Conversations of a different mind

Sept. 1, 2003
The success of the old method of "dental sales," based on either the dentist's or the patient's need to be free of pathology, is gone.

Bill Blatchford, DDS

The success of the old method of "dental sales," based on either the dentist's or the patient's need to be free of pathology, is gone. In these changing times, asking questions helps you discover the patient's desires and values.The questions should be open-ended and intended to encourage the patient to talk, rather then a staff member doing all of the educating. The idea is to have the patient actively engaged in conversation with you, rather than be lectured to, which results in what I call the "EGO Syndrome." EGO is an acronym for "Eyes Glazing Over."

Conversations of a different mind require focus to appeal to the right side of the patient's brain — the emotional side. It also requires staff members to be genuinely interested in people (or act like they really care) and avoid talking about themselves. Our purpose is not to "sell" patients anything, but rather to find out what they want, their values, and their desires.

A conversation of a different nature might proced as follows:

Staff: Martha, what can we do for you today?

Martha: I'm here for my six-month-cleaning and to see if there is anything else I need to have done.

Staff: I want to thank you for being such a conscientious patient and paying regular attention to your oral health. I'd like to ask you some questions before we clean your teeth. Have you and the doctor ever talked about your long-term dental goals?

Martha: No, we haven't. I think I originally came to your office with a broken tooth, and you've been very good to me since that time.

Staff: If we were to talk about your long-term goals, what would you want in 20 years for your smile?

Martha: I definitely would like to keep my own teeth.

Staff: Tell me why you believe so strongly in that?

Martha: My dad had dentures, and he really regretted not having his own teeth.

Staff: How do you know he had dentures? How old was he when he lost his teeth?

Martha: I knew he had dentures because he suddenly had all his teeth. He was probably in his early 40s.

Staff: We'd like to be your partner in keeping your teeth. In addition to keeping them, how would you rate your smile on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best?

Martha: Appearance-wise, my smile is about a 6. It needs to be brighter.

Staff: What do you mean, brighter?

Martha: You know, more noticeable.

Staff: When do you notice that they are not as bright as you would like?

Martha: When we are getting ready to go out and I see myself in the mirror.

Staff: What have you tried to do about it?

Martha: I don't smile as big.

Staff: What types of things do you do when you go out?

Martha: We go to dinner with our friends and then go western dancing.

Staff: When you don't smile as big, how do you think your friends might perceive you?

Martha: They might think I am not happy.

Staff: Are you?

Martha: I am very happy! I am a six-year breast cancer survivor, and every day is a joy to be here.

Staff: Would you like your smile to reflect that joy? Do you notice anything else about your smile?

Martha: My teeth are looking older.

Staff: When did you first notice that?

Martha: When my grandson said, "Grandma, why do you have yellow teeth?"

Staff: If we could help you have a brighter smile — one that your friends would notice and that would reflect your inner joy — would you like that?

Martha: Yes, I really would! Of course, I am concerned about the cost.

Staff: Would it surprise you to know that sometimes patients spend as much on a new smile as they do on a car?

Martha: Wow! I had no idea it could cost that much! How do other people pay for it?

Staff: Just like with buying a car, they make payments. Where would you like to go from here?

Martha: Our youngest daughter is getting married in a year. Maybe a new smile would be a good goal for me.

Conversations with a different mind require questions to help the patient discover their own values. It requires a new mindset. See where the patient can take you!

Dr. Bill Blatchford's Custom Coaching Program is now available anytime, anywhere. Utilizing 18 years of practice-management experience with over 1,100 offices, Dr. Blatchford's custom program involves minimal travel and maximum personal time with the coach, interaction with other doctors and tons of support. Leadership, systems, case presentation skills, communication, and profitability are emphasized. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at www.blatchford.

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