Do you sometimes see people who step from one interaction to another, always appearing to effortlessly get what they want, while others slog it out only to triumph occasionally? It’s probably all in the way they influence people.

There are concrete psychological principles behind the art of influence, backed up by a lot of science and research. While it can be challenging, it is worth getting to know these because they can be of huge benefit to your case acceptance.

This is where it’s useful to know about Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence, which he created and published in his respected 1984 book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Through experimental studies and engrossing himself in the world of “compliance professionals” – that is salespeople, fundraisers, recruiters, advertisers and marketers – he was able to see how skilled these people were in convincing and influencing others.

Let’s take a look at a few of those principles, and how they can be applied specifically to your marketing and case acceptance efforts.



A man needs to buy a suit and a jumper. The shop assistant knows to sell him the suit first (the price of the suit is $800 and the jumper is $200). The $200 jumper seems “cheap” when compared with the suit. This is a deliberate strategy.

There is a substantial amount of retail evidence to show the number of accessories purchased after buying an expensive item such as a suit, for example a belt or tie, is much higher than when purchased in isolation. The beauty of comparisons is that you can influence a situation and the fact the situation has been engineered that way is virtually imperceptible. If you understand how comparisons work, you can make them work for you. If you don’t, you can inadvertently have them work against you.

A great example is the use of comparisons in downselling. If we’re trying to present treatment and we know for example, that a crown might be a Rolls Royce treatment option, but an onlay might be a BMW option. We can say, “Mrs. Jones, a Rolls Royce treatment for this would be a crown. A crown is going to wrap the tooth and protect it, it’s going to really reinforce it and will last a really long time for you, and the fee for that is going to be in our practice $2200.”

Now if you see them hesitating say, “Look, there is alternative, it’s the BMW to the Rolls Royce and it’s still a very good option. The option might be to put a full coverage onlay on that tooth. It’ll be great. It’ll be made of porcelain. It’ll still protect the tooth, perhaps not as much as the crown, but it’s a really great option. You’ll get a good length of time out of it, maybe not quite the same length as the crown. But compared to the $2200 that’s going to set you back $1600.”

And what we’ve found is that we’ve been able to take people who are hesitant to have a crown and down sell them into a treatment option, which was also clinically appropriate.


Social proof

As social beings, we often look to others for examples of what we should think, feel, how we should act, and for approval surrounding the decisions we make. We’re particularly vulnerable to this principle when we’re feeling unclear because this is a time when we’re even more likely to be influenced.

Examples of social proof include:

  • Canned laughter for TV sitcoms
  • The long lines outside a nightclub when there is plenty of room inside
  • Testimonials and client reviews

We’re also more likely to work late if others in our team are doing the same, put a tip in a jar if it already contains money, or eat in a restaurant if it’s busy. Do you agree? It works best when uncertainty and similarity are present.

One of the ways in which we can use this in our marketing efforts, is through the use of reviews and testimonials. It’s really important that you have a strategy in place for gathering Google and Facebook Reviews, because these are perfect examples of social proof that can influence a future patients decision making process.

Before and after photos are also really effective here – not only because they demonstrate concrete results. They also subconsciously signal a kind of transformation from a person who is struggling with their dental health, to someone with a brilliant, white smile. It tells the potential patient that they can experience that transformation too.

The optimal conditions around social proof are uncertainty. We’re not quite sure what to do. We’re not sure what decision we want to make, but then we see someone similar to us and we take our cues from the decision that they made.



There is a very famous study on the effect of authority that was conducted by Stanley Milgram. It found people in authority are assumed to have greater access to information and power. Hence, it makes sense to comply with the wishes of properly constituted authorities. This is also why advertisers of medical products use doctors to front their campaigns. Titles, uniforms and even gadgets can show authority and persuade us to accept what these people say is true and correct.

Within the practice, it can be a good idea to always have your team refer to you as Dr in front of patients. You might be on a first-name basis behind the scenes, but your patients are much more likely to trust your authority if you’re referred to as Dr.

You might also have your degrees, diplomas, certificates, and awards up on the wall for patients to see. Consciously or subconsciously, it conveys that authority and expertise that can often put our patients mind at ease.


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