Selling dental treatment. Does that statement make you uncomfortable? It is one of the most charged topics in medicine. Discussing sales while referring to dental care can leave even the most progressive dental professionals feeling uncomfortable and conflicted. Many would label it unethical, and it certainly is if unnecessary treatment is proposed.
When maneuvering the subject of sales in dentistry, the course can get treacherous. To avoid a business mishap, let’s establish a few facts. Regardless of what your job title is, you are in sales. School teachers, construction workers, accountants, engineers, nurses, doctors, and yes, dentists are salespeople. Every job is a sales position that utilizes sales skills, even dentistry.
When a speaker asks for everyone’s undivided attention, what skill are they using? Sales. They are persuading you that their topic is more interesting than whatever you are looking at on your phone. An attorney will spend weeks and even months preparing facts and evidence to present a case in such a way that the jury believes and rules in their favor. This is yet another example of sales skills. Finally, when you have two hygienists and patients consistently request one over the other, this hygienist is utilizing sales skills.
Consider this scenario: A patient presents with tooth pain and he wants the tooth extracted to rid himself of the horrible pain. You take x-rays and consult with the patient, sharing that all is not lost. You educate him about the long-term effects and byproducts of extraction. You proceed to recommend a root canal and crown, explaining how this will not only take away his discomfort, but allow him to maintain the tooth and preserve the health of his entire mouth. Was there anything unethical about this scenario? Of course not! You made a sales pitch and sold the patient on the importance of retaining his teeth.
There are different sales approaches, but it is hard sales that have given us an aversion to selling. Hard sales are very direct and often pushy. There is a great deal of pressure associated with hard sales, and this is precisely what we as dental professionals should never be known for.
A more beneficial technique is the use of a consultative sales approach. This is especially true of medicine and dentistry. This means you only sell your clients (patients) what they need, recommending only those goods and services they lack or will find beneficial in treatment and care. There are no deceptive tactics or pressurized gimmicks. Put concisely, with this sales approach you function as an advisor guiding your patient toward finding the best solution.
In addition, consultative or soft sales are education-based. Our recommendations are only made after taking adequate time to educate the patient (buyer) about all aspects of the process. The consultative approach makes recommendations that factor in function, demand, lifestyle, and finances. The rationale behind this approach is if the patient is properly educated, naturally they will move toward taking action. Doesn’t this sound like what you are doing daily?
Emotions are a huge motivator in the sales journey. They are a driving factor in purchasing attitudes and behaviors. It is why we choose the homes we live in and portray the lifestyle we do. Many people live in homes and wear clothing at the top of their budget. We could live in simpler homes and wear second-hand clothing, but it is our emotions that drive the final decisions in determining how we allocate our finances in making purchases.
Trust is a must
Helping patients choose the treatment that meets both their functional and emotional needs and factors in their budget is a skilled accomplishment, and can only be done after building trust. When we take the time to build a relationship with our patients, we will earn their trust. This is why it is important to prioritize relationship-building.
It is easy to leave the small talk and pleasantries to our team members, but ultimately, our patients need to have confidence in us as their clinicians. If you’ve spent adequate time creating a bond of trust, you will never feel like a salesperson because your recommendations will come from a genuine place of care and concern.
The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports over 74% of patients believe an unattractive smile can keep them from getting hired for a job or from a promotion. Our patients are looking for more than esthetics and functionality. They are looking for impalpable feelings such as confidence and feelings of attractiveness. When we address these issues in our treatment presentation, we help move patients toward saying yes to treatment.
“I know you would like to be able to fully embrace every moment of joy at your daughter’s upcoming wedding. Wouldn’t you like to smile confidently and eat whatever you’d like without reservation?” These are the obstacles they are looking to conquer.
Present an opportunity
Don’t be hesitant to move forward with treatment while the conversation is fresh on their minds and if the schedule allows. It is perfectly acceptable to offer to begin treatment today. “I know you’ve taken time off from work to make your appointment today. If you’d like, we could take impressions (x-rays, scans, etc) while you’re here and get started on your treatment so you don’t have to take any more time off from work than necessary.” When you’ve taken the time to get to know your patient, you can be at ease in knowing you are doing your patient a favor by saving them from having to take more time off or from having to hire a babysitter. Besides, when someone presents you with a life-changing opportunity, who wouldn’t want that opportunity to begin right away?
Ethics are fundamental in establishing a proper sales protocol. But when you present treatment as presenting solutions, you are truly doing what is in the best interest of your patients. Let go of the old ideology that says sales is taboo in dentistry. Once you realize sales is simply guiding your patients toward a solution, you will realize you are elevating not only the oral health of your patients but also their well-being.
Her clinical and support team experiences are the inspiration for her writing and the motivation for coaching clients to success. She is a regular contributor to various publications within dentistry and beyond. In addition to feeding the homeless, starting a non-profit, and being involved in her church and other community organizations, she sings professionally and enjoys several creative outlets. She resides in Florida where she enjoys the company of her husband, three children, and four beautiful grandchildren.