My favorite movie character is Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind. The Civil War has brought ruin to this Southern belle who grew up in a privileged, pre-Civil War era household; and Scarlett attempts over and over to rebuild. But even this innovative, clever, tough-as-nails heroine, confronted with one final problem to solve, says at the end of the movie: “Oh I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day!”
Have you ever felt this way? I have.
All dentists benefit from a fresh perspective. A new approach. If you are a new dentist, you begin with a commitment to repeating what others have done to be successful. If you are a dentist who has been in practice and wishing for a fresher point of view, it is empowering that you can start each day with a new approach to solving a current problem. Gone With the Wind is about a bygone era. Today’s economic downturn can be frustrating for those who are still thinking we will return to the mid-2000’s any time soon.
In today’s era, my clients tell me they struggle with patients who say “No” to treatment plans. Whether you are a new dentist or simply wish to think like a new dentist, consider these solutions to improve the number of times you hear “YES!” when presenting your treatment plans:
1. Begin with telephone training for your appointment coordinator.
She makes an all-important first impression and can begin planting seeds for your services. Your new patient prospect has chosen you. There is a reason. Begin looking for the patient’s motivation in the first phone conversation.
2. Make a positive impression by branding yourself.
Congruency with your marketing materials creates a sense of professionalism that reassures your patient with a sense of security about your skill level. Wow your new patient by sending a welcome packet with directions to the office or refer him to your website during the initial phone call.
3. Dress the part. Business team members are far more impressive (and confident) when dressed appropriately.
Crisp uniforms with name badges for the clinical team and professional clothing for the doctor speak volumes. Shoes count too. People do judge the book by its cover.
4. Schedule the new patient to see the doctor first. Doctor, be the first to meet and greet your patient.
Be the one to ask questions. Do not have the patient relive an emotional dental experience twice by having your assistant or hygienist ask questions about the reason he is sitting in your chair. This one commitment speaks volumes in favor of your practice. You care enough to spend your valuable time with this new patient.
5. Have the assistant document important personal notes and hot buttons in the chart.
Hot buttons are motivators and concerns. In order to engage your patients emotionally, you must know why they are there in the first place.
6. Be a good listener. Repeat back what you are hearing and clarify.
Be curious. Ask open-ended questions. Questions work well that start with why, where, what, how, or tell me more about …. Your patients want to talk about the most important subjects to them. Self. We are all tuned in to WIIFM. What’s in it for me?
7. Utilize an intra-oral camera or a hand mirror when you are conducting your examination.
By asking the patient what he sees, you make the process participative. We all learn best when an exchange is interactive
8. Determine whether or not treatment can be presented in simple terms.
If it is complicated to present, it is complicated for your patient to process. In that situation, you will always get a better result if you schedule your patient for a consultation visit separate from the new patient exam.
9. Refer to visual aids, photos, and education systems throughout your treatment presentation.
Engage your patient by asking more questions.
10. Perfect your verbal skills by describing benefits to the patient (referring back to the hot button) and how to overcome objections.
Financial options are a must. Overcoming objections is easier when you offer several options that fit the patient’s budget.
As a new dentist, you may find yourself overwhelmed by this list. Use the list as a mechanism to measure your gradual improvement toward a long-term goal. If you are a more experienced dentist, ask your team to consider which area of the practice is most in need of the patient’s attention. Also consider hiring an objective party, such as a consultant, to give you guidance. When consulting with a team, I encourage the doctor and employees to make subtle adjustments to what the patient experiences. Commit to one of the items from this list tomorrow and keep it going. After all, tomorrow is another day!
Laura Jamison, current president of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants, has been a long time contributor to Trojan Today. The first of this month’s Trojan Today Classics, is an article is her contribution to the newsletter from 2011. Laura Jamison is one of dentistry’s most successful and highly respected dental speakers. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.