Your agenda will kill the sale!

June 1, 2003
In changing times, it is even more critical to have the patient drive the conversation. If you begin with your agenda in mind and you want the patient to say yes to your ideas, it comes across as heavy pressure sales

Bill Blatchford, DDS

In changing times, it is even more critical to have the patient drive the conversation. If you begin with your agenda in mind and you want the patient to say yes to your ideas, it comes across as heavy pressure sales which can look like doctor desperation. Learn to discover the patient's wants, not yours!

Being too technical in your presentation can inhibit the sales process. We design our idea of the perfect smile for everyone we see — from patients to the grocery store clerk. We can't help it! This is what makes the end result so excellent. However, you trip over your own feet in the sales process when you already have a picture in mind for your patient.

The sales process (the time before a patient says "yes") has no opening for your agenda. How can you listen when your mind is fixed? Our job is to ask questions and uncover the patient's hidden values. Our job is to help deepen their values.

In the sales world, dentists and staffs are "nonselling health-care professionals." Our technical training creates a natural path for educating our patients into submission. We draw pictures on bracket covers and speak with words not understood on the street. We also strongly believe our patients need to have this treatment. We talk patients into understanding the treatment we think they need.

The end result is that patients accept only what they think they need right now. They are not dreaming about a beautiful smile or chewing with comfort. The end result is that minimal treatment is accomplished on many people ... and the dentist and staff continue to run from chair to chair. The dental zoo endures!

For a successful sale, dentists must clear their minds of their own agendas. Our job is to help the patient uncover his or her agenda. Develop a trusting relationship by staying out of the "tooth talk" while you develop a friend. Ask questions about their hobbies, if they are new in town, what interests them. Dr. Bob Barkley said, "You can never sell anything to a stranger."

By asking questions, you help your patients uncover their own agenda. Think of your mind like a blank canvas and the patient is painting a picture for you. This is where we have our wires crossed. We think we need to paint the picture for the patient!

Ask your patient a future-focus question rather then the usual, "Do you have any concerns today?" Ask what they would like their smile or dental health to be like in 20 years. Their predictable answer is the desire to keep their own teeth. Ask why. Probe deeper. Keep asking questions like, "What benefits could you see by keeping your own teeth?" "Is keeping your teeth important in your family?"

Your patients' answers to these questions will sound like "looking good," "younger," "better," or "lasting a long time." Ask them to expand on those thoughts. Show your "after" pictures to help them visualize their dream smile. Have them describe it and the advantages of an improved smile.

If you allow patients to paint their picture, they will own it. Create the opportunity for your new friend to dream out into the future about their smile. For greater success, drop your personal agenda. Be open to the possibility that your patient may have dreams and answers, too!

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. Dr. Blatchford is speaking at Genr8tnext in Miami, Discus Dental in Las Vegas, and Ross Nash's Extravaganza in Williamsburg July 31 to Aug 3. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at

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