Most motivational speakers tell us that we become what we believe or feel. This is also true of us as a nation, as we are the sum of our parts. It’s no fluke that the Celtic tiger was born following the Italia ‘90 experience when we grew self-confident as a country. A recent stroll through the UCC campus reminded me how far we’ve come in 18 years and how lucky today’s younger generation are with ultra-modern facilities in education, sports and social life.
In dentistry we’re often on the wrong side, portrayed like the Steve Martin character in The Little Shop of Horrors, who bursts into the surgery from his Harley, clad in leathers, hair slicked back and ready to inflict torture on his unfortunate patients. We need to view ourselves positively so that we can, in our own way, help to progress the economy and guard ourselves against accepting that there is going to be a downturn. By viewing ourselves as the specialists in oral healthcare, which we are, we can begin this process.
We must stay abreast of the recent spate of research that links so many systemic diseases to periodontal disease. We must inform our patients and the general population of these links so that they may accept the treatment that will improve both the length and quality of their lives. We must make ourselves aware of the future diagnostic capabilities of saliva screening in determining systemic diseases, and position ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities to place ourselves further as a physician rather than an oral technician.
Current thinking suggests that 50% of the population are regular attendees. If we could improve this by half we would all benefit our bottom line by at least 50%. This will, down the line, benefit the economy. The benefit to patients in comfort, longevity and self-confidence is a win-win situation for everyone.
The recent change in advertising approach by the Dental Council, together with the proposed changes from the Competition Authority, will force us to review our approach to ‘selling’ dentistry.
Previously a dirty word with many in our profession, I believe in our own personal philosophy of dentistry. If, as I do, you believe you’re improving the health, appearance, self-belief and longevity of your patients by diagnosing, presenting and treating disease in an excellent manner, then you should not have a problem ‘selling’ dentistry.
In the US there are many marketing gurus devoting courses to ‘case acceptance’. There are also many books on the subject. Brian Tracy is one such guru who has recently turned his attention to dentistry. He breaks it into phases:
1. The psychology of selling
Are you proud of your profession? Are you in the top 20% of your profession? Do you like yourself? Does any aspect of selling make you uncomfortable? Do you view yourself earning a high income? And can you cope with the inevitable rejection?
2. Why people buy
Do you know why people buy a product or service? Do you know how to uncover the needs of a customer? Do you know your product well enough to understand the needs it will satisfy? Do you know that quality alone is not enough to motivate buying? And do you focus on the customer’s one main reason for buying in your closing technique?
3. Closing the sale
Do you recognise and take advantage of signals indicating readiness to buy? Do you have detailed word for word closing scripts? Do you argue and tell patients they’re wrong? And do you make promises or oversell the treatment?
We’ve all encountered salespersons that are supreme in their job. Similarly we’ve seen the average and worse. We need to observe and pick up the right attitude and techniques from those we encounter.
As dentists, we have known most of our patients for years and should not encounter problems in understanding why they buy.
I think that our one weak area is our closing; we are often too intent on over-explaining procedures, materials and especially quality. It comes about, I believe, from fear of rejection and we put off the request to proceed with treatment.
This is a vast area and I believe it needs to be included in future IDA conferences, as it’s an area sadly lacking in undergraduate education.
I will return to this topic next month when I’ll present a simplified approach to case presentation to make it easier, more effective and even painless!