Two fundamental issues that dentists seem to require the most help with are discussing fees and dealing with price objections – both of which can ultimately lead to regular undercharging of patients.
Almost without exception, dentists I have met have all admitted that, at some point, they have found this whole matter extremely uncomfortable.
In truth, it is quite understandable that dentists should feel uncomfortable when it comes to dealing with money. At dental school, you were taught how to deliver your technical skills in a caring and empathetic manner, and trained to be a healthcare professional but not a business person. Discussing fees is entirely outside your comfort zone.
Perhaps you’ve also been affected by bad press towards the dental profession? The UK media will sometimes highlight dentists who’ve opted to leave the NHS to concentrate on private practice. This decision is cruelly portrayed by thoughtless journalists as being greedy, leaving your profession unjustifiably tarnished.
But in reality, it is undercharging that is much more prevalent in dentistry!
Dentists on my courses have been painting a very different picture to that of the media. They often describe practices that are struggling to keep pace with rising overheads, and staff requiring increased salaries to meet their own spiralling domestic bills. In some extreme cases, I’ve even heard of dentists piling debt onto their credit cards, in order to meet financial demands.
Yet despite this increasingly bleak picture, the same dentists are still finding it almost impossible to quote their prices accurately. They find themselves regularly reducing charges, on the assumption that otherwise their patients won’t be able to afford them. They believe that by offering discounted fees, they will hear the word ‘yes’ more often. Reductions of this nature are, in my opinion, wholly unnecessary.
One of the things we need to look into is what is important when people buy everyday products and services.
Is price the issue, or just an issue when you buy products and services? Try this simple exercise to determine how important the price tag is when you make your own purchases.
Firstly, get a piece of paper and write down five acquisitions that you have recently made. This could be an item of clothing, a meal out or a present for someone.
When you made these purchases, was the price the most important factor? When completing the exercise, think carefully about your thought process. Only put a tick next to an item if you made your purchase solely based on price. Then, once you’ve finished, see how many ticks you have.
When we do this exercise on my programmes, we rarely get anybody who has bought anything based on price alone. We could have 25 delegates, equating to more than 100 purchases, and, on average, we get only a handful of situations where cost has been the most significant issue.
There are always other more important factors such as brand, colour, and design. There are always, therefore, other equally important considerations in addition to the cost.
Let’s say you’re buying a television. You might do some research on the internet first and visit several stores to determine which brand you like and which model would look best in your living room.
Technology may be an issue too, as you decide whether to acquire a plasma screen, or one with HD or even 3D capability. Only once you have collated all that information will you then begin to look into its potential price bracket.
The example above is from personal experience, but I usually find that the same principles also apply to B2B purchases.
Here’s a simple experiment that can be conducted in your practice. Think about the furniture and everyday materials you currently use in your surgery. When you bought them, was cost the number one factor, or were there other more important considerations?
Now look at the day-to-day invoices you settle. Are they always the cheapest products? Are there other factors such as service or the relationship you have with your supplier? How important was quality? When this is discussed on my courses, though price is certainly an issue, it is never the main issue.
Apply this same process to a vendor you now no longer use. Did you leave them because of price, or were there other, more important factors such as poor service, unreliability or perhaps an irreconcilable breakdown in the relationship with the company or its representative?
It is very rarely the price tag alone that has ultimately influenced the purchases you make, no matter how cautious or spontaneous you may be.
The deciding factor
Why not try these exercises with your team? You will quickly learn how many different factors they will consider before they buy.
Imagine a world where price was the most important factor. Everyone would be driving the most basic cars, eating cheaply made food and wearing bargain basement clothing. There would be no need for luxury cars or Michelin-starred restaurants, and designer label stores would all be boarded up.
Price is naturally important, and although there are some exceptions where it will always influence the final decision, cost is by no means the most decisive factor.
Ashley Latter is internationally renowned for helping dentists and their teams improve their communication and ethical sales skills. Ashley has also authored two books: Don’t Wait for the Tooth Fairy and You are worth it – feel comfortable communicating your fees & achieve the income your services deserve.