A Sound Commercial Strategy That Can Be Applied To Your Health Practice
I recently read an excellent article on a concept or set of principles that can be relatively easily applied to our industry. The article was a synopsis of “The Six Principles of Influence” created by Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. Cialdini identified the six principles through experimental studies into the world of what he called “compliance professionals”. This term was the term he coined to cover salespeople, fund raisers, recruiters, advertisers, marketers, and so on. He identified Compliance Professionals as people skilled in the art of convincing and influencing others.
The six principles are as follows:
We innately tend to return favours, pay back debts, and treat others in the same manner as they treat us. This concept is in accordance with the idea of reciprocity. This innate tendency can lead us to feel obliged to offer concessions or discounts to others if they have offered them to us. The underlying agent is our lack of comfort with the feeling of being indebted.
Commitment (and Consistency)
Cialdini says that we also have a deep innate desire to be consistent. For this reason, once we’ve committed to something, we’re tend to be much more inclined to go follow through.
This concept is connected to people’s sense of “safety in numbers.”
Some examples are, our tendency to work late if others in our workplace are doing the same, put a tip in a jar if it already contains money, or eat in a restaurant if it’s busy. Here, we’re assuming that if lots of other people are doing something, then it must be OK.
We’re particularly susceptible to this principle when we’re feeling uncertain about a product or activity. We are also more likely to be influenced if the people we see, seem to be similar to our perception of us. A typical example of this can be found in the advertising of household products. The people who are used in these adverts are normal John and Jane Does. This is because we are more likely to identify with them as opposed to celebrities.
Cialdini says that we’re more likely to be influenced by people we like. Likability comes in many forms – people might be similar or familiar to us, they might give us compliments, or we may just simply trust them. This concept really does play to the adage that sales is a people game.
We feel a sense of duty or obligation to people in positions of authority. This is why advertisers of pharmaceutical products employ doctors to front their campaigns, and why most of us will do most things that our manager requests. This is a concept that has been utilised within our profession for many years.
This principle says that things are more attractive when their availability is limited, or when we stand to lose the opportunity to acquire them on favourable terms.
So how can we use these principles in our Profession? Application of them in our consultation process and our Practice marketing is not necessarily difficult. The key is the understanding of each Patient and more importantly, why you want to influence them. Think about the ultimate objective of your consultation, during that consultation decide which principles will be most useful in that particular situation.
So how can we apply these principles to our Practices and within our consultation structure?
Reciprocity is simply the art of give and take, you are well aware of what your objective is. But do you really know what your prospective Patient’s objective is? Identifying exactly what their objective is allows you to measure up the concessions you can make in order to acquire concessions from them.
It is important to get Patient’s commitment early on in the process. My old trainer spoke often of mini closes, the art of getting people to say yes or agree to small pieces of the consultation. This manner of consultation allows there to be only one question to be answered at the end of the consultation, to move forward or not.
I discussed this with one of my customers today, it is about creating a buzz around your Practice and services. Use plenty of relevant testimonials in your Practice, encourage people to talk about your Practice and your services. Keep your Practice constantly busy with call backs and service work. A busy Practice enforces the perception that it is a good Practice.
We do not have a lot of time to build a solid relationship with someone during a consultation. But we can plant the seeds of a long term relationship at this time. The initial consultation is the most important meeting you have with any Patient. It is imperative that you put in the time and effort to build trust during your consultation. It is then your job to continue to build trust and rapport during your on-going relationship. One of the keys to that is acting with consistency.
It is extremely important to endeavour to develop your emotional intelligence and active listening skills. It is also of great import to remember that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to relating to others. It is always good to remember the old adage, “There is nothing queerer than folk”.
Again, Authority is something that has always been leveraged in our profession. We are the professionals, we own the skills and learning to do our job. The medical connotations of our profession have always been leveraged to give us authority. Back to my old trainer, you don’t take health advice from your friend, you take health advice from your Doctor. You are not their friend and don’t attempt to be. More than a few giggles at that, but again, he was right.
You aren’t a G.P. or M.D., but that is the type of authority that you aim for, but with a better bedside manner. The perception of you as an authority builds an instant level of trust. Something that you need if you are to plant the early seeds of what you hope is a long and mutually productive commercial relationship. Within your Practice Things like well-produced Practice brochures, professional and sophisticated presentation of decor and design, impressive offices and that old favourite, smart clothing, will also lend authority.
Scarcity is a difficult one to apply within our profession, perhaps urgency is a better concept. By that I mean urgency that is built through offers or campaigns. You run a campaign with a deadline, the deadline builds the urgency. The deployment of this concept has to be well thought out and it is imperative that it is perceived as a natural occurrence as opposed to a pressure sales tactic.
All of these principles fall into the sphere of sales tactics or strategy, I know some feel that this is a dirty concept. But, what would you prefer? A Patient purchase product and service from you, or from some other bloke who is obviously neither as talented, empathetic, caring and as attractive as you?
With that in mind, why would you not endeavour to deploy all tools at your disposal in order to ensure they do business with you?