Don’t let prospects rot on the vine

Colin Receveur explains how phone training and phone tracking can fill the holes in your dental practice marketing and help you convert prospects into patients.

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Colin Receveur

A preinternet, pre-20th-century invention can cause a dental practice to either sink or soar. Managing the phone lines is a huge responsibility for dental office receptionists, but not every dentist fully understands the awesome power of the phone.

Modern dentists spend thousands of dollars on internet ads, beautiful websites, email marketing, SEO, reputation enhancement … the list is endless. But it’s remarkable how few dentists devote time to phone training. “Working the phones” is a bit of a lost art these days. If you have ramped up your marketing but neglected to train your receptionists on best phone practices, it’s like planting a huge crop, tending to the crop for months, and then letting that crop rot on the vine.

I’ve worked with dental practices since 2001, and those that use the phone correctly are successful in attracting more and better patients. Let’s examine why this is important and how dentists can start closing more prospects over the phone.

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Answer the phone already

No matter how good your marketing is, no unanswered phone call has ever led to a new patient in your chair. My company, SmartBox, recently did a case study to see how often our most elite dental offices’ staff were answering the phone during business hours. These dentists are not your average private practice dentists. They’re collecting between $1 million and $10 million every year. Yet, when we did our case study, we found holes in their marketing.

With some pretty basic phone tracking, we quickly found the source of their marketing holes. These dentists, on average, neglected to answer the phone about 65 times a month during business hours. That means callers hung up after hearing the phone ring too many times, became tired of waiting on hold, or were transferred to voicemail. Imagine if all of those callers had become patients—or if even one-third had become patients! It would be a game changer for any dental practice.

A call to the office means that person is ready to buy. So pick up the phone and make that sale.

The power of phone tracking

Any successful patient attraction process should get the patients you want to pick up the phone. Phone tracking is the perfect litmus test to see how your marketing is working. It answers the top questions every dentist has:

  • How many calls am I getting as a result of my marketing?


  • What time of day do I receive the most calls?


  • What type of patients am I getting from my online marketing?


  • What are prospects asking when they call my office?


  • How are phone answerers treating callers, prospects, and our dedicated patients?


Phone tracking is necessary for every single dentist. It works for the do-it-yourself marketer and for the dentist who devotes a heap of cash to increasing his or her new patient numbers every month. Dentists who are enjoying more profits and more freedom can recite their new-call stats off the tops of their heads. They know where their dollars are going, and they know exactly who is walking in their doors.

Converting calls into patients

“Thank you for calling [office name]. How can we help you?” That cheery voice on the end of the phone represents the entire dental office, including the doctors, their coworkers, and even the services.That’s why the receptionist and front office need to know the practice’s services inside and out—so much that they can readily relay the benefits of those treatments to everycaller. If the office provides dental implants, the receptionist needs to emphasize the benefits of implants, rather than explaining the tedious treatment process that might well scare someone away.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling with your dentures. You know, Dr. [name] helps patients like you all the time with dental implants. These patients are eating whatever they want, and as you can relate, they never have to worry about their dentures coming loose!” A dentist or dental team that sells the benefits of the treatment, rather than the treatment itself, is much more likely to convert prospects into butts in the chair.

Timing is everything

In the case study about dentists not answering the phones, we looked at the microdata and checked the times of these missed calls. Believe it or not, the lunch hour scored as one of the worst times for unanswered calls.

For most dental offices, the highest volume of calls comes in the morning and during the lunch hour. Every working person has used their lunch hour to schedule doctor’s visits, pay bills, and run errands. Dental offices simply cannot afford to be off the clock between noon and 1:00 p.m. Make sure someone is at the desk during the lunch hour. Even better, use your best “closer(s)” during the lunch hour or the hour when you receive the most calls.

Don’t be afraid to seek out phone training. A few hours of phone training can pay off down the road. Everyone can improve at his or her job. Every great dentist needs a great front office to sell services. Don’t let dental prospects end their journey because of a busy signal, missed call, or redirect to voicemail. Pick up the phone and welcome them to the practice.

Colin Receveur, a nationally recognized dental marketing expert and speaker, is the author of several best-selling books on internet marketing, including the recently released blockbuster, The Four Horsemen of Dentistry: Survival Strategies for the Private Dental Practice Under Siege. His company, SmartBox, helps more than 550 dentists on three continents get more patients, more profits, and more freedom. Reach him at colin@smartboxwebmarketing.com.

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