HOW TO PROFIT FROM...cosmetic dentistry —The "yes" system: how to influence patients

Nov. 1, 2001
Most dentists want to do more comprehensive, aesthetic dentistry in their offices. Some are very successful at doing it. Most are not.

by Dr. Nate Booth

Most dentists want to do more comprehensive, aesthetic dentistry in their offices. Some are very successful at doing it. Most are not.

As part of the research I did for Dr. Bill Dickerson's and my new book, How To Create an Exceptional Aesthetic Practice: Ten Dentists Who Have Done It, I visited the offices of 10 graduates of the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. I discovered there were 13 keys to success in creating a healthy aesthetic-dentistry practice. The five most important keys are:

  1. Excellent clinical skills
  2. A new attitude
  3. An image as an aesthetic dental practice
  4. Being an example of the aesthetic dentisty you provide
  5. An effective case-acceptance system

In this article, you will learn about effective case-acceptance systems. I believe systems are vitally important for all dental offices. Dr. Edwards Deming, the American quality expert who helped the Japanese improve the quality of their products, taught that problems in any organization are due to people 15 percent of the time and systems 85 percent of the time! Before I present the steps to achieve an effective case-acceptance system, I want to give you three of the system's characteristics:

It doesn't require unusual talent or charisma. On the contrary, the system helps ordinary people in ordinary practice locations to achieve extraordinary results.

The system is seamless. Dental consultant Bob Maccario stresses that influencing patients to accept comprehensive, aesthetic dentistry requires a seamless system involving everyone in the practice. If the entire system isn't seamless, patients will fall through the cracks, and your acceptance rates will fall.

The system is comfortable for everyone involved. Nobody is pushing, and nobody feels pushed. Patients should feel that the "pressure" to take action comes from their problems, not from the dental team. The dental team acts as consultants to relieve the pressure and give patients solutions.

Six steps to case acceptance
Here are the six steps to take to help patients accept comprehensive, aesthetic dentistry:

Step One — Have "golden guests" in your practice. A "golden guest" is someone who has the interest and finances to invest in comprehensive, aesthetic dentistry. There are two basic ways you can attract golden guests to your practice:

Pan for gold. Have a "traditional" practice that sees lots of people (including families), has a large staff, has many treatment rooms, and has relatively high overhead. Take great care of people and pick out your golden guests from this large guest population.

Attract golden guests. Have a smaller, insurance-independent practice that sees fewer people, has a smaller staff, has fewer treatment rooms, and has relatively low overhead.

Use your marketing and community image to attract people who have the interest and finances to invest in aesthetic dentistry.

Step Two — Deeply understand your patients. Influencing people to accept high-investment, comprehensive, aesthetic dentistry requires a higher degree of trust, rapport, and understanding. Gaining trust, rapport, and understanding requires three factors:
  • Team members who are naturally good with people
  • A schedule that allows these team members to be with patients for longer periods of time
  • A case-acceptance system and a few basic communication skills that allow these team members to be successful

Dr. Andy McKamie in Bethany, Okla., is one of the dentists Dr. Dickerson and I featured in our book. He has a wonderful team member, Sherry Blair, who epitomizes the above three factors. Sherry is the office's new patient coordinator. She typically sees two patients a day. She does the initial interviews, the charting with the doctor and hygienist, prepares the treatment plans, presents the treatment plans, and does the financial arrangements. She sees one new patient in the morning and one in the afternoon. Sherry has a natural talent of relating to people. She has lots of time with them, and she has learned tremendously effective communication skills. Incidentally, Dr. McKamie has built an extremely successful aesthetic practice in a city where the average home price is about $70,000. If he can do it in Bethany, you can do it in your community.

Step Three — Show your patients what's possible. Influencing people to accept aesthetic dentistry is more like selling jewelry than "selling" fillings, crowns, and perio. How do the pros sell jewelry? Visually! Here are several ways you can add an impactful visual component to your treatment conferences:

Use PowerPoint on your computer to show patients their problems and your aesthetic dentistry solutions. Whenever appropriate, use imaging in your PowerPoint presentation. Then give your patients a color copy of the PowerPoint show to take home. This will reinforce their "yes" decisions or turn a "maybe" decision into "yes." Many dentists say that doing this is one of their best marketing tools, because patients show the printout to their family and friends. As part of "THE "YES" SYSTEM: How To Influence Patients To Accept Comprehensive Dentistry," I've created a very easy-to-use PowerPoint template you can use in your office. Contact me at (800) 917-0008 or [email protected] for more information.

Use a demonstration model showing the aesthetic restorations you commonly place. Your laboratory will be glad to prepare a demonstration model for you.

Remember, your most effective visual aid is your face. Show your patients that you truly believe in the aesthetic dentistry you're proposing.

Step Four — Get excited with your patients. Patients are influenced to accept aesthetic dentistry based on logic and emotion. Most dentists have the logic part down, but they could stand to turn up the emotional excitement level of their offices at least 20 percent! There are six ways you can do that:
  • Doctor, have your mouth restored to ideal function and aesthetics by an expert aesthetic dentist. This will get you excited.
  • Restore the entire team's mouths to ideal function and aesthetics using a predetermined plan. Make it easy for your team to have their treatment completed.
  • When you seat your aesthetic restorations, have the entire team around the patients as they look at their new smiles for the first time. The emotional impact of the experiences will change your team forever. They will become evangelists for your aesthetic dentistry.
  • Reward individual team members when they refer a patient to the office who has comprehensive treatment completed.
  • Reward the entire team when a current patient refers a new patient to your office who has comprehensive treatment completed.
  • Restore a physically abused woman's smile once a year at no cost. Give your team the emotional boost of transforming people's lives.
Step Five — Make it affordable for your patients. Comprehensive, aesthetic dentistry is a healthy investment. The treatment plans are going to be in the $6,000 to $50,000 range. It's like buying a car. How do most people buy cars? With monthly payments! All 10 dentists profiled in our book accept credit cards and provide outside financing for up to five years. How does a $16,000 treatment plan sound to most people? A little overwhelming! How about $368 a month? That's $16,000 spread over 60 months. Step Six — Ask for a commitment to proceed in two phases. You'd be surprised how many treatment conferences I watch where the doctor presents the case and then just lets the conversation fizzle out. You have to ask patients to make the commitment to proceed. It's best to do it in two phases:

Phase One — The what. The doctor and the patient agree on "the what" — the type and amount of dentistry to be done. The doctor quotes the fee and falls back to phased treatment if necessary. The doctor hands off the patient to the financial coordinator.

Phase Two — The how. The financial coordinator and the patient agree on "the how" — how the investment will be handled. The financial coordinator makes the care affordable by offering several payment options. The patient chooses the best option.

If you combine the above two phases, you will scramble your patients' brains. They will have to decide what kind of dentistry they want and how they can pay for it at the same time. This is too much for most patients, and they walk out the door saying, "I'll think about it."

You can be the most knowledgeable and caring professional in the world, with the best team and outstanding services, but your success will be severely limited if you can't influence patients to take action on your recommendations for comprehensive, aesthetic dentistry. Follow the six steps in this article to create one of the most beautiful sounds in the world — your patients saying, "Yes, let's do it!"

More from Booth
If you enjoy the writing of Dr. Nate Booth, consider catching up on previous articles you may have missed. Go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search for "Nate Booth."

Consider the following selections:

  • Hire for attitude, train for skill
  • Lessons you can learn from Southwest Airlines
  • Sleuthing for the right questions to ask
  • Climbing the value-offering ladder
  • Choose your focus
  • The awesome power of words
  • An attitude of gratitude

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