How to talk to patients and sell more

Even though you may feel like it is a conveyor belt in and out of your surgery, no two patients are exactly the same, so it is important to ensure that each patient feels acknowledged as an individual.

Dentists often feel very uncomfortable with the notion of ‘selling’ to patients. Instead think of it in terms of offering solutions. A patient has a problem, you have a solution and it is merely an exchange process. If you feel uncomfortable talking about treatment costs then the patient will pick up on this and, even without saying anything, an awkward tone is set.

Be empathetic

It helps to show empathy towards your patients. From their perspective, they’re concerned with:
• How much will it cost?
• Will it hurt?
• How long will it take?
Even though from your perspective, your concern is to fix the problem and provide the best dentistry, you need to acknowledge your patient’s concerns for the best outcome for both parties to be achieved.

Follow a structured format

It helps to have a format to give structure to your conversation with your patient.
• Discuss the issue to the patient thoroughly but in simple terms
• Discuss how the problem occurred
• Inform the patient of treatment options and your recommendation
• Tell the patient the consequences of delaying/not having treatment
• Address those 3 patient concerns:
1. How much will it cost? Let the patient know that a full written treatment plan will be provided including an outline of costs. Remember to let patient know of any finance options available to them.
2. Will it hurt? Briefly describe what is involved with the proposed treatment plan, and, if necessary, explain what solutions you can provide for nervous or anxious patients.
3. How long will it take? Provide the patient with a rough estimate of treatment time.

Demonstrate the art of listening

Listening really is such an important part of the communication process. Listening leads to understanding; understanding leads to mutually agreeable outcomes.

Your role as the dentist is to balance being empathetic with being objective. It is your job to educate the patient about their dental health and provide them with the knowledge which will enable them to make informed decisions about their own dental health.

Address the patient’s concerns with solutions

Take cues from the patient in terms of addressing their concerns. Be forgiving, particularly if the patient has come to you without any suspected problems as they may be in a slight state of disbelief of needing treatment.

Recap and follow-up

Often what is said in the dental surgery is quickly forgotten, so it is very important to have an effective follow-up procedure in place. Provide the patient with a written treatment plan to take home, give them leaflets to read in their own time or direct them to your website if appropriate. Give them space and time if they need it to make an informed decision and always, make sure you effectively follow-up those patients who do not schedule an appointment.

By honing your communication skills and treating patients with respect, compassion and sincerity you will find that patient’s treatment uptake improves, your (and your teams) job satisfaction increases as will the practice’s bottom-line.

As a member of IndepenDent we offer ongoing support and administrative assistance to our members. If you would like to discuss your dental plan provision then please call 01463 223399 to speak to one of our experienced customer service team.