Written by Gary Kadi;Michael Massotto Friday, 31 October 2003 19:00
Never sell dentistry again, you ask? Are we trying to put you out of business? No, actually, we're going to teach you about the importance of patient education as it relates to selling dentistry. What does selling dentistry have to do with patient education? Well, as you will soon discover, they are virtually synonymous and so critical to your practice's success that we have made them the core of the practice development portion of our program. However, since the word sell is truly as vulgar and repulsive in dentistry as some other 4-letter words, let's first handle what selling really means and why you never have to sell dentistry again.
One of the earliest and most little-known meanings of the word sell can actually be traced back to ancient China, when selling meant to aid, assist, or support someone in getting something they really needed. What a novel idea! Selling was perceived as beneficial to both seller and buyer. In modern Western civilization, we have long since perverted the definition of the term sell to suggest coercion and taking advantage of someone (see: used car salesman, definition of). An investigation into the semantics of the word sell reveals it's not nearly as harsh as we capitalist Americans believe. Its origins derive from the terms to present, offer, and deliver. What would be so bad about presenting, offering, and delivering dentistry to people after aiding, assisting, and supporting them in getting the treatment they really needed? Absolutely nothing! This is the mentality from which selling dentistry should be approached.
Truly, though, the best salespeople (or "salesdentists," if you prefer) never need to sell anything, they are simply great at getting you to buy. You can always recognize these beguiling salespeople. You spend an hour with them and you feel as if you have known them your whole life. They captivate you with their enthusiasm as you hang onto every word they have to say about their product. Simultaneously, they attentively receive your questions and concerns, dispelling any doubts you might have. Then, mysteriously, as you are happily driving home, it dawns on you that you have just spent your entire paycheck on a new sound system and a lifetime service agreement. We know it sounds funny, but it has happened to all of us, yet we rarely complain because we got what we really needed and wanted. Yes, people hate to be sold, but they love to buy. So how do you have your patients buy dentistry without having to sell them on it? The following are just some of our favorite laws of not selling dentistry, not necessarily in order of importance.
LAW NO. 1: IT IS WHO YOU ARE BEING ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING THAT MAKES THE SALE
If you are doubtful, unsure, or your approach to patients is motivated by money, ego, or prestige, you ultimately will not be successful. If you are diagnosing, presenting, and educating your patients with strong personal conviction, integrity, and a sense of purpose in helping sick people get healthy and healthy people stay healthy, you will thrive and flourish. Who you are as a person, your motivations, and your intentions will shine through, and they are more readily apparent to people than you realize.
LAW NO. 2: COME FROM A POSITION OF ABUNDANCE VERSUS SCARCITY
You need to realize that there is no shortage of unhealthy mouths in the world. Only 50% of the population goes to the dentist, and only 50% of those people have a dedicated dentist or a dental home, so to speak. Therefore, your opportunities for new patients are virtually unlimited, not to mention the abundance of opportunities with your patients of record. You want everyone to be your patient, but you should not need them. Needing every person who calls or comes into your office often has you compromising your practice philosophy and standard for care. Is this a price you'd pay simply to please someone who is not a fit for your practice because of personal or professional reasons, and all for the sake of making your production or maintaining the illusion of a full schedule? In the end, coming from a position of scarcity does nothing but cause breakdowns in the office, and it prevents patients who will bring you abundance from getting onto your schedule.
LAW NO. 3: PATIENTS BUY FOR THEIR REASONS, NOT YOURS, AND YOUR GOAL IS TO DISCOVER WHAT THEIR REASONS ARE
Everyone has a motivating factor that will get them into action; the key is addressing the factor that is most important to them. An important talent in getting a patient to buy is being good at getting the patient to tell you his or her problems, needs, wants, and concerns. You will have more fun and success when you stop trying to get what you want and start helping your patients get what they want. This doesn't mean you shouldn't also give patients your reality on the health of their mouths and thoroughly educate them so they can make informed decisions about their healthcare. Learn whatever you can in advance about your patients in order to serve them in the best possible way they can relate to.
LAW NO. 4: LESS IS MORE
Having patients buy takes time. Slow down and focus your attention and efforts on fewer patients and devote more quality time to each one. How your patients know you care about them is based upon the attention you give them when they are in your office and in your chair. You cannot be effective at closing patients on your treatment recommendations when you are rushed or pressured, or when you are attempting to be mentally and physically in 2 or more places at one time. When you are with a patient, be with a patient with your full intention, attention, and interest. In addition, learn to talk less and listen more. As a general rule, if a patient is talking, you are winning. The converse is also true: if you are talking, you are losing. Have fewer answers and more questions to evoke the self-assessment process in patients. Get them thinking, realizing, and making the decisions that you want them to make on their own. Remember: if you say it, the patient can doubt it, but if they say it, it is true.
LAW NO. 5: MAKE THE OFFICE EASY TO EXPERIENCE
From the first phone call to the end of their visit and beyond, patients are deciding whether or not they are going to buy from you. Therefore, the service you and your staff offer must be impeccable, the physical environment must be immaculate, and the 3 primary objections to getting care-time, money, and pain- need to be removed. If patients must deal with you or your team being discourteous, inattentive, and disorganized, or face an office environment that is aesthetically unappealing, unkempt, and archaic, they are much less likely to buy from you. Patients equate the level of service they receive and the condition of the office environment with the quality of the dentistry they will receive. They will not want to buy from you if these are below par.
In addition, you need to handle patients' primary objections. Remove the objection regarding time by booking sufficient time for procedures, new patients, and hygiene visits, and err to the high side. Start on time, finish on time, and most of all, avoid making patients wait. Remove the objection regarding money by offering sensible and flexible third-party financing options and in-house payment options that benefit you and the patient. Avoid surprises when it comes to dealing with insurance companies and presenting your fees by having a strong financial coordinator and good financial policies that are discussed prior to any patient treatment. These are just a few of the many ways to remove monetary objections.
Handling the objection regarding pain is relatively simple. Given the way modern dentistry has evolved, usually all you need to do is demonstrate how gentle, safe, and precise your techniques are as compared to what your patients may have experienced in the past or under the care of another doctor. Take away the fear of the unknown by having patients experience how you work, and use good communication to set proper expectations. As an added plus, utilizing patient testimonials will go far to alleviate the fears and concerns of patients who are new to your office.
LAW NO. 6: THE CLOSE EQUALS COMMITMENT
For the most part, patients buy emotionally, then justify later by logic. More buying decisions are based upon impressions and perceived need than on reason. This is not to say you should take advantage of patients through manipulation and scare tactics when they are in a weak emotional state. On the contrary, you want patients to make informed decisions with a sense of urgency about their healthcare while at the same time understanding the need for treatment based on (1) an awareness of current and future consequences of their dental health issues, and (2) when their comprehension of necessary solutions is at its peak. This occurs at the time of case presentation and diminishes considerably within 24 hours of leaving your office. Thus, the basic rule of case presentation is to get the patient closed on care. Keep in mind that the close is not only a scheduled appointment and it is not only a signed treatment plan. A close also involves money in hand. A patient who gives you his or her money in addition to making an appointment for treatment and signing a treatment plan is one who is truly committed to care. So be sure that all financial decision-makers are present (be they parents or guardians, husbands, wives, or significant others) whenever you make any case presentation or discussion of finances. Set up private consultation time in a quiet, undisturbed private room in your office so that you and your treatment coordinator can give your patients the best opportunity to buy from you under optimal conditions.
This article has presented a few of many "laws" that can increase treatment acceptance without the need to sell in the conventional sense. We hope that you have gained a new viewpoint on selling dentistry so that you never actually have to sell it again.
Mr. Kadi and Mr. Massotto are the managing partners of Staff Driven Practices. They have been nationally recognized by ABC, FOX, CNN News, Entrepreneur magazine, and Dentistry Today. They are also co-authors of the book The 25 Surefire Ways to Destroy Your Dental Practice, and together they created the first-ever dental reality show. After 10 years of business-consulting success, they joined forces to use their extensive expertise in business and people development to master their application in the dental field. Since 1997, their unique processes have helped create effortless and fulfilling lives for dentists and their teams. They can be contacted in their New Jersey offices at (973) 812-2188 or on the Web at staffdrivenpractices.com.
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