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4 mistakes dental practices make with financial presentations (and how to avoid them)

May 17, 2023
Are you finding that many of your patients don’t accept your treatment plans? Here are some ways you may be sabotaging your financial presentations and what you can do about it.
Jay Geier, Founder, Scheduling Institute

A case presentation is one thing; a financial presentation is another. If you have a small practice, you probably do both. You may not recognize them as two different presentations, but understand that you need to transition well from one to the other.

If you have a large practice, you typically give the case presentation, and then a financial coordinator takes over to discuss costs, payment terms, and financing options. In this scenario, an ineffective transition is especially detrimental. You may leave the room believing you influenced the patient to trust you and accept treatment that’s in their best interests, only to find out later that they backed out. You’re left wondering why your stellar case presentation went down the drain.

Mistakes dental practices make

1. Not recognizing that people value money differently

When it comes to money, debt, and credit versus cash, people have different attitudes and emotional connections. These differing perspectives often stem from their upbringing and the scripts and experiences of their parents, and they are usually affected by their current financial position.

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Either you or your financial coordinator must take these differences into account when considering the transition from influencing a patient to accept treatment to influencing them to be willing to pay for it. Team members, who may have less money than the patient, must be especially careful not to subconsciously project their own attitudes onto the patient.

To keep a great case presentation from going down the tubes, learn to present financial options in an unemotional, matter-of-fact, yet enthusiastic fashion that focuses on value and benefits.

2. Not appealing to what the patient values

Instead of jumping right into a conversation about a new patient’s dental problem, we coach clients to spend the first few minutes learning about the patient and their motivations for dental care. Maybe they’ve been embarrassed about their smile for years. Maybe they have a special event coming up. What patients value most are quality, cost, time, comfort, and convenience. Only by knowing more about the patient can you appeal to what will be of value to them in your presentation.

Even with that information, many doctors and team members can’t bring themselves to sell when the time comes to explain needed treatment and costs and gain the patient’s acceptance. Remind yourself why you went to dental school: to help people. Constantly reinforce in your mind and with your team that patients come to your office because they want and need to buy something from you to look better or feel better about themselves.

What you do and how well you do it are important to you; make that apparent to the patient in terms of what’s important to them.

3. Not adapting presentation materials to the patient

All the elements of your presentation package—handouts, slides, paperwork—must be geared to the patient, not to you. The language in your materials must be phrased simply and convey value from the patient’s perspective. Don’t include jargon about clinical procedures (in small print, no less), pictures of teeth, diagnostic abbreviations, and other confusing technical details. Present financial options in an at-a-glance format that’s easy to grasp.

Make sure your materials are clear, exciting, engaging, and positive, and that they highlight the return on investment in terms of improved smile, comfort, confidence, health, or whatever is of value to the patient.

4. Not tracking results

If you knew only one out of every 10 patients agreed with your financial presentations, wouldn’t you think there might be something wrong with your presentations and that there must be a better approach that would improve your results? A surprising number of doctors I start working with don’t actually know their success rate in this regard. They make excuses about tough economic times, or they stay in denial because that’s easier than taking responsibility for changing the outcome.

Work on improving your presentation and set a target of two out of 10. Achieving that will motivate you to keep getting better with practice so you can then achieve three out of 10. Success motivates further success and gives you the satisfaction of knowing that, through the excellence of your presentation, you’re fully informing patients about the return they’ll get on their investment.

Identify what your practice hinges on

One of my favorite concepts is “small hinges open big doors.” By strengthening a hinge, you can open an even bigger door. Identify hinges that will dramatically influence your business by asking these questions:

  • Is this something that, when done consistently, will have a significant effect?
  • Is it recurring in nature? In other words, as you improve the process to get a better weekly result, will the monthly result be four times that? Would the yearly result be 12 times that? As you scale the business, will the result scale correspondingly?

For example:

  • A financial presentation is the hinge that opens the door to increased average revenue per patient.
  • New-patient training is the hinge that opens the door to increased new-patient revenue.
  • The end-to-end patient experience is the hinge that opens the door to increased referrals.

Make it an obsession over the life of your business to focus consistently on these areas. Strive for continuous improvement so that, owing to the recurring effect, you reap the reward of automatically compounded results. To do anything less (i.e., allow your financial presentation process to remain broken) means you’re suffering not only a short-term negative impact, but also the compounding effect of lost revenue over the long term. Don’t let complacency or denial unhinge your long-term potential. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the May 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

About the Author

Jay Geier | Founder, Scheduling Institute

Jay Geier is a world authority on growing independent practices. He is the founder and CEO of Scheduling Institute, a firm that specializes in training and development and coaching doctors on how to transform their private practices into thriving businesses they can keep for a lifetime of revenue or sell for maximum dollar. To hear more, subscribe to Jay’s Private Practice Playbook podcast at podcastfordoctors.com/dentec.

Updated February 15, 2023

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