In order to increase patient acceptance of proposed treatment plans, a certain amount of ‘selling’ is sometimes required. This does not mean that aggressive tactics need to be employed – in fact, such an approach is less likely to be successful, discouraging loyalty and trust from your patients at the same time.
A far more successful attitude to adopt is to establish what it is the patient wants, and offer a solution. It is far easier for patients to accept a treatment that will achieve the results they desire, than one that they are told they need.
An ethical approach to such ‘selling’ would be to ensure the three As: appropriate, affordable and available.
The first of this criteria may seem obvious – you are clearly not going to suggest treatment that is inappropriate for the patient. But it may be necessary to consider this a little deeper. Is the treatment plan going to suit the patient’s lifestyle? Will it be convenient for them so as to increase compliance? Not only is the delivery of appropriate treatment obligated under the Standards for the Dental Team, but it will also encourage better clinical results for increased patient satisfaction.
In some cases, you may also find that the most suitable treatment may not at first be apparent. While a patient may request a veneer, if they are unhappy with all of their anterior teeth then maybe orthodontics is a more appropriate (and conservative) option. A great way of identifying exactly what patients like and dislike about their teeth is offering a ‘smile questionnaire’. Helping you to establish what your patients want and tailor treatment plans to accommodate this, such information is also useful for future marketing purposes (but we’ll get to that later).
Once the desired outcome has been established and a suitable course of action suggested, it is then essential to ensure treatment is affordable for the patient. Most practices offer various payment plans to suit the majority of peoples’ needs, and making patients aware of the options available can take a lot of stress out of the process. Often, by simply being open and honest with patients about how the costs are calculated and exactly what they are paying for, they feel more comfortable and are less likely to refuse treatment on account of expense.
The same principles are of course applied throughout the process – by explaining each stage of a proposed procedure and ensuring patients have sufficient time to ask questions, their increased comfort will encourage a positive reaction to the treatment plan.
The last of the ethical selling criteria is one often missed in the dental professional: availability. Even patients who have been visiting your practice for years may not actually know how many services you offer, and the assumption that they do could cost you a lot of revenue. This is where your marketing strategy comes into play, as it is necessary to continually promote your services among existing patients. Flyers, leaflets, posters, bespoke TV loops and referral cards can all be utilised to raise awareness of what you can do for your patients. Putting case studies or information on display can help generate interest from patients sitting in the waiting room or those accompanying others to an appointment, even when they may not be actively searching for the information.
At this point, the lifecycle marketing concept should be adopted to build, strengthen and nurture patient relationships. The questionnaires mentioned earlier will provide all the information you need to employ various marketing techniques and target the right people with all the relevant information and offers available. It’s all about keeping your practice in their minds so that when they do decide to find out more or go ahead with treatment, you are the first place they think to visit. It’s also about up-selling and making patients aware when there are further procedures available to enhance their smile even more.
There is nothing aggressive or pushy about this style of ‘selling’, but it is certainly effective. In fact, US software giant Infusionsoft, has seen revenue increases of up to a massive 400% (www.infusionsoft.com, 2009) in small businesses who have adopted effective lifecycle marketing strategies.
7connections has recently formed a partnership with Infusionsoft to help dental practices through the UK capitalise on their marketing methods in an efficient way. The Artisan Lifecycle Marketing solution provides all the tools you need to plan, implement and monitor your efforts, ensuring your strategy is tailored for maximum return on investment while improving the service you offer patients.
So, whether you are looking to grow your practice, promote new treatments or enhance your services, ethical sales tactics are well within your reach. By following the principles of the three As, you can ensure appropriate, affordable and available treatments are promoted every time.
www.infusionsoft.com/press-release/infusionsofts-small-business-customer-sees-sales-quadruple-first-year (2009) retrieved 03/09/14
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