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    6 ways to ethically persuade a reluctant patient to follow a treatment plan

    Pressuring patients to accept treatment can backfire, unless you go about it ethically and positively.

    As a dentist, you probably haven’t spent much time perfecting your persuasive speaking skills. After all, you’re a doctor, not a salesman. Your job is to provide treatments to people in need, not to convince someone to buy something they don’t need. 

    To some extent you’re right … but I want to clarify some definitions for you so we’re all talking about the same thing.

    Convincing someone to buy something or say “yes” to something they don’t need is called coercion, intimidation or hierarchal authority. When we talk about persuasion and influencing more people to agree to your treatment recommendations, we’re talking about something completely different.

     When you understand that there is an ethical way to set the stage for more patients to follow your treatment recommendations, you’ll not only be giving them the best possible service, but also making it a win-win scenario for you both which will build a long, lasting relationship.

    When I talk about persuasion, I mean it as an ethical way to encourage your patients to make appointments, get cleanings, refer more people to your practice and follow the dental treatment plan they need. I studied under the authority in this field, Dr. Robert Cialdini, and worked for years on how to use the six principles of ethical persuasion in my own office.

    More from Dr. Phelps: 10 ways to help your dental practice compete now and in the future

    Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion are:


    People are more likely to say “yes” to your request when you first give them a small, unexpected, meaningful gift. So, for instance, at an event where you’re trying to attract new patients, you might hand out gift bags with a toothbrush, tube of toothpaste and some floss. Sure, this initial gift might be expected. However, before someone walks away, ask, “Would you like an extra toothbrush for someone else in your family?” Suddenly, you’ve given that person an unexpected gift targeted to their needs. They’re more likely to book an appointment, because now they feel a sense of obligation to reciprocate.

    More from Dr. Phelps: Grow your practice or kill your practice? 


    It’s a hard-wired part of human nature. When there’s less of something, we want it more. Scarcity is all about information that tells us when something we may want or like is genuinely about to go away. So, if you only have four appointment slots available on a given day, you could fill those last remaining spots faster by letting your patients know it. For instance, you could tell the patient, “Right now, we have four appointment slots left … but they fill up quickly.” If there’s a chance an appointment won’t be available later on, your patients are more likely to book one right away. If the scarcity of appointments is true and honest, why not use that power of influence and share that information with them?


    Continue to page two for the remaining four tips...


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