What is a successful treatment plan presentation, anyway?
Perhaps it could best be defined as a presentation by the denturist to his patient that offers the patient ideal care that they choose to go ahead with and that you, the denturist, get paid for as per the fee guide.
As with all healthcare professionals, the patient comes to see you as a denturist and they have an idea of what they want. You do the examination and quite often come to a different conclusion as to what they need and should want. How do you get the two realities to mesh? Aha! That is what sales skills are all about.
Prepare The Salesman
Like a triathlon athlete, one has to train to get in shape for the job ahead and be mentally prepared. My company spends many hours one-on-one with our clients training them on all aspects of sales so that a higher percentage of their patients choose optimum care, pay the fee guide or more, and the denturist doesn’t sound like a salesman. This is very important because sounding “salesmanish” will turn patients off. Here are a few tips that you can use to help your patients accept the care they deserve to have.
You know the saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” No place is it truer than in a treatment plan presentation. Most healthcare professionals do a certain amount of prejudging as to what they think a patient will “go for” treatment-wise.
The bulk of the wealth in this country resides in the Seniors; so, generally speaking, the majority of your patients will be able to afford the best treatment you can provide if they perceive the value and want the service.
Prejudging the patient is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you pre-determine that a patient won’t buy new dentures, then you will be right — they won’t buy. You must assume that the patient wants the best and present from this perspective. It is guaranteed that if you don’t present the best treatment, they won’t buy it.
When the patient arrives, check out what kind of car they drive. Chances are it will be better than yours. Ask them about their last vacation or their next vacation — don’t you wish! They perceived the value in these items and bought them.
Be Comfortable With Your Fees
You are a highly trained professional and your expertise is valuable. Your fee guides have been carefully researched to establish fair dollar values for your services which will allow you to earn a comfortable income if you stick to them. Ask yourself, do I really care about my patients? Do I use high quality materials? Do I provide excellent dentures? Do I provide good follow-up service and care? Are the dentures I produce worth my fee?
If the answers are “yes” to the above, then charge at least as much as the fee guide recommends. If any of the answers were “no”, work out how to bring it up to standard.
Elicit data from the patient.
First, you want to examine the patient and the denture. Both will provide you with insight into possible difficulties the patient may be experiencing which are being caused by denture problems and of which the patient may or may not be aware of.
Examples of what you might find: Worn teeth may be causing digestive problems. Improper bite may be causing headaches, soreness in the jaw joint, and other TMJ manifestations. Ask the patient about problems that may be being caused by an inadequate denture. Inquire of the patient if they have any denture-related problems — even if you already know the answer, they have to become aware of it! Any obvious flaws in the denture itself, worn teeth, cracks, etc. — show the patient. Ask the patient how old the denture is. If there are worn teeth or they have old dentures, show them what a new tooth or denture looks like as a comparison.
Don’t assume that the patient knows anything — they didn’t go to denturist college. Their dentures may never have been snug and proper fitting, and so they don’t even know that the fact they are loose is non-optimum!
After you have completed a full examination with the patient as outlined above, make your diagnosis. Present to the patient from this viewpoint: If you had those circumstances in your mouth, what would you want? This viewpoint should help you maintain your personal and professional integrity. You want what’s best for your patient, so tell them what they need.
Don’t hem and haw — “I recommend…” “I suggest…” “Maybe it would be a good idea….” Tell them what they need. “You need a precision denture.”
Always present the best first. You can always present the second best option after they have totally rejected the first.
But do let them know that this second option is not as good as the first. A surprising number of patients will decide that for the sake of a few hundred dollars, they’re worth the best.
You knew I was going to get to this subject eventually, didn’t you? The fee is the exchange the patient gives you according to their perceived value of your service. First, do your diagnosis as above and tell them what they need. Then you tell them what it’s going to cost. “You need a precision set of dentures and the fee for this will be …”
Some examples of the wrong methods of doing this: mumbling the fee, coughing while you’re saying it, or whispering it, checking out the ceiling or your shoes while you’re saying it, etc.
Just state the fee as a fact and be blasé (unimpressed, matter-of-fact). Don’t start off with: “This is the best but it’s expensive…”, “I know it’s a lot of money…” etc.
Now explain in layman’s terms what the denture you have told them they need will provide for them. For example, the digestive problems they mentioned should be alleviated, their teeth will be whiter (but not chicklet), the headaches may be relieved, etc.
On each separate point, get agreement that this is something they want. The dialogue could go as follows: “Mrs. Jones, you want to look your best, right? (Pause) And you would like to be able to eat steak, right? (Pause) And you want to look great for your Christmas photos, right?” In other words, you use the elicited data from above to feed back to the patient at this point to gain agreement on what you’re recommending.
Show them a model of the denture you’re going to make for them. Compare it to the denture that they currently have. Tell them, “You want a denture like this, right?” (the model you’re holding.) Be sure to have a set of models of the types of dentures that you offer for these demonstration purposes.
Don’t Make The Patient Wrong
Remember, patients didn’t go to denture college. They’re likely to have all kinds of misconceptions regarding dentures and denturists. The easiest way to lose a sale is to make them wrong. For example, Mrs. Jones has a denture and she tells you she thought it would last for a lifetime. To now tell her that she is wrong is like a slap in the face. It definitely won’t help to build agreement.
Start it now
When the patient has agreed to go ahead with the proposed treatment plan, start it then and there. Tell them, “We are going to start the procedures now.” It can be a minor service to begin the process, such as taking the impressions. This helps prevent them from backing out after the initial visit as you’ve already started to make the dentures.
A common difficulty encountered by denturists is patients who ask for a discount or denturists who offer a discount before the patient even asks for one. If you are providing high quality dentures and service, then there is no reason to discount your fees. Tell the patient that you only use the highest quality materials and teeth and that you do not use any shortcuts in making dentures. Politely ask the patient if they want you to reduce the quality of material or teeth that you are using in making their denture or if they want you to use short cuts in making their denture? Explain that in order for you to provide them with a high quality denture which you are sure they want, then the fee is (X) amount.
Should the patient persist, you are best to tell them that you can’t provide them with dentures and that it may be best for them to seek out someone else.
More often than not the “problem” patients who you can never satisfy and who make the lives of you and your staff miserable are the same ones who want a discount and usually a significant one. And guess what? They refer more patients to you who are the same as they are! This is not a healthy way to build a practice.
Be the best and charge for it!
Be first rate as a denturist in all aspects of your service and bill the same. Your patients will love you for it.
As we have found in working with hundreds and hundreds of healthcare professionals since 1989, your presentation skills and preconceived notions are what stand between you and a highly profitable practice. Put some of these suggestions to use and make a difference. Your patients are certainly not going to suffer by having the best. And neither will you!
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