Healthcare has changed drastically over the past 10 years. Technology, industrial relations, economic circumstances, government legislation, patient care and expectations have all influenced the changes we see within practices today. Any practice continuing to offer and implement the same services, in the same environment, with the same expectations of team contribution in the 21st century as they did in the 20th century, would cease to exist. Where customer satisfaction is fundamental to business success, the best results are achieved by those practices that create a passion for continual improvement among all team members.
What is a culture of continual improvement?
Creating any sort of culture within your practice requires the constant reinforcement of a specific message. In the case of continual improvement, that message must be that it is okay for team members to review regularly the way things are done, to question why they are done that way, and to ask if there is a better way of doing it. This doesn’t encourage anarchy as some of you might believe; in fact it does the opposite. By giving team members responsibility for moulding the practice, they develop a sense of ownership that is visible in the way they perform.
Let’s take selling as a prime example. Often, just using the word ‘selling’ within the practice is like committing blasphemy! The notion that selling and being professional cannot co-exist is still prevalent within the dental sector, along with the belief that patients do not welcome being sold to. I would like to dispel that assumption.
How can selling and continual improvement unite?
Modern dentistry requires a whole new approach. It isn’t just about looking and finding problems; it’s about asking the right questions, explaining the options, educating and supporting, and offering the most appropriate services – in any other language that is selling!
A recent questionnaire undertaken with a sample of 40 patients indicated that only 2% were recommended products to use by their dentists and hygienists, although 98% said they were interested in being informed. So the patients – the customers – want to be educated but their practices were not forthcoming with information, probably because they perceive it as selling.
If you believed these 40 patients were from your practice, wouldn’t you want to change your approach to satisfy their needs better? A culture for continual improvement would insist that you consider whether your approach is as good as it could be; it would demand that you find ways to make it better.
So in the interests of satisfying patients across Ireland, and to help you launch your change in culture, here follows the Dynamic Perceptions’ top six keys to selling.
Selling skills are only effective when we learn to communicate properly. We must recognise that people possess different personality traits that require us to change our approach. What we say, how we say it and our body language are all ingredients of communication that we have to master.
Understand your patients’ needs and wants
The patients who visit your practice do so because they feel some affinity for what you are offering. Your target customers are drawn to you because your services, your premises and your team all satisfy their ideal requirements. So, for instance, if your practice is targeting the business client then the provision of early morning or late evening appointments would be a valued service and one that recognises the specific needs of that target group. What do you provide for your target patients?
Understand what you are selling
We often find that practice staff do not understand many of the products and services provided. They are confused by the different levels of treatment available and can’t explain differences between treatments or financial packages. It is imperative that anyone who talks to patients fully understands the products and services they are selling. It doesn’t have to be technical but an awareness of the key features and benefits is paramount.
This is simply how to present the cost of the investment to the customer. Make the buying decision simple by breaking down the investment into bites of reasonableness.
Thus the treatment required to give your patients the smile they desire won’t cost £4,000, it will be an investment of 10 equal monthly payments of £340 with an initial deposit of £600. The instalment option is likely to be much more acceptable to the patient than asking for a huge lump sum.
You should aim to meet the patient’s needs in the best way possible and, obviously, always legitimately and honourably.
Close the deal
How many ways do you know to ask for the order? For example:
• When would you like to start?
• May I go ahead and book the appointment for you?
• Are you ready to proceed?
As long as you have fully explained the benefits of treatment, it’s not unreasonable to ask for a commitment from the patient. As the saying goes, what you don’t ask for, you don’t get.
Breaking down barriers and concerns
What’s in it for me (WIIFM)? Your goal is to generate a win-win outcome and this is achieved by learning to overcome barriers and concerns. This comes from understanding patients’ needs and wants, and being able to express yourself without sounding pushy and forceful. Learning to ask the right questions is the most important thing. Not all patients will be ready to proceed after the initial appointment but never assume that they never will!
It’s all about giving patients correct and honest information and providing them with options that best suits their financial circumstances.
But let’s be honest; no matter how you wrap it up, it is selling and you do it! You have a business that provides a service and therefore everyone in the team must understand that it is okay to ask for money and that it is okay to charge for services – the customers understand it and so should you!