How to improve patient outcomes and promote services
Selling dentistry. Just mentioning these two words in the same sentence, leaves the most open-minded clinician, feeling uncomfortable. I can think of no other topic in our profession, more controversial. Dental sales incites indignation. It’s been labeled unethical by some. Especially when you hear stories of doctors recommending unnecessary treatment. Ethics are fundamental in establishing a proper sales protocol.
Ponder this scenario. You need to purchase a computer. You know exactly what you’re looking for. Once in the electronics store, you select the computer you’re going to buy. On your way to check out, you pick up a new mouse. Everything will be new and functioning at capacity. As you’re approaching the register, the associate realizes you don’t have batteries for the mouse. He points you to the battery display. Was the associate’s behavior unethical? Did he offer you something you didn’t need? No. In fact, not only do you need batteries, he made things convenient by expediting your ability to get to what you really want; setting up your computer.
When navigating the controversial seas of dental sales, it seems waders and a life preserver are necessary, because the waters can get treacherous. Let’s start by establishing a few facts. If you are a dentist, hygienist, mother, father, police officer, insurance agent, school teacher, or any other title placed on humanity, you are in sales. How so, you may ask?
When a police officer visits your child’s school and speaks with them about the dangers of drugs, he’s selling them on safety. Insurance agents are not selling you an actual product. They are selling you emotional security through risk reduction. Explaining the long-term benefits of a crown versus a four-surface filling, is selling dentistry. The promotion of oral hygiene and three-month recalls, though masked as patient education, are quite simply, selling oral health. Call it what you may, but every day, in some capacity, you are acting as a salesperson.
Two different sales models
Many do not recognize there are two major sales approaches: hard selling and soft selling. Hard sales uses a very direct, often pushy and blunt sales approach. There is a great deal of outside pressure associated with hard selling. This is what lends itself to its distressing reputation.
Soft sales is education-based
Soft sales is consultative in nature. The sales person (aka dentist, hygienist. . .) makes appropriate recommendations based on need, and ability. The recommendations are only made after taking time to educate the buyer (patient). Obligingly, the recommendations factor in lifestyle, demand, and finances. The thought process is, once properly educated, the consumer will naturally take action. Doesn’t this sound like what you are doing on a regular basis?
The emotional sale
We’ve established education as the foundation for soft sales, but it’s not the only component. Emotion is the driving factor in consumer purchases. Most of us live in homes at the top of our budget, because we appreciate what better neighborhoods provide. We feel safer and our kids can attend better schools? You may have needed a new house, but it was emotion that drove the final decision in determining which home you bought. You could see yourself relaxing in the garden tub or creating memories in that great backyard.
Dentistry is not dissimilar. Helping patients choose treatment that meets both their functional and emotional needs, is a masterful skill. However, guiding them through the process cannot be successfully accomplished, without first creating a relationship.
Create a bond
Take the time to build an emotional relationship with your patients, and they will reciprocate with unequivocal trust. Some clinicians feel busy schedules do not allow time to establish relationships with their patients. Too often, they defer this aspect to their auxiliaries. In reality, it only takes moments to make someone feel cared for, and special. If you are generous with your time, patients will be generous with their trust.
When the time comes to make treatment recommendations, if you’ve invested in building a meaningful relationship, you will never feel like a salesperson, but a friend making sincere suggestions.
Speak from the heart
Dental professionals love to educate, but as mentioned previously, speaking to patient emotions is the real deal-closer. “Mrs. Smith, wouldn’t it feel great if you could eat an apple again, or smile confidently in the pictures at your son’s wedding? Patients are seeking more than a solution to their dental needs.
Studies show that 92% of people believe having an attractive smile is an important social and physical asset. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports, over 74% of patients believe an ugly smile can keep them from job placement or career advancement. Patients seek intangible feelings such as confidence, lack of shame, and feeling attractive. These emotions move patients to accept treatment, increase new patient conversions, and sustain them long after treatment has been completed.
Seize the moment
When a patient has taken time off from work or arranged babysitters to be in your office, don’t be afraid to offer additional treatment, if the schedule allows. “I know you’re very busy. We have some extra time and could take impressions today while you’re here. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in? “ You’ve done the patient a favor, and increased production, all without pushing sales. The key is knowing your patients, and making the services they need and want available.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Before and after photos, along with captivating testimonials, allow people to see your skills manifested in amazing esthetic transformations. Allow your work to speak for itself. These can be displayed in the hallway for patients to view as they walk to their treatment rooms, in a brag book for them to peruse while they wait, or better yet, on your chairside monitors via LoopScreen technology.
A radiant smile conveys vibrant youth & vitality. Video and written reviews capture emotional transformations. The two go hand-in-hand and tell a compelling story of lives changed through dentistry.
Remove barriers to treatment
Multiple studies show the top barriers to dental treatment are affordability, geographic location, and chronic health issues. While we can not create immediate change in each of these areas, our power is best utilized in the areas we can change.
Poor oral health can have a significant negative impact on our overall health such as, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. Sadly, many are unaware of the oral-systemic connection. By raising awareness, patients recognize the importance and will prioritize dental care.
Offering a variety of financing options will remove most financial barriers. An educated patient coordinator serves as a patient advocate and can seamlessly guide them through the financing process.
Let go of the old ideology that renders sales inappropriate in dentistry. Changes in thinking may be the only way to navigate these uncharted waters. You’re already commanding those seas, you simply haven’t labeled it as such. Once you realize you can simultaneously sell, and promote the health and wellbeing of your patients, it will be smooth sailing from then on.