How to Convert a Prospective Cosmetic Patient
How do you convert a cosmetic patient? Converting rates can be frustrating in today’s competitive world. You’ve spent the time, money and effort in getting prospective patients through your door, yet too many of the prospective patients don’t book for some reason.
Why not? Is it the competition? Is it your marketing? Is it your staff?
What I’ve learned from consulting in this industry for 20 years and writing the book on it, is this…
The #1 reason cosmetic patients do NOT choose you is that they didn’t feel a connection.
The good news is you can improve that problem fairly easily to increase your closing rate.
What does the cosmetic patient really want?
First, consider what an aesthetic patient is really buying. Emotionally, they are buying time, recognition, prestige, happiness and love.
Some will tell you they want to stay competitive in the marketplace, look better now that they are newly single, are going to a class reunion and want to make an old boyfriend jealous.
The bottom line is that your cosmetic patient wants to feel better – period! They believe looking better will make them feel better about themselves. Now, they just need to find the right surgeon to help them.
Knowing this, you must address their emotional wants, needs, fears and disappointments. The cosmetic patient is buying hope – that you will give them a good result, with minimal pain and discomfort and that their lives will improve.
So, you are in the business of feelings. The aesthetic patient wants to feel special, understood, important, comfortable, significant and respected. They want to know you care about them as a person and you will give them what they want.
They expect to be treated with kindness and respect and, frankly, if they don’t get those warm, fuzzy feelings from you and your staff, they will go to your competitor who will treat them better and they’ll take their friends with them.
Start Connecting with the Patient on the First Call
Your patients want to identify with you and your staff. If you can make the prospective patient feel good, important, and comfortable as well as understanding of their needs, they are yours.
The connection starts with rapport-building on the initial telephone call they make to your office.
It’s imperative your receptionist be friendly, upbeat, professional and trained to use their tone of voice and strategic scripts to “lead” the caller to book a consultation with you.
Otherwise, if they can’t get past the receptionist, they’re never going to meet you!
For example, your receptionist needs to introduce herself first and then learn the caller’s name so she can use it throughout the call. Using someone’s name automatically creates more of a bond and makes the patients feel more important.
But your receptionist also needs to be skilled at asking specific questions and getting answers from the caller that moves them to schedule a consultation with you.
Asking the caller questions such as which procedure they’re interested in, and then reassuring them that’s a very popular procedure you perform, puts them more at ease.
Your receptionist also needs to be skilled at asking for the consultation. The caller is not going to just hand it to them.
For example, have your receptionist convert early by offering a choice of your next two appointment days/times that are still available. If they pick one, they are moving forward.
Too much time between when the caller reached out to you and when they can visit you is dangerous. They can easily continue to research your competitors who can accommodate the caller’s schedule better or talk to their friends who talk them out of it and so on.
Fill up this lag time and stay connected with the prospective patient to build trust while they are waiting for their consultation with you.
Have a structure in place where you “drip” information to them so they get excited about showing up to meet you in person.
For example, as soon as they book a consultation, mail or digitally send them a formal patient information packet that contains a letter from you and a handwritten comment from your patient coordinator looking forward to meeting them. Include specific information about the procedure they are interested in, your credentials and photo, your office and staff bios, policies and directions.
A couple of days later, send them your PR pieces with a link to your Youtube channel so they can “see” you as an authority.
A couple of days after that, send them reviews and testimonials from your other patients who love their results with links to your Instagram account to see before/after photos your other patients have posted.
This “drip campaign” helps the patient feel as if they have met you already and positions you as the expert. This is how they show up much more ready to say yes to you.
Rapport-Building Between Surgeon and Patient
Your consultation with the patient can make or break their decision to move forward with you…or not, so rapport-building is essential.
Actually, rapport-building is one of the most important personality skills a plastic surgeon needs to be successful.
You build rapport through words, tone of voice, eye contact and gestures since:
- 7% of what is communicated is through words
- 38% through tone of voice
- 55% body language – facial expressions, gestures and movements
How do you get others to identify with you? You act like a reasonable, confident and professional person to gain their cooperation, loyalty and respect.
Arrogance does not sell so you don’t pull rank or overplay your authority.
- You speak to patients with empathy and understanding.
- You speak to their needs, hopes, dreams and aspirations.
- You speak to patients on a human level and let them know you
can help them with their concerns.
Logic does not prevail at this point, and reasoning can fail because this is all about emotions. Actually, logic by itself will rarely influence people.
To persuade people, you must understand, and address, what they are saying, use analogies and metaphors that patients can relate to, and show them evidence of your excellent work.
How to Create Rapport
Building rapport is simple but it takes time since you are looking for commonalities you have with the patient, so you can build a connection.
You have to care enough to go the extra step because it makes the difference between a prospective patient booking surgery or continuing to shop around.
Here are ways to build rapport with your patients:
1) Show interest in them as a person first, patient second. Smile when you see them, extend your hand, make eye contact and use magic words and phrases such as:
- “Hello” with a smile and “Glad to meet you”
- Use the patient’s name often
- Ask them how they are doing
2) Create or discover things in common with the patient:
- Perhaps it’s your patient who referred her
- Or that your kids go to the same school
- Or a friend of yours works at the same company they work at
3) “Mirror” the patient’s breathing patterns, posture, tonality and gestures
- If the patient talks fast, you talk fast
- If the patient talks loud, you talk loud
- If the patient is meek and quiet, you slow things down
- Use the same terms and phrases the patient uses such as nose job
When done right, the prospective patient will feel a connection to you. They’ll feel that you understand them. That’s when they start looking at you as the perfect surgeon for them.
Listening is a skill. The prospective patient needs to know you heard them, you heard their concerns and you addressed their fears.
Effective listening requires more than hearing the words transmitted. It demands that you find meaning and understanding in what’s being said.
Note your listen-versus-talk ratio. Please let the patient talk so they feel heard and leave room for their questions. Then answer with tact, concern and interest. Try to see things from their point of view or frame of reference.
Listen with empathy. While you’ve been through this thousands of times, this is their first time so have compassion.
Educate Your Patient and Set Expectations
Expectations come from word-of-mouth, personal beliefs, and past experience.
Expectations must be understood and then addressed and that begins with how we learn and take in information.
People learn information is different ways. Here are the three different learning styles:
- Visual people want to see the results
- Auditory people want to hear about the results
- Kinesthetic people want to touch and feel the results
We have elements of all three modes but usually one mode dominates. So, you want to present your message that gets through to the patient in the way they understand it best.
To keep it simple, your consultation should have something for everyone – something visual, something auditory and something kinesthetic. You can show them things, let them hear things and attach feelings and emotions to them. Some marketing tools to help:
- Laptop full of before/after photos they can scroll through
- Implants they can touch and feel
- Computer Imaging
- Videos of patient testimonials they watch while waiting
- Prospective patient calling former patients
- Patient information packets with PR pieces, articles you’ve written, your credentials, your practice brochure – something they can touch and feel
Please communicate clearly. Explain what you do using non-medical language so your patient can easily grasp it. Explain clearly the procedure, the result, the recuperation and the risks.
Oftentimes, less is more. Be succinct in your explanation so you don’t confuse the patient, while confidently letting them know they are a great candidate for this procedure.
The point is to be patient-centric! When you focus on the patient, they feel that connection. Spend more time upfront in bonding with the patient and using the above strategies to pre-frame you as the best choice. That way, you have a much better chance of the patient converting.
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Catherine is a business/marketing consultant to plastic surgeons. She speaks at medical conferences all over the world on practice building, marketing and the business side of plastic surgery.