The elective impulse

Earlier this year, I spoke at the Dental Economics Cosmetic Dentistry `99 conference in San Diego. This was an outstanding conference and one that I recommend you attend next year. At that conference, I presented a new seminar - titled "21st Century Cosmetic Marketing" - focusing on advanced strategies for building a cosmetic and elective practice.

Roger Levin, DDS, MBA

Earlier this year, I spoke at the Dental Economics Cosmetic Dentistry `99 conference in San Diego. This was an outstanding conference and one that I recommend you attend next year. At that conference, I presented a new seminar - titled "21st Century Cosmetic Marketing" - focusing on advanced strategies for building a cosmetic and elective practice.

This seminar is based on some of our more-advanced work with Levin Group management-consulting clients. Each client now receives a five- to six-hour educational module, including a step-by-step process to increase the amount of cosmetic and elective dentistry in the practice. For the first time in my 15 years of working with practices, I have total confidence that this system will increase significantly the number of patients who accept this type of treatment. I always have taught principles for building the cosmetic and elective side of the practice, but now we have taken this further and developed a program that anyone can implement and through which anyone can succeed.

The impulsive purchase

The decision to accept cosmetic and elective dentistry is completely impulsive. There is no difference between the dental patient who accepts porcelain-laminate veneers or implants, and the customer who buys a piece of jewelry. If there is a difference, the consumer who buys a piece of jewelry may have set out that morning with a goal of buying jewelry. The cosmetic or elective dental patient rarely begins the day with a goal of finding these new services.

To succeed in cosmetic and elective dentistry, understand that logic alone does not apply. Our needs-based patients, who have broken, decayed, or problematic teeth, listen to a logical explanation and make a decision based on the facts. Typically, they already have convinced themselves that they need the treatment. In this instance, the selling process is very simple.

Unfortunately, trying to convince patients to have cosmetic or elective treatment through logic usually does not work. Once we recognize that all elective dental services are based on impulsivity, and we present a more emotional overview of why a patient would enjoy these non-needs-based services, our acceptance rates literally skyrocket.

Properly increasing the amount of cosmetic or elective dentistry you perform in your practice entails approximately 18 steps. The most important step is building a strong relationship with the patient. Patients with whom doctors and team members have built strong relationships and who are interested in elective dentistry usually develop the highest levels of trust and appreciation for the practice. Fees, of course, always matter.

Boost your elective numbers

When you gain an understanding that accepting elective dentistry is an impulsive, emotional decision, the ability to close these cases and gain patient commitment increases significantly. We have seen practices where up to 80 percent of patients will accept elective treatment. When I mention a number as high as 80 percent, I do not mean to indicate that they all accept treatment immediately. Unfortunately, we usually allow these patients to leave the office and "think about it." Their motivation then declines, and they rarely accept treatment.

Cosmetic and elective dentistry will play a large role in the future of the dental practice. Our clients are delighted that they can use their advanced clinical cosmetic, implant, occlusal, and other new skills as more patients accept this treatment. Interestingly, many dentists do not attempt to master the elective skills only to increase their incomes, but because they find many of these new services exciting. It is frustrating to have skills you cannot use because you do not have patients who are willing to accept these wonderful new services.

Increasing the elective and cosmetic side of the practice also can allow us to provide more dentistry per patient. While fee-for-service dentistry still is alive and well, it is not as prevalent as in the past. Maintaining and growing companies demands adding new products or services. As dentists, we have the same need to add new services. Cosmetic and elective areas are exciting, fun, and highly productive, and they can meet this need.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management and marketing for general dentists, specialists, and dental-products companies.

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