As dentists, we like to look at our profession as being one dedicated to health, wellness, beauty, and quality of life. While these descriptors are accurate, we must sell our services, as well. Now, selling does not have to be a dirty word in healthcare, especially when it’s a byproduct of patient education and genuine compassion on the part of the dentist. In case presentation, you may tell a patient what is needed for optimal oral health, what insurance will cover, what the patient’s financial portion will be, and what the timeline for treatment will look like. This one-way conversation does not build strong relationships, nor does it maximize the potential for case acceptance.
To refine your “sales” skills, more appropriately we could call them “relationship” skills, involve your patients during initial interviews and case presentation. Create a two-way conversation by focusing on three tiny words that journalists have relied on for years: Who, What, and How.
Who is Your Patient?
Until people enter your practice, they are not patients. What makes a person become a dental patient? What brings a patient to your office? Pain, an unattractive appearance, obvious failing dental work? What have past dental experiences been like? Is the patient phobic? What’s important to the patient? Comfort, beauty, wellness, finances? What does your patient eat, where does he work, and what do his days entail? Answers to these questions can only be acquired through two-way conversations. In getting answers, you’ll demonstrate that you truly want to help the patient, and that you care about what he cares about.
What Does Your Patient Want?
First, toss the word “need” out the door. This sounds harsh; patients need good dental care, good oral health, and good quality of life. However, they may not prioritize those things, as you have been taught to do. They may want something else. What do they want? Ask! Ask questions that will build a trust bridge. If you can learn what they truly want, you can build communication around that desire, thus you’ll focus on the patient’s wants first. This is a great way to build solid, lasting relationships.
How Will You Serve the Patient?
Remember, you learned in school to give patients what they need, which is a solid foundation of oral health. Consider, though, how you will give them what they want. Your patient may need his missing teeth replaced, infected tooth addressed, and gum disease treated right now, in your professional and experienced opinion. While that is ideal, it may not be practical. It also may not be what the patient cares about at all. Work with your patient to determine what he wants to address in your proposed treatment plan, and be flexible on your timeline. Phased dentistry is okay! The more you work with your patient to make dental care fit his schedule and financial situation, the more loyal he will be to you.
Practice Makes Perfect
Reshaping your approach to the patient interview and case presentation can be difficult. Perhaps you’re not a good interviewer, or maybe your personality isn’t naturally seen as warm and compassionate. You will need to retrain yourself, and there’s no time like right now to begin the un-schooling process. Artful questioning can greatly improve your patients’ case acceptance, as well as patient retention and word-of-mouth referrals.