It won’t come as a surprise that being able to communicate is a top-of-the-list requirement for any modern-day, forward-thinking dental practice, especially when past research from the BDIA shows that patients are now keener than ever to talk to their dentist, but is the profession doing everything it can to match up to this?
More recently, the concept of ‘selling’ to patients has become a popular one, whether it be as part of the clinician’s skill set or even through a specialist role such as a treatment coordinator. This should come as good news as it gives patients more choice, keeps them better informed and helps reduce the many barriers to a successful patient relationship, such as reducing fear, building trust and delivering value for money.
But then we hit the reality of the word ‘selling’. What does it imply? What does it mean to you? How do your patients react to being sold to? Unsurprisingly, the answers vary from patient to patient and each answer will be dependent upon an individual experience. The problem we have here is that usually it’s only the bad sales experiences we remember. For example, do you remember that pushy double-glazing salesman busting a gut to make you spend your money on some new windows which you actually don’t even need?
Now imagine yourself as a salesperson at the side of your dental chair. What characteristics and techniques are you likely to adopt if your only conscious guide is all of the bad selling experiences you have ever had?
You will have probably picked up on some of the behaviors from these bad sales experiences and inevitably as soon as the word ‘selling’ crops up, your own experiences will create a definition that reflects this. Suddenly, selling to your patients seems uncomfortable. Does any of this seem to be compatible with a profession that is based on building trust and relationships with patients that are telling us they just want to talk? How and where are you going to find the time to ‘just talk’? Could you consider charging a fee for it?
Why? Well, that’s simply because your only experience of being sold to is a negative one. But, actually, the likelihood is that you are being sold to all of the time. The only difference is that it’s being done well and you haven’t even noticed you’re being sold to. If you are in a conversation where from your perspective the outcome is more choice, knowledge and trust then you are unlikely to mentally store it unlike those negative experiences. Once again, we’re back to patients (or customers) in many sales situations where they’ll probably want to ‘just talk”.
The good thing about ‘just talking’ is that it creates a massive opportunity to listen to what patients want, without comprising the increasing pressures on your time and finances. Here’s how…
Rather than focusing on when you have been sold to, think about the times when you have had a professional conversation, the type that you have been comfortably at the receiving end of. What was that like and how does it compare to your bad experiences?
Perhaps you have lead a conversation with a patient where through the presence of structure, clear outcomes and with the best interests of your patient at heart, you and your patient simply understood each other. Now think about the outcome. Less back and forth explaining or re-explaining of treatment plans, a patient that you enjoy helping and a patient that proudly tells their friends how wonderful you are.
In these instances, price becomes less of an issue and value for money is perceived by the patient.
This just goes to show that taking the time to ‘just talk’ can be an efficient use of everybody’s time – it’s financially rewarding for you and, ultimately, your patient gets exactly what they want.