Stop Letting Patients Escape

How many times have you or your treatment counselor made a case presentation only to have the patient decline the treatment, walk out the door and never return?

Frustrating, isn’t it? You lose the revenue from the patient, which doesn’t help your cash flow. You probably get upset with yourself (or your treatment counselor) for failing to close the sale. And as a doctor of dental medicine, it doesn’t feel good knowing that your patient isn’t getting the treatment they need.

Neither you nor the patient win in those situations, so why do they occur so frequently? The answer is simple — lack of training.

The #1 Cause of Lost Revenue

Every dental practice has a treatment counselor, the person who informs the patient of the results of the examination and the treatment prescribed by the dentist. In some practices the dentist assumes that role. But in most cases, the task of “selling” the patient on the treatment falls to the dental assistant, front office person or office manager. Therein lies the root of the problem.

What we’re talking about here is that horrible five-letter word that causes most people to recoil in fear and loathing — sales. Let’s face it, no matter how severe the dental problem or how strongly you recommend the treatment, the patient has no obligation to accept it. Therefore, you must convince the patient that it’s in his or her best interests to open their wallet or pocketbook and agree to the treatment. Any way you look at it, that involves selling.

Now we come to the real core of the issue.

Treatment counselors — whether they are dentist, dental assistant or office manager — are nottrained salespeople. In fact, the vast majority of them have personalities that naturally shy away from the conflict inherent in sales situations. Yet, every day they are called upon to perform a sales function that plays a critical role in the health of their dental practice. Combine the lack of training with the built-in conflict avoidance of the treatment counselor, and it’s no wonder that failed case presentations represent the #1 cause of lost revenue in dental practices throughout the country.

The solution? Teach your treatment counselors some basic sales skills. Not the in-your-face, used-car-salesman, manipulative techniques that give sales a bad name.Those will drive patients away in droves. Just a few basic techniques that will help your treatment counselor handle the conflict inherent in sales situations and communicate more effectively so your patients can make the right decision the majority of the time.

Overcoming Objections

One of the simplest and most effective kinds of training involves teaching treatment counselors to recognize common objections and respond with scripted answers. For example, take perhaps the most common objection — “It costs too much!

Most people feel embarrassed when talking about money. So, when a patient complains about the cost, an untrained treatment counselor will back away from the subject and let the patient escape. With a little training, however, the treatment counselor can overcome the objection in a non-aggressive manner and greatly improve the odds of closing the sale. For example, when a patient says, “It costs too much,” the treatment counselor could respond with any one of the following:

  • The “easy to swallow” script. “I realize that sounds like a lot of money, but we’ll be happy to break down the fee into installment payments that are easy to swallow.”
  • The “treatment is not cheap” script. “You’re right, the treatment isn’t cheap. However, you’ll find that our prices are competitive with other dentists, and Dr. Jones offers a very good treatment for your dental needs.”
  • The “If you don’t…” script. “I understand your concern over the cost. My concern is what might happen if you choose not to have the treatment. Your situation will inevitably worsen, which could put your health at risk and require more expensive treatment in the future. In this case, it’s better to bite the bullet and take care of the problem now.”

Or, take the second most common objection — I’d like to think it over. A trained treatment counselor can offer one or more of the following gentle but persuasive responses:

  • The “think too long” script. “In our business we have a saying that procrastination costs money. If you delay, the problem will only get worse. Let’s make sure that you don’t miss this opportunity to make the right decision at the right time.”
  • The “main concern” script. “What is the main concern you have left?” The patient will usually come back with something like, “It costs too much” or “I don’t have time right now.” The counselor can then deal with those specific objections.
  • The “have a reason” script. “You must have a reason for saying that. Could you tell me what it is?” Again, the treatment counselor responds according to what the patient says.
  • The “medical attention” script. “When someone needs medical attention, you get them to a doctor as soon as possible, right? By putting that decision off, you take a huge risk. We’re in a similar situation. You need dental treatment at this time, so let’s do the right thing and make the appointment now.”

Will these kinds of techniques close every patient? Of course not. Even the most skilled salespeople close only a portion of their prospects. And it’s not reasonable to expect your treatment counselor to develop into a world-class salesperson. However, even a minimum amount of sales training will accomplish several important goals. It will:

  • Help your treatment counselor focus on the importance of closing the case presentation.
  • Put them more at ease and give them more confidence during the transaction.
  • Help a greater percentage of your patients make the right decisions about treatments they need.
  • Increase your revenues by closing more case presentations.

The choice is yours. You can maintain the status quo and continue to let money walk out the door every time a patient declines a recommended treatment. Or, you use these (and other) techniques to boost your closing ratio and put more dollars on your dental practice’s bottom line.

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