Conversations of a different mind

May 1, 2004
The success of the old method of "dental sales," based on need (either the dentist's need or the patient's need to be free of pathology) is gone.

Bill Blatchford, DDS

The success of the old method of "dental sales," based on need (either the dentist's need or the patient's need to be free of pathology) is gone. In these changing times, questions help you discover the patient's desires and values. These questions are open-ended, intended to have the patient talking, rather than the staff member educating. You want the patient actively engaged in conversations with you, rather then rather than lecturing to them with the resulting EGO (Eyes Glazing Over) syndrome.

Conversations of a different mind require focus to have the patient using the right side of the brain, the emotional side. They also require staff members to be genuinely interested in people (or acting like they are) and avoiding talking about themselves. Our purpose is not to sell them anything, but rather to find out what they want, value, and desire.

Conversations of a different nature might look something like the following:

Staff: Martha, what can we do for you today?

Martha I'm here for my six-month cleaning and to see if there is anything else I need to have done.

Staff: I want to thank you for being such a conscientious patient, paying regular attention to your smile. I'd like to ask you some questions before we clean your teeth. Have you and the doctor ever talked about your long-term dental goals?

Martha No. I think I came to see you the first time with a broken tooth, and you've been very good to me.

Staff: If we were to talk about your long-term goals, what would you like in 20 years for your smile?

Martha I would definitely like to keep my own teeth.

Staff: Tell me why you believe so strongly in that?

Martha My dad had dentures, and he really regretted not having his own teeth.

Staff: How do you know he had dentures and at what age was he when he lost his teeth?

Martha I knew he had dentures because he suddenly had all his teeth back. He was probably in his early 40s.

Staff: We'd like to be your partner in keeping your teeth. In addition to keeping them, how would you rate your smile on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best?

Martha Appearance-wise, my smile is about a 6. It needs to be brighter.

Staff: What do you mean by brighter?

Martha You know, more noticeable.

Staff: When do you notice they are not as bright?

Martha When I see myself in the mirror.

Staff: What have you tried to do about it?

Martha I don't smile as big when I am with people.

Staff: When you don't smile as big, how do you think your family or friends might perceive you?

Martha They might think I am not very happy.

Staff: Are you?

Martha I am really happy. I am a cancer survivor, and every day is a joy and a real blessing.

Staff: You want your smile to really reflect that joy? Do you notice anything else about your smile?

Martha I have a gummy smile.

Staff: When did you first notice that?

Martha In junior high school.

Staff: If we could help you have a brighter smile with teeth that showed more ... a smile that your friends would notice and that would reflect your inner joy ... is that what you would want?

Martha Yes, I really would! However, I'm concerned about the cost.

Staff: Would it surprise you to know that sometimes patients spend as much on a car as they do on a new smile?

Martha Wow! I had no idea. How do people pay for this?

Staff: Just like a car, they make payments. Where would you like to go from here?

Martha Our youngest daughter is getting married in a year. Maybe a new smile would be a good goal for me.

Conversations of a different mind require questions to help the patients discover their values and desires. It requires a new mindset. See where your patients can take you. See what a difference it can make!

Dr. Bill Blatchford's Custom Coaching Program is now available anytime, anywhere. Utilizing 18 years of practice-management experience with more than 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. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at

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