March 2006, Volume 2, Issue 2
Published by AEGIS Communications
“Selling” Is NOT a Four-Letter Word
Gregory A. Winteregg, DDS
Vice President, MGE Incorporated — Clearwater, FL — E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is all too common for a dentist to think that he shouldn’t be “selling” to his patients. He thinks he talks teeth and his staff talks money. But he is the one most qualified in the practice to handle the patient’s objections. In an effort to not be perceived as a “used car salesman,” the doctor runs away from the subject of money like the roadrunner running away from Wyle E. Coyote.
Many consultants told me for 11 years to not talk money with the patient or I would be perceived as a “salesman.” But wait a minute—haven’t you been sold to before and walked away really liking the salesman? So there must be a right way to sell and a wrong way to sell. What’s the difference between a salesman you like and one you don’t? I contend it is “caring”.
I think the philosopher L. Ron Hubbard describes it best in his definition of hard sell:
Hard sell is caring about the person, not being reasonable with stops and barriers and getting him fully paid up and taking the service.
The first time I read that, I have to say it took 5 or 10 minutes for it to sink in that “hard sell” had anything to do with the salesman caring about the prospective buyer. I always thought it referred to the salesman caring about his commission. I suggest it is time for the dentist to perceive the sales process from more of a “caring” viewpoint. If he really cares about his patient, he will sit there and help the patient work through their money objections before turning them over to the staff. This way he knows that he has the best chance of the case being accepted and the patient getting what he or she really needs.
Now you may say, “Wait a second! Are you suggesting that the dentist should discuss finances with the patient?!” That’s absolutely what I’m suggesting.
“But won’t people think we’re after their money?” you say. Not if you are approaching the patient in a caring way. The only question to ask yourself is, “Do I care about this person or not?” If you don’t, you should refer the patient to someone else. If you do care, then take the time to answer their questions, work out the finances, have them make at least a down payment, and get scheduled for the treatment.
But you say, “How am I going to have the time to do this?” The only answer to this question is that if you care about the patient, you’re going to have to figure it out.
Relative to fixing it, you spend no time at all with the patient to heed their request to extract the tooth. Five minutes trying to talk them into the root canal, core and crown. Five minutes to pull it.
Let’s say you knew how to communicate with the patient and handle their stops and barriers. It would probably take 15 minutes to sell 50% to 75% of them on having the root canal, core, and crown. You end up with about $2,000 worth of production instead of the $100 extraction. But, more importantly, you did what was right for that patient. And believe me, they will notice that and send in all of their friends and relatives. We have heard for decades about creating “dental missionaries” out of our patients so that they will refer to us. This is how you do it. Care. Don’t be reasonable with their stops and barriers. Get them to pay you and to show up. The number of referrals will blow you away. When I started “hard selling” my patients, my word-of-mouth referrals went from 5 to 10 per month to 40 to 50 per month.
Most people can still recognize caring and sincerity. Let’s stop being afraid of what they will think about us and really start showing them how much we care by taking the time to handle their stops and barriers and get them the service they genuinely need.
Will some patients accuse you of being money-motivated? Absolutely! Welcome to Planet Earth. There are all kinds of people out there. Some are actually more interested in causing trouble than in receiving genuine help. But in my experience, they are the minority. I just very calmly looked at those people and suggested they find another provider. I can only recall 3 patients taking me up on it. All the others saw how committed I was to their oral health and went ahead and committed to having the treatment they needed.
Be confident, not scared, because you care.
What I’m proposing probably doesn’t sound that outrageous to you. The first time I read about this approach, it just seemed like the right thing to do. We have a system now where insurance companies and patients are dictating treatment. The last time I looked, neither was licensed to be making those decisions. I think we’re overdue for a new way to help people. Learn how to properly hard sell them. They will love you for it and you’ll have a lot more fun, satisfaction, and fulfillment in dentistry.