Distinguish yourself

Aug. 1, 2001
Go get a pen and paper. Make a list of everything you claim about your practice that other dentists don't claim they do or have. Go ahead; make the list.

by Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"

"Sara."

"Sara who?"

"Sara 'nother way to distinguish your practice?"

Go get a pen and paper. Make a list of everything you claim about your practice that other dentists don't claim they do or have. Go ahead; make the list.

Nothing yet? OK, name just one thing you claim to have that other dentists won't claim they have.

Quality dentistry? They claim that.

Great service? They claim that.

Great staff? They claim that.

Great training? They claim that too.

You say tomato, I say tomahto, but patients perceive the same thing. If the patient perceives no difference, then the only thing left to distinguish you from other dentists are your fees. Do you want patients selecting you as their dentist because you have the lowest fees? I don't think so.

If you're having trouble building your practice, it may be because you have not distinguished your practice from the rest of the pack.

The best way to distinguish your practice is to distinguish yourself. This means getting out from behind the technical issues — what you do — and letting your personality shine through — who you are. Patients are far better judges of personality issues than they are of technical issues.

Here are five steps to distinguishing yourself:

Reduce stress around you. By reducing stress, you allow the "real" you to come through. Under stress, patients perceive the "coping" you — the person who's dealing with all of the hassles around you. The "real" you is always more likeable than the "coping" you.Give yourself and your staff permission to have fun with each other and with patients. There is no better substitute for fun when it comes to positively distinguishing yourself. If you're not sure what fun is, take a long vacation to Club Med in Cancun. If you still can't figure it out, then it's time for some therapy.Learn to tell stories. Stories are magic. Let patients know who you are behind the mask. Tell stories about when you were growing up — your neighborhood, your hobbies, the cool things you did. Keep your stories short (under one minute). You and your staff should tell stories about why you love dentistry and stories about other happy patients. Tell your patients about the successful patients and events of your practice. A well-told story is the best communication tool to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack.Look great. Looking great is the first step toward being perceived as great. Master the basics — clothes, skin, hair, nails, eyes, teeth. If you're not sure how to look great (and many dentists don't), hire someone who does. Most upscale clothing stores have fashion consultants who can fix you right up.Sound great. A major part of your impact is your tone of voice and word usage. Keep your language skills above the norm for your area. Just because you live in a sleepy little town, don't get lazy and say things like ain't, uh-huh, ya know, huh? or drop the "ing" endings — fixin', hopin', workin'. If you have (or have been told you have) below-average vocal impact and/or grammar, get help now. Many language programs are available through colleges, private tutors, and professional associations (National Speakers Association, Toastmasters International, Dale Carnegie).

When you let the "real" you shine through, learn to have fun in the office, tell memorable stories, look like a million bucks, and sound approachable and professional, you'll distinguish yourself in ways that patients most easily recognize and appreciate. Just think of the times when you've asked people what they like about their dentist. They say things like, "He's got a good personality," or "I really like how she puts me at ease," or 'I feel confident in his recommendations." Want to distinguish your practice? Distinguish yourself.

Dr. Homoly coaches dental teams to implement reconstructive dentistry through his continuing-education workshops, private consulting, and seminars. This column is an excerpt from his new book, Isn't It Wonderful When Patients Say Yes? — Case Acceptance for Complete Dentistry. Dr. Homoly can be reached at (704) 342-4900 or via email at [email protected] Visit his Web site at www.paulhomoly.com.

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