Teach Your Team This Four-Letter Word If You Want To Grow

Xaña Winans


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Teach Your Team To Sell

What is it about four-letter words that make us so uncomfortable? Why do they have such shock value, and why are they considered completely taboo in polite society? After all, I would guess you’ve had patients drop a few choice four-letter words when they saw the needle come out, or on the rare occasion when you’ve hit a nerve – whether literally or figuratively.

Like anything taboo, simply not talking about four-letter words gives them power over us. To be honest, I bet you’re feeling all squishy inside even thinking about my favorite four-letter word, so let’s practice saying it together.


Whew, you’ve finally said it. Deep breaths, it’s going to be okay. You said “SELL” out loud and the office didn’t implode. Your moral core is still intact and no patients have been offended. Why? Because “sales” isn’t the morally bankrupt activity you’ve been brainwashed into thinking it is.

Why do we hate the word “Sell” so much?

Let’s do a little word association. When I say “SELL,” what comes to mind? Did you immediately think of used cars and some hapless character with a bad combover, flashy watch and cheap polyester clothes? I’m cringing right along with you. No wonder the word makes us uncomfortable.

Whether in Best Buy or at a dental trade show, a bad sales experience causes us to lose trust in the person we are talking to, and the product or service they represent. We start to question their underlying motivation and commitment to what they’re selling. By association, you assume your patients would have the same reaction, which causes you to instinctively avoid “selling” the care your patients need. The thing is, this isn’t an example of sales. It’s an example of bad sales.

There are seven clearly defined stages in the patient journey. Moving a patient from marketing (stages 1-3) to sales (stages 4-7) is where maximum ROI comes into play.

  1. Brand awareness: The patient becomes aware that you are a possible option, when and if they need dental care
  2. Evaluation: Once the patient decides they need a dentist, they must evaluate their options. Reviews and detailed background research help drive the patient to the next stage.
  3. Lead generation: At this stage, your marketing must inspire the prospect to respond, resulting in an inquiry into your practice whether by phone, form submission, online scheduling, or even a walk-in. 
  4. Lead conversion: Once the prospective patient calls the office, your team must convert the lead into an appointment. This is the first stage of the sales process.
  5. New Patient Experience: Once in the practice, the patient will decide if they like and trust you based on every experience and interaction they have with you.
  6. Retention: When trust has been established, most patients will stay for years, or until something happens that causes them to question their loyalty to their “purchase” of you as a healthcare provider. This stage is where your marketing ROI is maximized.
  7. Advocacy: The final stage of the marketing funnel, advocacy happens when existing patients decide to “sell” for you, helping friends and family to try and trust you to be their next dentist.

As you can see, sales are an integral part of your business, and it’s where your investment in dental marketing turns into actual ROI. It’s also where many practices fail to thrive, because they have such an inherent prejudice against the concept of selling. Unintentionally, this is exactly where most practices self-sabotage their future growth. It’s time to make peace with this very important, very ethical word.

Stage 4 – Lead Conversion

If I asked you how well your team handled the phone and converted callers into appointments, would you say “they’re great!” or, “How would I know, I’ve got my hands in someone’s mouth.” Honestly, most of you tell us “they’re great” when in reality, you aren’t at the front desk and even if you are, you’re only hearing one side of the conversation.

Unless you’re recording your new patient calls, you don’t know what patients are asking about and what their pain points are. I recommend recording calls for a month or two, then I want you to listen and make a spreadsheet of the types of questions that patients asked, and if your team converted the call. The list would include things like insurance, cost, schedule, procedure, etc. You’ll quickly start to see a trend. 

I find that teams commonly answer the question that is asked. Seems innocuous enough, but when the question is “Do you take Delta?” and the answer is “No,” the conversation is pretty much over. Sales is about digging deeper to find out the real pain point behind the call – in this case, affordability. If that question is answered with “Can you tell me a little more about your insurance and what it covers?” you have opened a conversation and engaged the caller, creating an opportunity to offer good information that will ultimately help them make a decision about whether to come to your office.

Stage 5 – New Patient Experience

We tend to think that the sales process ends once you have the appointment.  You must still “sell” your patient on an amazing and attentive new patient experience that confirms their sales decision, lest they end up with buyers remorse. The worst patient reviews tend to come from this appointment when expectations are mismanaged, or worse, never established at all. This is where you will start to earn their trust, a critical component of any sales process.

It’s also important to remember that part of your job is to make sure this person will have a good sales experience. Will your treatment actually help solve their problem? You must understand their expectations for what constitutes a successful outcome, because if there are unspoken, unrealistic expectations, you’re going to end up with an unhappy patient. Both parties must decide if this sale will benefit them. If you determine that it won’t, you must gently refer this patient to another provider and essentially “decline the sale.”

Stage 6 – Retention 

Just like with the new patient appointment, sales is part of your case presentation process. We’ve all heard the expression “You can lead a horse to water…” If you simply tell a patient what to do, they will dig in their heels and resist, or at best, proceed grudgingly. However, by asking good questions that uncover the real pain points, your patient will arrive at the right solution all on their own. Patient ownership of the problem and the solution is key to getting treatment acceptance.  

Sales, at its core, is simply the act of helping someone to make a decision. Your job is to provide the information that allows your patient to decide something based on their emotional and physical needs. No pressure. No dire consequences if they don’t complete the recommended treatment. Just good, educational information so your patient feels in control of their decision. Besides, it’s almost impossible to make somebody want something they don’t already desire. 

Stage 7 – Advocacy

This is my favorite stage of the sales process, because your patients can become salespeople for you by telling others about their experience. This can take place by leaving a review, recording a video testimonial, or just telling a friend to come see you. If you’ve gotten a patient to agree to a video testimonial, guide them with questions that highlight how you made sure to answer their questions, provide options, set clear expectations and established trust.

If you can execute stages four through seven well, you will have gained extraordinary trust from your patient, which is priceless. These are the patients who stay for life, improve the lifetime ROI of your dental marketing plan, and send new patients your way. All because you and your team embraced the concept of “sales.” Maybe it’s not such a dirty word after all.



Xaña Winans is Golden Proportions Marketing’s Owner, President, resident visionary, and lead strategist. She brings decades of real world experience to dental marketing, ensuring that the marketing solutions she and her team develop are both creative and easy for dental offices to execute. Golden Proportions Marketing provides turnkey full service dental marketing services for private practices, group practices and small to midsize DSO’s.