Picture this…

You’re at your child’s soccer game or gymnastic practice; during a pause in the action the parent sitting next to you casually asks,

“So… What do you do for a living?”

How do you answer them?

Or how about this? You’re at a continuing education seminar; during the break, a therapist turns to you and says,

So…what do you do?

What’s your answer?

For most of my career, I struggled to come up with a clear, concise answer. Most the time I’d give a long, rambling answer that talked about the places I had worked, my certifications, my favorite patients…halfway through I’d feel self-conscious and try to shift the conversation.

Let’s think about this for a second. You are so much more than your professional qualifications. The impact you have on patients’ lives is hard to describe. But if you can’t who will?

If your answer to what do you do, sounds like your resume, you’ll bore people to tears. If you answer only with “ I’m a physical or occupational therapist” you’ll be putting yourself in a box, a box that can greatly affect the success of your practice.

Or worse yet, you meet someone who would really benefit from your services but they have a preconceived notion of what a therapy is all about. You may or may not get to second base because of how your answer relates to their beliefs or previous experience with your professional box.

A primary reason why many therapists fail to build a thriving practice is that they struggle to articulate in a clear and concise way the solutions and benefits they offer. We don’t know how to have a natural conversation without sounding confusing or like everyone else.

WebPT founder Heidi Jannenga recently wrote an article on Why You Must Sell Yourself as a PT–Just Not the Way You Might Think. She ends her excellent piece with this poignant question.

“And how could a patient possibly know what to expect from you–or your practice– unless you know your value and how to sell it?”

Heidi emphasizes that they type of selling she’s talking is not trying to convince someone to buy from you. But getting to know your patients so you both can decide if you’re a good fit for each other.

How do you do that? Read on.


Can the Elevator Speech


It’s important for us to be able to clearly communicate to people how we help people in a sentence or two. It can make the difference between a successful practice and a mediocre one.

I don’t mean an elevator speech or a Shark Tank sales pitch we see on television. Let me ask you a question. Do you like hearing someone’s canned sales pitch? Do you love giving a memorized 30-second sales pitch? Most of us probably say no. So why do it?

The elevator pitch was created so that entrepreneurs could pitch an idea to investors in the hopes of receiving funding. Most therapists are trying to build professional relationships of trust with potential clients not raise money for a new product.

You’ll be relieved to know you may ditch the elevator pitch for personal, meaningful conversations with real people you contact every day.


Real Meaningful Conversations


Michael Porter in his book, Book Yourself Solid, describes the conversation like this,

“ The dialogue is a dynamic, lively description of the people you help, what challenges they face, how you help them, and the results and benefits they get from your services.”

Think of it as a conversation between two people who care enough about what the other person has to say.

As for your side of the conversation, you what to share a clear message in the language of your listener so they understand who you help, what you do and why you do it?

Like any good conversation, it’s a creative dialogue, not a monologue where one person does all the talking. You’ll want to ask a few good questions about them–their challenges, desires, and solutions they’ve tried.

We must talk with people, not at them. We must really hear what they are trying to communicate with us. Listening to their needs, fears, and hopes. After all, you may be the solution to their problem.


A Five Part Method to Talk About What You Do


I have discovered two resources that have been invaluable in helping therapists to articulate their professional value, The Business Model You by Tim Clark and Booked Yourself Solid by Michael Porter. Both have a one-page method of preparing you to talk about what you do through answering a few key questions. If you need concrete guidance on communicating your value then buy the books and go through the exercises. I guarantee it will be time well spent.

The Business Model You helps you to draw a Personal Business Model Canvas that has been proven to help many professionals to reinvent their careers. Michael Porter guides you in creating a dialogue formula to have a short, medium and long version of talking about what you do.

When I help clients or students in my courses identify their niche or brand we go through an exercise something like this.


Step One: Who do you help?

  • Describe your ideal patient in one sentence.
  • Why do you enjoy these patients?
  • What beliefs, values, experiences do you have in common?
  • Where do you find these people?


Step Two: What are they asking for?

  • What are their three biggest and most urgent problems?
  • What do they need?
  • What are their dreams or desires?


Step Three: What do you do?

  • How do you solve your ideal patients’ problems?
  • How are you uniquely qualified to solve their problems?
  • How will you provide remarkable value?


Step Four: How do you make peoples lives better?

  • What is the number one result they will experience?
  • What are three biggest benefits they will receive?
  • What will it cost you to provide the promised results?


Step Five: How will you test the market?

  • How will you have conversations with prospective clients to test your assumptions?
  • How will you record and analyze feedback?
  • How will you validate your service by “selling” it to a paying client?


As you practice your simple dialogue formula with more people you’ll notice greater clarity in your own mind on whom you serve and more confidence in what you do. You’ll have a greater awareness of people you don’t help and work that you could but shouldn’t do.

The more you practice having meaningful conversations, the more comfortable you will become and the less rehearsed it will sound. You will hone and own your message over time.

So we’ve come full circle, back to our original question.


“So, how do YOU talk about what you do?”


I’d like hearing how. You can tell me below or email me at heypaul@paulpotterpt.com