a need and fill it.”

That’s what my co-worker had told me when I asked him how to sell products at a spa. I had no idea what he meant. Here I was, needing answers and he was feeding me riddles like the Sphinx. I was perplexed and frustrated.

[this part 4 of 4; see beginning of the story here]

Weeks went by and it had not been easy, but I was making progress in my attempts to add sales to my skills set while I worked at a large day spa. I was surprised to find out how hard it was at first to even suggest anything to a client – an extended massage time, a membership, a product – and now it was becoming more of a habit.

When clients came in, I would ask questions before starting the massage to find out what they wanted in their treatment. From their answers, I would pick up clues as to what services or things we offered that would fit their needs.

Identifying and filling a need is a basic of good service, but one that was easy to forget as I worked with clients on a back-to-back schedule with five to 10 minutes between services.

The five to 10 minutes was used to escort clients back to the lounge, change the room linens, tidy and find the next client. Oh, and that was if things were running smoothly. Often, fresh sheets and towels were still in the wash, client itineraries had been changed, the computers were down and/or a treatment using lots of products that had to be prepped and heated in advance.

Basically, there was no time to sell anything on the in-betweens. I discovered that if I did not have something in mind from the session or the client’s answers I was out of luck.

For all the times we were very busy, however, there were days and evenings that were slow. Then I discovered that I could suggest extra massage times or treatments, or introduce clients to other services the spa offered.

With all the howling that came from our massage department when the spa director gave us a sales quota, I was finding out something very interesting. Once clients understood I was actually interested in what they wanted, they would open up and appreciate my help.

I had learned something about myself and about how to make clients more satisfied. It was a skill that I added to my toolbox, right next to trigger point, Swedish and therapeutic stretching. I had learned to communicate better with clients and better serve them.

All it had taken was some effort, and a good bit of failure before I got the hang of it. My therapist co-worker had me baffled when he told me to identify a need and fill it. Now I understand exactly what he meant, and I use these skills to this day in my private practice.

Authored by Susan Peterson, CAMTC, NCTMB

February 9, 2012

How to Sell Without Selling Out - Part III

Working at a spa, the management had challenged massage therapists to learn how to sell some products and services to clients – and I had not the foggiest idea how to do that.

[this part 3 of 4; see beginning of the story here]

Thus far I had suggested an essential oil to a client who thought I was giving it away, suggested an item out of stock, and in the middle of recommending a product I had made a big disbelief face when I looked at the price we were charging for an item.

Despite feeling like a complete idiot, however, I had managed to make some sales and had gone into the first month as one of only three massage therapists at my spa who actually sold stuff. It then occurred to me that if I simply asked the other two therapists how to sell, I might learn something.

The first therapist had been there quite a while and was a spa’s version of a golden employee. This therapist was also licensed to do facials and skin care and had often sold several thousand dollars a month in products.
I toodled over to her one Tuesday morning when the spa was slow and asked my big question: How do you sell products?

“Well, wouldn’t you like to know,” she said, clearly amused. And that is all she said.

Okay, that went stunningly not-well. While she ran off to her buddies to tell them how amusing I was I tried our other therapist who had sales experience.

This massage therapist was a male, a relative rarity in the spa world. He had worked on cruise ships and at several high-end spas and had a way of being charming while also giving a great massage. His sales were routinely high, anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 a month. I had been struggling with our spa director’s $100-a-month quota.

I asked the big question, and to my surprise he was actually interested in helping me. “You don’t sell anything,” he said. “You identify a need and then fill it.”

Huh? What did that mean?

“Think about it,” he said. “You will figure it out.”

Oh great, now I was getting advice from the Sphinx. I was completely baffled, which along with feeling like an idiot was becoming a too-familiar state of mind. I watched him gather up a bag-full of products and leave it at the front desk for a client.

Authored by Sue Petersen, LMP CAMTC

[continued here]

February 2, 2012

How to Sell Without Selling Out, Part II

So here I was, a lowly newbie massage therapist, trying in an honest fashion to learn how to sell things at my spa. The howling about sales was continuing among my fellow therapists, and the manager had set a “quota” of $100 a month for every massage therapist. We were told to stop whining and get on it.

[this part 2 of 4; see beginning of the story here]

Selling what? We had lots of face things that the aestheticians sold. Creams, lotions, make-up stuff, etc. Stuff I knew nothing about. We also had general spa stuff – robes, slippers, baths, essential oils, etc. Mostly it sat in the retail area looking kind of forlorn and dusty.

I decided to jump in. A client came in for an aromatherapy treatment with massage. She really liked the musky, peppery aromatherapy she chose from the box, and I used it in the massage. As I escorted her out to the ladies, I told her we had essential oils and suggested she take home a bottle of the scent she liked. I looked on the shelf. We were out. I told her I would find a bottle and bring it to her. I found one on the stockroom and handed her the bottle in the locker room where she was changing. She looked so surprised that I would go to the trouble to get it for her.

When she checked out, she was even more surprised that she had to pay for the aromatherapy - $35 for a half-ounce bottle. “Oh, I thought you were giving it to me,” she said.  Our spa scheduler was standing at the check-out desk and looked pretty amused. “At least you tried,” she said.

Failure. Disappointment. Oh dear. I watched as one of the aestheticians left a batch of face products at the front desk for a customer. Would I ever get the hang of this?

The next day I tried again. The spa was slow, and there were not many people on the schedule. A client came in for a 50-minute massage to recover after a long plane flight. “You really need a massage,” I said about half-way through. “Want to extend for 80 minutes?”

She said yes!

Success! The client was happy with a longer massage and I had done an “upgrade!”

As I escorted her to the lounge, I mentioned that we had some a nice essential oils kit to help with sleep and alertness. “These help a lot,” I said. Having never looked at the price, I flipped the box and read the sticker. “and it’s only $125?????”

Egads. I could buy those essential oils at the nature food store for about $50. I hoped she hadn’t heard the surprise in my voice. I felt like an idiot, a feeling I did not like or getting used to.

“Sure. Put them up at the front desk,” she said. Without knowing it, I had a client who was very familiar with the spa routine. After my next massage I fearfully peeked out to the front desk to see if the kit was still there.

“She took them home,” the scheduler said.

[continued here]