Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Psychology of Potential Cosmetic Surgery Patients - The Surgeons' Perspective

The following was taken from an ASAPS publication, Selling the Invisible: 7 Simple Strategies to Increase Your Patient Census, by Catherine Maley, MBA, Author, Your Aesthetic Practice

 Since this is what the Plastic Surgeons who perform cosmetic surgery are reading, I thought it would be useful to post this article for potential patients and the general public to read as well!  I welcome comments about its content and its perspectives. 

Imagine being an aesthetic patient today trying to swim through the sea of information and options available for cosmetic enhancement. It is often daunting to sort out fact from fiction, hype from reality and marketing from credibility.  The aesthetic patient wants to improve something that bothers them and they have to take a big leap of faith to get the result they are imagining.

When you understand how difficult this process can be for the aesthetic patient, you can more easily establish rapport with them and help guide them to make the best and safest decision.

What Is The Patient Buying?

What are your patients really buying?  Prospective aesthetic patients want to change something about their appearance and they hope fixing, repairing or enhancing a certain aspect of themselves will make them feel better. They feel vulnerable and are looking for help.

Psychologically, they are buying hope, happiness and self esteem. They are also buying peace of mind. Patients want to avoid making a bad choice. They are considering risks and how to minimize them. Because they do not want to regret their decision, they are looking for reassurance. It is important to them that they are in the right place for the right procedure and that they trust they will get a good result.

Aesthetic Patients are Consumers

Since this target market is using their own disposable income to look and feel their best, they are consumers and have the power and freedom to choose their aesthetic practitioner at whim. Ultimately, aesthetic patients are doing a cost-benefit analysis to determine if what you offer is worth their time, money and effort.

Consumer behavior is a complex subject since it involves emotions, personalities and life experiences so, to simplify, the following concepts should help in your understanding of what your patients want and need.

Your aesthetic patients are consumers.  The following are four buying groups they fall into and includes advice on the best approach to reach them:

1.  "Tire Kickers"

This group doesn’t know what they want. They seem to have a lot of time on their hands because they will attend your events, eat your food, take your samples and never, ever buy. They may even book a consultation, go through the motions but never book a procedure. Do not exert energy on this group since it’s a waste of time.

2.  "Deal Makers/Price Shoppers"

This group is looking for the best deal in town above all else. They have a tendency to regard cosmetic enhancement as a commodity and will spend much of their consultation negotiating with you and your staff. To them, it’s an art form to get you to lower your prices or throw in freebies. Beware of them. Shut them down
on their first attempt to lower your price by firmly restating what it is.

3.  "Brand Loyalists"

This is your favorite group. They love you and would not go to anyone else—even if a competitor was half your price!  They are your cheerleaders, your advocates and your loyal followers. Treat them well and they are yours for life. Most of your efforts should be concentrated on this group and growing it to include their loyal friends, family and colleagues.

4.  "Luxury Innovators/Quality Shoppers"

While this group wants only the best and will pay for it, they can be difficult.  They have a tendency to flaunt their money and expect better treatment than your other patients get. While you should treat all of your patients with respect and special care, spending a little extra time and effort on this group can pay off since
like-minded people know other like-minded people and this can be a profitable group to appease.
The Aesthetic Patient’s Decision-Making Process

Aesthetic patients are emotional and act on prejudices and habits much more than knowledge. They reach decisions quickly with emotions and then justify those decisions with logic. And, while it takes a patient a split second to make a decision; getting ready to make that decision can take months or even years.

The answer to bonding with your prospective patients, giving them what they want and closing more procedures, is effective communications. It is most helpful to communicate with each patient the way they can best understand—especially when discussing the invisible. Patients use their senses to take in information and digest it accordingly and, typically, one sense dominates over the others. Keep these in mind when consulting with your patients:

"Looks Right" Patients
These patients make decisions based on what they see and then they visualize how it will look for them so show them lots of before and after photos and/or computer imaging. Paint them a mental picture with words. Draw out what you envision. They trust what they see. They will say things like, “This looks right to me.” or “I see what you mean.”

"Sounds Right" Patients

These people make decisions based on what they hear. When they hear words that make sense to them, they respond well, so tell them about the procedure with confidence and sincerity. Have your staff and other patients tell them about their own experiences. They will say things like, “That sounds about right.” or “I like the sound of that!”

"Feels Right" Patients

These people make decisions based on what they can physically feel so hand them a mirror, give them product samples and let them try on breast implants.  Pat them on the shoulder to physically connect with them. They will say things like, “I feel good about this.” Or “This feels right.”

"Makes Sense" Patients

These people need reasons for what they do. Answer the “why” for them. Give them facts, data and reasons so they can justify their decision in their own minds.  They respond well to logic. They will say things like, “Well, that’s logical.” or “That makes a lot of sense.”

Steps to Closing More Procedures

When selling the invisible service—which is you—you have no product between you and the patient. You are the product so they have to examine you as they would any other big, disposable investment they make.


Understanding the decision-making process of an aesthetic patient and then addressing each patient individually will improve your closing ratio. Learning to build rapport, communicate effectively, and establish trust with your patients by using the senses, will bond them to you.  That means they will consistently choose you over all the others.