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“Being Good on the Phone”…It’s not what you think!

By Stephen C. Schultz

I was sitting at my desk the other day and a colleague of mine poked his head in the door and said;

“Man…Schultz; you are Good on the Phone.”

I chuckled and said with a smirk;

“Thanks, but just make sure that statement doesn’t get around the office. I don’t need the mockery that will come my way with people hearing that I’m Good on the Phone!”

That conversation started me thinking. Our organization is in the process of growth and we have been interviewing for therapists as well as admissions directors for a couple of our treatment programs. So, I wondered what that really meant when my colleague said I was Good on the Phone. And, was this a skill set that could be shared.

With over 25 years in the field of Mental Healthcare, I have worked in administration, marketing, clinical services and admissions. I even did a four year stint with an advertising agency. There are “Sales” Books, CD’s, DVD’s, Seminars, Webinars, Websites and Workbooks. I’ve participated in training, in one way or another, from most of these!

I took a few moments and compiled some of the basics that will be helpful to anyone who ends up talking with a client or a customer. I know there are quite a few clinicians and educational consultants that have private practices, who see my blog from time to time. This is information that has worked for me over the years and I hope it will be beneficial to those who frequent my blog.

Needs Satisfaction Assessment


A client desire that can be satisfied by your service

A client problem that can be addressed by your service

A therapeutic, academic or residential aspect of your service

The value of the therapeutic, academic or residential aspect of your service to the client

Assessment skills

To gather information and identify the client’s needs

To assist the client in recognizing how their needs can be met by the benefits of your service

To gain a commitment for further action; one more call, a visit, an admission or enrollment

How do we recognize Needs?
When we take an initial intake or admissions call, we can recognize “need statements” as:

·         “We need to find a way to…”
·         “I’d like to find a way to fix…”
·         “Our family wants to improve…”
·         “What we’re interested in is a…”
·         “We’re looking for a solution to…”
·         “I wish I had a way to…”

How do we recognize opportunities?
Client or caller needs should be the focal point of any initial intake or admissions conversation. But callers don’t always come right out and state their needs. Often they describe “Opportunities” for our service to assist them. Opportunities differ from needs in one very important way. They lack a clear statement of the callers desire to solve the family problem.

Families may call with a number of different issues, but there is usually one concern that has brought them to the point of picking up the phone. As an admissions director, clinician or consultant it is important for you to be able to recognize the difference between opportunities and needs in order to make sure you are addressing the “primary need” that brought in the call. The fact that the family may have many issues or concerns does not necessarily mean that they are looking for a solution to every one of them at that time. Therefore, it is through the skillful use of probing questions that will allow you to ascertain the primary concern and work to meet that need.

How do we satisfy the client needs?
The initial intake or admission call is a process of uncovering and satisfying the client’s needs. However, in order to do an effective job, it’s important to understand the difference between “Features” of your program or practice and the “Benefits” of your program or practice. Simply because of your experience, it is often very clear to you how certain aspects (Features) of your program or practice will satisfy the client’s needs. However, simply mentioning the features does not mean the caller will share the same understanding you do. Therefore, it’s important that you translate the features of your service into benefits that meet the client’s needs.

Why do I care?
As you go through this process, you will find that the relationship you establish with the caller will move from the “Shopping” approach to the “Consultative” paradigm. This is where helpful communication is established and the needs of the client and their family will more accurately be addressed; thus creating the proverbial WIN-WIN for the family and your program or practice.


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