Helping patients say YES in difficult times

March 1, 2010
Three things occur in difficult times: 1) Sales decrease and/or become more difficult 2) Receivables mount 3)It is harder to borrow money

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Three things occur in difficult times:

  1. Sales decrease and/or become more difficult.
  2. Receivables mount.
  3. It is harder to borrow money.

As economic difficulties surround you, it is likely that you and your patients will move emotionally downward into stages of survival and security. Many people just crawl into a hole and hope things will get better on their own. Things may not improve, but how you think and feel will have a dramatic impact on how you survive or thrive in this difficult time. Patients don't buy from dentists they like. Patients buy from dentists they trust.

Patients wonder, “Why are you trying to sell me something?” There are only two conclusions they come to. First, they might believe you're trying to sell them something just to get more revenues. Second, they might believe that you're trying to sell them something because you're interested in them, and you truly care and are sincerely trying to help them. These are the patients who will say yes.

Patients say yes because they trust you, and because they have a positive hope for the future.

Let's do a short review of motivation and action according to Abraham Maslow. There are five levels of human needs that drive our thinking, emotions, and behavior:

1Survival needs are much stronger for some types than for others, and whenever there are threats, their natural instinct is to move lower into survival and fight or flight. Those stuck in survival have enormous difficulty moving up and are often paralyzed by their fear of the unknown.2Safety and security needs are similar. They can freeze a person in place. When these needs aren't identified and met, resistance, procrastination, indecision, and doubt can arise. The best thing a person can do in this state is to take action to become unstuck. I think “baby steps” here or a “phased treatment plan” is appropriate to take care of the most damaging need, problem, or disability that the patient has, and to build a plan for the present and future. But be sure to take care of the present.3 Some believe the most powerful but neglected needs we have are love and the need to belong. If respect, honor, trust, and love aren't present for people, then there is little or no evolution beyond the safety and security states. Whenever trust is missing, there is no capability to form a long–term, meaningful relationship. In fact, when trust is lost, a relationship is over. I've separated this state for your observation because 35 years of study, practice, and coaching have convinced me that this state of relationship is the bridge to our higher needs.4Self–esteem includes you and your individual patients. All growth and acceptance of comprehensive dentistry depends on how people rate themselves. Your self–rating or self–esteem impacts every decision you make to grow, evolve, or stay where you are. The same is true for every patient you treat. Your rating and their rating determine what you will or won't do, and also determines your individual level of success in any venture you attempt.

People don't behave in ways that are inconsistent with their own self–esteem (rating themselves). Remember, self image is the picture you have of yourself and self–esteem is the rating of that picture.

People don't grow, no matter how much training they have and how much they have learned, unless they have very positive self–esteem. So, check your own self–esteem, and become aware of the current level or stage of needs your patients and team members have as well. Think of all the ways you can create and build trust within these relationships.

5Self–actualization is the term that Maslow coined to express the powerful force of growth, completeness, and self–expression that is within every human being. The upper needs can be thwarted, but not without creating extreme frustration for us. Maslow studied the best to determine what is possible and this is how his thinking evolved.

When I ask dentists, “Why do you do what you do?” I hear the obvious answers like money, meaning, and a challenge. But what I always listen for is “I like helping people,” or “I like to make a difference in my patients' lives.”

A real professional is a technician who cares.

Dr. Michael Schuster is the author of Getting Your Patients to Say YES and Truth Based Selling. He founded The Schuster Center in 1978, and he can be reached at or [email protected].

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