Paul Homoly, DDS
"Holler if you could use a million bucks."
Who wants to be a millionaire? Judging from the popularity of the hugely successful TV game show, millions of people do!
All contestants have to do is answer 15 questions in a row and, "tah-dah," they`re millionaires. The catch is that they have to answer weird questions like "What is the volume of Lake Superior?" If they answer questions they`ve never heard of before, they become millionaires.
Who wants to be a millionaire in dentistry? I bet you do. How are you going to do that? It`s easy! All you have to do is answer five questions, not 15, that your patients ask you every day. And none of these questions involve Lake Superior. In fact, you already know what the questions are:
(1) How much does it cost?
(2) How long will it take?
(3) How much will my insurance pay?
(4) How much will it hurt?
(5) Do I really need all this dentistry?
How you answer these questions will determine your success. The trick to correctly answering these questions is knowing the concern behind them.
For example, what`s the concern behind the question, "How much does it cost?" Is it the dollar amount ... or is it a bigger issue of affordability and budget? What`s behind "How long will it take?" Is it the number of appointments or ... is it concern related to time lost at work, with family ... or an upcoming important event the patient wants nice teeth for?
What`s the concern behind "How much will my insurance pay?" Is it that patients want to know their annual limitations of coverage, an issue of affordability and budget ... or a desire to get out of their insurance what they`ve paid into it? What`s behind "How much will it hurt?" Is this an objective query into physical discomfort ... or is safety, mental comfort, or stress the bigger issue? What`s behind "Do I really need all this dentistry?" Are patients looking for more physical evidence for your recommendations ... or is this an issue of trust and ethics?
Is this your final answer?
Often, the best answer to the concern behind the question doesn`t directly answer the question. For example your new patient asks, "How much will it cost?" The best answer might be: "I guarantee that any treatment I recommend to you will be within your budget."
The best answer to the concern behind the question "How long will it take?" might be "I understand you have a heavy work schedule. I`ll design the appointments to fit into your schedule."
The best answer to the concern behind the question "How much will my insurance pay?" might be "Let me help you get your money`s worth from your insurance."
The best answer to the concern behind the question "How much will it hurt?" might be "Your experience here will be a good one."
The best answer to the concern behind the question "Do I really need all this dentistry?" might be "I`ll earn your trust before we decide to do anything."
Behind these five questions is frustration. And often the question "Why is this so expensive?" is not about justifying your fees. Instead, it is a lament. It`s like when you`re ready to go to the beach and it`s cold and raining, and you say, "Why is it raining?" And your know-it-all spouse says, "Well, the dew point has been high and with the cold front coming through, I`m not surprised we experienced condensation, cumulus cloud formation, and consequently, precipitation."
Does this ease your frustration? No, it irritates you. But, what if your spouse reminds you of a time when rain ruined the beach trip, and you went to the mountains, found a little cozy cabin, bought some wine and cheese, and still had a great weekend? It doesn`t do anything about the rain, but the story works wonders on the frustration. In a similar way, telling patients that you`ll work within their budgets doesn`t do anything about the fee, but it can do wonders for their frustrations.
To get an expert`s opinion on how to answer these questions, consider assembling a small group of patients whose treatment you`ve recently completed. Role play with them answering the five questions. Record the session and use it for review.
Over the course of your career, you`ll have plenty of opportunities to become a millionaire, thanks to the five questions patients ask most often. The sooner you start crafting the right answers to those queries, the sooner your practice will start to flourish.
Dr. Homoly is author of Dentists: An Endangered Species - A Survival Guide for Fee-for-Service Care. He has practiced restorative dentistry for 20 years. He has helped thousands of dentists implement reconstructive dentistry through his hundreds of continuing-education workshops and seminars. Dr. Homoly can be reached at (704) 342-4900 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his Web site at wwwpaulhomoly.com.