Getting patients to say ‘yes’

I asked the following question at a recent presentation I was delivering to over 300 people from the dental profession: ‘How many people here are in sales?’

Only a few hands went up, maybe less than 10%. So why is it only a few hands went up? And how do you feel about selling?

Well, maybe you don’t see yourself as a salesperson; after all, you spent over five years learning about dentistry, not communication or business skills. However, every day you have to sell your ideas, whether it is to the patients/clients or to other staff members. If you are not convincing and you are not speaking the language of the person to whom you are trying to sell to, they probably will not buy into your ideas.

This article is not going to provide you with a complete change in your way of thinking, but just a small change in your thought processes can enable you to become more successful in generating more business and giving the patients what they want. Without these skills, chances are you will not be able to make a living and you could go out of business.

Many studies have been conducted about what makes a person successful. In fact, here is a simple exercise to do: think about a person who you know is successful in dentistry and develop a list of all the skills, attitudes and attributes that person has.

Once you have done this, list them into ‘skills’, ‘attitudes’ and ‘product knowledge’. I bet the ‘skills’ list includes good communication and listening skills, as well as the ability to build empathy with the patient. On the ‘attitudes’ side, are there things like positivity and enthusiasm? Have you also got product knowledge?

On occasion when I have a discussion with a dentist, the technical skills are left out. Although important and vital, the technical skills of doing the job only usually account for about 10-15% of a person’s success. Without good communication skills, the ability to build empathy and to be able to gain patient commitment, you may never be able to put your technical ability into use.

So why is there sometimes negative thinking with regard to the word ‘sales’?

Well, maybe our national media doesn’t help. It seems that whenever we see something in the news about selling, often it is about unscrupulous tactics from salespeople supposedly conning their vulnerable customers. I often think this is unfair, as it is only a very small percentage that might give the many millions of good salespeople out there a bad name.

If you think about it, without the ability to sell, the whole country would come to a halt and nothing would ever get made.

It may also be associated with the assumption that sales is about pushing something on a customer when they don’t really want it. It is hardly surprising that when I ask the question, 90% of the room never consider themselves in sales.

What is the definition of sales?

A dictionary definition will tell you that it is to exchange goods and services for money or kind, to convince of value. There is nothing in the definition that states that it is about pushing people or forcing people into decisions.

Let us look at another key word here – the word ‘value’. I think this is about finding out what true value is to the other person in their context or, in other words, their situation.

So, what about changing your mindset from one of selling, or pushing, to finding out what the patient thinks is value (wants and needs)? You can then show them how you can satisfy those wants and needs. When that person believes you can do so, he or she will probably buy.

It really isn’t about selling but rather about being the provider of significant value. To do this effectively and to be successful in dentistry, you have to be able to talk to people and find out what they want and need; listen well and check back that you understand, and then provide them with a solution that they understand and can benefit from. They will only buy from you once you can do this.

Do think about how you can change your mindset. Look within yourself and consider what is stopping you. If you think you already provide significant value to patients, then why not give more patients the opportunity to have more of the same services? You are doing them and you an injustice if you don’t.

Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself, such as ‘can’t’ or ‘won’t’ and change to ‘can’ and ‘will’.

Change your mindset to the fact that ‘I provide significant value to patients every day’ and read some of the letters that you receive from happy patients.

Sales are something of which to be proud. Without your ability to communicate well and listen with empathy, patients will not get what they need and, in most cases, want, and no-one then benefits.

Adding value to your patients’ dental experience through ethical selling, when done right, is something to be proud of, allowing both parties to benefit.

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