Influencing others isn’t luck or magic – its science. There are proven ways to help make you more successful in private practice.

Professor Robert Cialdini has spent 30 years studying the ways people are influenced. He’s whittled his findings down to six key principles. Last week we discussed how gestures can be so effective in marketing and why we should not underestimate the power of reciprocation. This week I’m going to explain how to apply the second principle, commitment and consistency, in the context of acquiring and keeping patients.

Let’s kick off with a simple question…

What labels do we have in society for people who are not consistent in their behaviour?

In other words, people who say one thing and do another? I’m sure you can come up with a dozen or more, and the one thing they all have in common is that they are all negative connotations!

So what labels do we use to describe people that are extremely consistent in their behaviour? Again there are a variety of labels, but the interesting thing is that they are all positive connotations.

The bottom line here is that you would feel extremely uncomfortable with the notion that someone might perceive you as inconsistent or unreliable. Nobody wants to be branded like this, and hence we’re more likely to do something after we’ve agreed to it verbally or in writing.

People strive for consistency in their commitments!

People want to be both consistent and true to their word, so getting patients to verbally commit to something makes them more likely to follow through with an action or a purchase. Reminding patients of their commitments ensures they exhibit the behaviours you want them to take.

Simply getting patients to answer ‘yes’ to the questions you ask them makes them more powerfully committed to an action. For instance, don’t tell patients: “Please call if you have to cancel.” Asking “Will you please call if you have to cancel?” gets patients to say yes, and measurably increases their response rates.

Note: Age matters!

The older we get, the more we value consistency, and that makes it harder for older people to make a change. Researcher Stephanie Brown co-authored a 2005 study titled “Evidence of a positive relationship between age and preference for consistency,” published in the Journal of Research in Personality. The study confirmed the belief that older people become “set in their ways.”

The solution? Praise patients for making good past decisions, based on the information they had at the time. Then find ways to stress the consistent values connecting old actions and purchases with values underlying any new actions or purchases.

In part three of this series, I explain how to apply Cialdini’s third principle, social proof, in the context of acquiring and keeping patients. It’s one of the most powerful…