Creating a sense of urgency

June 1, 2004
In the last Five-Star Practice Gems column we determined that most patients withhold the true reason they've delayed (rejected) your recommendations...

Tom Orent, DMD

In the last Five-Star Practice Gems column we determined that most patients withhold the true reason they've delayed (rejected) your recommendations for care — they simply don't believe they need the care. Sure, some may believe they need it, but are clearly not convinced they need it now.

No symptoms — There is no way for your patients to appreciate the potential consequences of inaction. And, if the fix for the "problem" costs big bucks, takes time out of their busy schedules, and likely causes at least a few stomach flips, they say, "I'll call you!" Face it; if they believed they needed the care and needed it now, a pretty darned high number would schedule before leaving your office that day.

My dermatologist recommended removal of a small growth on my leg. He said it wasn't malignant, but he was concerned about any delay, and recommended I schedule a surgical visit immediately. What do you think I did? I scheduled a surgical visit immediately — the following Tuesday morning! It is a safe bet that a tape recording of your last recommendation for a quadrant of prosthetics would likely not be 100-percent convincing to most asymptomatic folks. In fact, it may not be convincing to anyone.

The motivation to act now — Without a sense of urgency, there is no motivation to act now. Make no mistake — it doesn't matter if you're selling dental reconstruction or preventive plumbing maintenance — unless the buyer is convinced about the urgent nature and need for immediate action, there will be no sale.

How can you create that motivation to immediate action? The same way my dermatologist got me to forget about everything else on my plate and schedule immediate surgery — he told me to! Dr. Robert Cialdini, professor of psychology at Arizona State University and author of "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion," says the lay public takes comfort in following recommendations made by the authority figure. You are that authority figure when it comes to dental treatment. But to be that figure you must:

• Firmly believe they do need this care, need it now, and that it is the best possible care you could offer.

• Tell them all about the consequences of non-treatment. In direct-response marketing, we call this the "agitate" step. Every sales process begins with telling the problem or diagnosis; then the agitate step; followed by the solution — treatment plan! But what is "agitate"?

Agitate: Explaining in graphic and convincing detail the potential consequences of non-treatment. Tell them exactly what you want them to do, and when.

How to do it

Here's an abbreviated version of the process from beginning to end. Perhaps in a future column as space and time permits, we'll explore the process in greater detail.

Your hygienist, Mary, takes a high-resolution digital photo of Mrs. Johnson's upper right quadrant. Mary shows her the old, broken-down amalgams, followed by a PowerPoint presentation of removal of another patient's silver fillings and what was found underneath. Mary then displays several photos of other patients who didn't act in time, resulting in through-and-through fractures and lost teeth. Mary tells Mrs. J. that she is quite concerned about those teeth in the upper right, and tells her that she'll call the doctor in to have a look. The doctor comes in, backs up the good call, and writes out a treatment plan consisting of the best, most stable long-term option for care.

Prior to leaving the room, the doctor in a clear and audible voice says, "Mary, tell the receptionist that I'd like to see Mrs. Johnson right away and not to let Mrs. Johnson wait longer than a week, 'even if she needs to move another patient!'"— a wonderful quote from Dr. Mike Abernathy. Now, there is no room left for doubt in that patient's mind.

If you believe they need the care you've recommended, then you owe it to your patients to be "crystal clear" on the immediate need for action on their part. Remember — if they don't believe they need it now, they don't believe they need it!

Dr. Tom Orent, the "Gems Guy," is a past president of the New England Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He has presented his "1000 Gems Seminars™" in five countries and 48 U.S. States. He is the author of five books and hundreds of articles from practice management to "Extreme Customers Service." To receive a free half-year subscription to Dr. Orent's "Independent Dentist Newsletter" (normally $197 per year), send request with doctor's name and address to [email protected] or fax to (508) 872-0020.

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