I just read your response to “4 months” about how to get new patients. Your suggestions are excellent and I’ll be using many of them. How do you talk to people about chiropractic in line at the bank, in a restaurant, in a store, etc.? I have talked with many of my friends and mentors about this, and most of them say that you just need to do it. Realize that it’s not about you or getting new patients, but it’s about changing and helping these strangers’ lives. Any thoughts?
The Timid Doctor
Dear Dr. Timid,
Initiating a conversation may seem difficult if you unconsciously feel like you’re stalking some helpless prey or going in for a self-serving “kill.” Obviously, with an intention like that, any encounter is likely to have an unsatisfactory outcome.
So first, give up the notion that there’s some sure-fire “pickup line” that can turn a casual encounter in the Nine-Items-or-Less line into a committed new patient. It’s unlikely that there’s anything you can say or do that will prompt a total stranger to abandon their hand basket and beg you to show them the way to your office. Instead, set your crosshairs on a less ambitious target—such as having a conversation with a stranger who doesn’t walk away thinking chiropractors are jerks or weirdos.
If you can get yourself out of the way, and not make the encounter about you, or them beginning care, you could be instrumental in moving a stranger one baby-step closer to someday becoming a chiropractic patient.
Let’s say you’ve stopped by the market on your way home and the fellow in line in front of you is giving you the universal sign of cervical restriction; he’s rubbing his neck, flexing his head from side-to-side and rolling his shoulders. You can wimp out and ignore the clue, safe in your anonymity, or you can say something. Let’s say that tonight you choose the latter.
“Looks like your neck is bothering you. Rough day?”
He turns and gives you the meanest, ugliest, mind-your-own-business stare you’ve ever seen and turns away without a word.
Okay, I had to put that in because with a hyperactive imagination, many of the timid type are afraid of just such a response, constraining them from breaking out of their limited social cocoon. While possible, the likelihood of that sort of reaction is slim, especially if your intent is merely to help without a shred of personal gain. And let’s not minimize that. You’re in “seed broadcasting mode” not the “harvesting mode.” Trying to plant and harvest in one pass is well, impossible.
So it’s more likely he’ll turn, briefly make eye contact and say something like, “Yup, it was a killer.”
Great. He returned your serve. Maybe it’ll erupt into a full-fledged volley. Who knows? The ball’s in your court. Now what?
“You need a chiropractor, here’s my card!” you blurt out. Or, “I’m a chiropractor and I can tell you have a cervical subluxation, here, let me palpate you,” you say, setting down your shopping basket. Or, “Come by my office at 1895 West Innate Parkway and I can fix you up!”
Whoa, partner. That’s what I’m talking about. The fellow in front of you was merely making polite conversation and you spoiled it. You moved too fast. You flunked the “jerk/weirdo” test.
“Well, what would you have said, Bill?”
Not that I have a corner on the ideal protocol for checkout line conversations, but my instinct suggests that you show much more interest before spilling the beans.
“You must have a stressful job,” you volunteer.
“I guess so, if you call hauling six, twelve-ton loads of wet concrete through city traffic all day, stressful.”
“Wow. That would stress me out too. Does the stress always show up in your neck?”
“Yeah. Sometimes my shoulders, but mostly in my neck.”
“What do you about it?”
“Me? Oh, well I’m getting ready to tilt back a few brewskies and put the day behind me.”
“I know what you mean. I used to do that.”
“You give it up? You on the wagon?”
“No, I started seeing a chiropractor and the headaches stopped.”
There. You did it. You used the “c” word. But in a very different way—as a patient, not as a practitioner. Whatever he says once you mention chiropractic, you agree with him. As a patient would—who isn’t inclined to take the criticism of chiropractic or chiropractors personally.
“Oh, I wouldn’t let one of those quacks touch me,” he sneers.
Now you have a glimpse of what it’s like to be one of your delighted patients attempting to tell the world about the wonders of chiropractic. It’s rarely clear sailing.
“Yeah, me too,” you confess. “I had to be practically hog tied, but I was pleasantly surprised.”
Okay, your work is done here. He's skeptical. (Like you were way back when, remember?) But for you, it had a happy ending. Mission accomplished. Good job. A couple more positive encounters and he may feel confident enough to try chiropractic. And all you did was express your curiosity and tell your story. Well, the first part of your story, anyway.