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I Don’t Know You and I Don’t Like You


Do your new patients view you with suspicion or with trust? How do you establish enough confidence with a patient so that she is willing to entrust you with her health, time and money when you only have minutes to talk?

In my previous article, “No One Buys a Treatment Plan,” we determined that you need to sell benefits that matter to the patient and establish a sense of trust that you are the person to provide those benefits.  In this article, I describe two ways to establish trust with patients through your choices about your team and the way you approach your patients.

Tip #1: Your Team’s Personality

Intuitively you realize that your front desk team represents you but you may not appreciate how much influence they have on how patients view your care. Let’s say you are fortunate and booked out a few weeks or even months. Imagine it’s July and your front desk says this to a new patient caller:

“We won’t be able to get you in until September.”

While it might be accurate, the coordinator has also implied:

  • We’re overwhelmed
  • We’re not welcoming new patients
  • You would be a burden to see
  • Even if you finally get to see the dentist, s/he will be busy

If I were a new patient, I would already be wary about your office and I haven’t even seen you yet! As a business owner, you have likely heard that you need to hire for personality and potential. This is true and I would add that you also need to train and supervise for the behavior you want to see.

So, this is tip #1 and it’s a critical one. Make sure your front desk team have the skills and personality to handle sensitive situations.  Skilled front desk employees should be able to give disappointing news (“No, we don’t take your insurance”) and make it sound professional and compassionate. (“Many patients with your plan see us and they love it here.”)

But too many dentists don’t have a clue about what the front desk team do or say.  To get a team that represents you need to:

(a) Engage in on-going training

(b) Observe employees doing their job

(c) Provide both supportive and change-oriented feedback

This ain’t easy when you’re with patients. So, I teach dentists like you how to give feedback and I teach patient connection skills to the team through training.  I cannot over-emphasize how important your front desk team is to your practice’s reputation and ultimately, profitability.

Tip #2: Ask Your Patients Genuine Questions

Does this sound like you? You greet a new patient chairside. You may ask, “What brought you in to see me today?” You review the patient’s x-rays while the patient is talking and then you tell the patient to “Open wide” to see if you can substantiate the patient’s complaints.

Is there anything wrong with this sequence? Not really. But does it establish a foundation of trust so that your patient will accept $2,000 worth of treatment in the next hour? Not really.

This is tip #2: Change your goal from finding out what is clinically wrong with your new patient to finding out who this person is holistically.  New patients will trust you more if they feel seen as human beings and if you seem interested in more than a treatment fee.  Therefore, you need to ask more questions, listen to the answers and then pose follow-up questions.

Here are some great questions you can ask new patients:

  • What have your previous dental experiences been like? How did those experiences influence your decision to see me?
  • What are your hopes and goals for your oral health? If you could have anything, what would that be?
  • What would you like to know about me as your dentist? How would you like me to help you?

To summarize:

  1. Hire, train and supervise your front desk team so that they establish a welcoming, professional presence. Patients who don’t connect with your team, will walk into the treatment room, not trusting you.
  2. Change your mindset during new patient exams from being on a clinical, fact-finding mission to being on a journey to meet your new patient as a human being.

We began this thread with information about overcoming objections. My experience is that if you establish sufficient trust, you won’t have objections to overcome. In my next article, we’ll nevertheless explore what to say if patients do pose concerns to accepting treatment.

If you would like information on how I train teams on to say “yes” to patients even when the answer is “no,” send me an email or schedule a call with me.

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Inspired Us to Dream Bigger, and it Works

“As an Office Manager, I’ve seen a great difference in my practice since starting with Sharyn. Three years ago our staff was in turmoil with a lot of infighting and gossip and some jealousy directed towards me.

I had given up because everything I did was judged. Now I have learned to have more one-to-one communication and by being more vulnerable with individuals I found my leadership voice. As a team, we’re all focused on the same goals.

Last year, in August we produced $88,000. This year we’re on track to produce $111,000 this month. I know it’s because we learned how to follow through with patients and communicate our expectations while building our systems.

Sharyn has gotten us out of our comfort zone and inspired us to dream bigger and it works.”

–Sharon St Pierre, Sperbeck Dental Care

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