Emotions always trump fees!

Oct. 1, 2004
How comfortable are you with quoting fees? If you are like me in my early years of practice, the answer is probably "not very comfortable" or "I don't quote fees.

Bob Frazer Jr., DDS

How comfortable are you with quoting fees? If you are like me in my early years of practice, the answer is probably "not very comfortable" or "I don't quote fees. I let my staff do it." You may have a number of logical reasons for not quoting fees, but chances are the primary reason is emotional. You just feel uncomfortable talking about money, perhaps rationalizing that it's not professional for the doctor to quote fees. Operationally, that's a legitimate argument, but the point is, you must be comfortable quoting a fee when asked.

Every major purchase decision is ultimately an emotional one. The new science of emotional intelligence (E.I.) research has shown that star performers in virtually every field owe 75 percent of their success to E.I. and only 25 percent to the necessary technical competency. Daniel Goleman, PhD, has defined E.I. as "our capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing our emotions well in ourselves and our relationships." Therefore, to raise your influence in case acceptance, raise your E.I.

Our feelings about money are learned as children. What were the first messages you remember hearing and what emotions did you feel reflected from your parents about money? I remember hearing ... "I hope we make it, we have so little money!" I also heard, "Money doesn't grow on trees!" I felt my parents' fear and sense of scarcity about money. Those feelings carried over into my early years of practice. Over the years, I've chosen to develop an "abundance mentality." This mentality says, "There is plenty for what we really need," and "It's only money ... we can always get more when we need it."

The patient's emotions also are important, as we illustrated with one of our coaching clients. Dr. Jones (not his real name) is a well-trained G.P., practicing in an upper-middle and lower-upper class neighborhood in a major city. During my visit to his office, a 46-year-old woman we'll call "Alice" entered the practice through hygiene. Dr. J had been trained to do comprehensive examinations, but over the years, his practice had gradually degenerated into a needs-driven, cost/fee/insurance-sensitive practice. He had hired us to help him do more comprehensive fine dentistry. That morning, with me observing, he unsuccessfully tried logic with Alice to persuade her to have a comprehensive exam, rather than the cursory exam she'd chosen. Alice had extensive dental needs, and would benefit from a complete exam.

My client grew up with a particularly strong scarcity mindset. He told me that he didn't want to overwhelm his patients, since most were people of average means and probably had their money committed elsewhere. This may be true for many, but his actions were self-defeating! The doctor was projecting his unresolved feelings and setting himself up for failure.

After Dr. J finished, I asked if I might rediscuss Alice's situation. Both agreed. I began by repeating the problems she had shared with the hygienist, asking if these problems were getting worse and what she thought might be causing them. Then, I asked her to tell me about her parents' dental health. She told us that her father had great teeth, but her mother lost most of her teeth by age 55, even though she had gone to the dentist frequently. When I asked Alice who she was more like dentally, she said, "I'm just like my mother!" She had previously told us that she wanted her teeth to last a lifetime, but they probably wouldn't. Dr. J assumed that was because of the cost of maintaining her dental health. Wrong! Alice had a future image that was frustrating, costly, and ultimately hopeless. During my conversation, I expressed her emotions back to her, simply checking out her feelings.

She immediately became more engaged. As we discussed how and when her mother lost her teeth (some 20 years earlier), I explained how dentistry has advanced at least 50 years in terms of our knowledge of what causes tooth loss and how to prevent it. She felt both my empathy and confidence. Alice scheduled for a comprehensive exam. My client couldn't believe that asking about her parents revealed so much.

The message for you is that emotions — yours and the patient's — must be uncovered and acknowledged, not fixed! As we do this, there is a deep sense of being understood that transcends understanding. Our patients care more about being understood than they understand!

Dr. Bob Frazer, Jr., FACD, FICD, is founder of R.L. Frazer & Assoc., whose custom programs help dentists achieve top 5 percent status in financial achievement and life balance (fulfillment with significance). Thirty-one years of quality practice and superb communication skills have propelled him to a 28-year international speaking career. For information on his upcoming Applied Strategic Planning Retreat 10/20-23 and 10/28-30 or to receive "7 Ways To Grow Your E.Q.," contact him at (512) 346-0455, fax (512) 346-1071, or email him at [email protected]. Visit his Web site at www.frazeron line.com.

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