A new patient enters your practice and sits in your dental chair and hands you their dentures. This, however, is not the start of the sales process – that started before they even got to your practice.
The beginning of the whole process is the method by which the new patient found you and chose you over other potential options, whether it was your website, your signage, your close location, a referral from a trusted friend, a flier, a TV ad, or an ad in the local paper. No shortage of ways for people to find you. You did something right, in other words.
Next step is the new patient’s first contact with your office, usually through the telephone. This is your Department of First Impressions. Did your receptionist build a friendly relationship with the potential new patient through the phone and find out what they need and what problems they are having? Did she work to find an appointment time that worked well for the person? When they arrived in person, did the front desk staff greet them warmly and make them feel welcomed into your practice? Did you start to service them ON TIME?
Okay, now they are in the dental chair. Jumping straight into “please open your mouth” and doing an exam or getting them to hand you their existing denture are not necessarily the correct first actions you should take. How about finding out what they expect from this consultation or exam? What do they think they need to do? It is good to find these things out – not what YOU think, but what THEY are thinking. This is a good starting point.
Here are some rules for getting more patients to “yes” to ideal care:
- If you are feeling needy as the owner of the practice, watch that that does not come across to the patient. Do what is the ideal care for THAT person, not what YOU need. Bottom line, if it is that tight for you financially, then you need to get busy doing more marketing (there are many, many free or inexpensive things you can do).
- Don’t try to read their minds. Ask questions and get full answers. Many patients don’t know what to tell you or what you need to know. On the flip side, you do not know what the patient is thinking until you get them to tell you. Every individual is unique and it is best not to presume you know what they need or want. Ask.
- Help the patient make the right decision. You present the ideal treatment option and educate the patient on the benefits. Then get their thoughts on it so you know what to handle next. This is not a “sales pitch”. It is a two-way communication so the patient really understands that this is what he or she NEEDS. Then help them handle the barriers (IF ANY) to going ahead.
- Tell the patient: “you NEED,” not “you SHOULD”. This is one of the biggest errors made that can let your patient down. When you say, “Mrs. Jones, you should have a new set of dentures,” Mrs. Jones hears “ought to, could, if you want, but not absolutely necessary.” Yet the denture may be old, loose, yellowed, missing teeth, etc. However, if you say, “Mrs. Jones, you NEED a new set of dentures,” this gets the message through in a very firm and positive way. Patients need leadership, not vagueness. Practice this with your spouse or staff member until you can look the patient in the eye and say “you NEED…” Caring enough about the patient is the underlying quality.
- No slick patter, glad-handing, flattery, etc. Be real and caring and honest with your patients. Help them to realize that you are working WITH them toward their goal of attractive teeth that do the best job possible.
- Don’t bury the patient in long winded explanations and options. The patient did not choose to become a denturist nor a lab tech and may not have a great deal of interest in the actual types and qualities of teeth and materials. Present the best you have and only discuss lower qualities if all of the above rules have failed.
Realize that the patient’s quality of life is in your hands to some degree – how they smile and interact with people as a result of the appearance of their teeth, how well their whole digestive system is working, and the possible early detection of oral pathology. You are an important part of their lives. Give them the best care humanly possible!
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