Selling dentistry? Selling yourself? The professional hates the sound of that, but the business person inside the professional knows that it's necessary. And guess what? It doesn't have to be so bad. You don't have to put out a lot of cheesy ads, buy TV time, or offer coupons to let people know what you have to offer. You have to begin by knowing what people want, what will make them brag about you, and then developing a vision and sharing it with your staff.
We often figure that the sign says it all; a dentist offers dentistry, what else do we have to say? We can even add a tooth to the sign or business card just in case there's any confusion. When you want to buy a puppy, you go and check out the litter and they're all adorable. They all look pretty much the same with some variation in color, but the one you choose is the one that sells himself to you in some way. You're not going to choose the one that stays over in the corner and doesn't pay much attention to you, as if he thinks, "I'm a puppy, I'm cute, what more do you want? If you want me, I'm here." No, the one you choose is going to work for it. He's going to wiggle all over, shower you with kisses and to seal the deal, he'll roll over and stare lovingly into your eyes. How can you resist, he wants you as much as you want him.
Now, I'm not comparing dentists to puppies, but the theory's the same, patients want to be courted. They want to feel like they matter, that they're worth pleasing. So, first you have to decide what you are offering. Are you going to provide fillings and extractions (that gets people excited), or are you offering a partnership in a lifetime of oral health that will allow patients to live their lives comfortably and more healthily overall? Basically, you're offering a lifestyle.
When your patients think dentist, what comes to their mind first? Is it the aroma of Eugenol hitting them in the face as soon as they enter? Is it a disinterested receptionist blankly telling them to take a seat? Do they then wait in limbo until an equally bland staff member shoves open the door and mumbles their name, then marches them back to an operatory? Do they then spend time in second limbo until the dentist finally rushes into the room, hurriedly greets them and proceeds to inject and run, leaving them wishing it was all over? Are they basically a thing in the chair during the procedure only to be treated to the same dull receptionist waiting for them to pay at the end? It happens, and lots of people think that's just the way it is when you go to the dentist. Why do patients tolerate it in their dental practice and why do practices accept it for themselves? Because we don't think about what should be offered or expected. We just go with what we've gotten used to. Time to think again.
Here's a better scenario: your patient walks in and is greeted warmly by your receptionist who remembers that the patient has been on vacation to see her grandchildren in Florida since her last visit. She asks about the visit and comments on how wonderful the patient looks. Surely, it's a result of the warmer weather and the joy in seeing the kids. She offers her a beverage and then let's her know that the hygienist will be with her in five minutes. In the meanwhile the patient has a variety of current, popular magazines to choose from. If she uses the restroom it will be clean and well stocked with disposable, pre-pasted toothbrushes, good smelling soap and hand lotion and some mouthrinse. The receptionist will have made sure that everything is in order on a routine check. The plants in the reception area will be healthy and the patient will feel like a welcome guest. When the hygienist is ready she will go to the patient and greet her and escort her to the room, walking next to her rather than away from her and expecting her to follow. Once in the room, a neck pillow will be waiting because the hygienist noted that preference on the patient's chart. They will then have a conversation about the patient's health since the last visit and the hygienist will proceed with an interactive exam and prophy. By explaining what she is seeing and what it means for the patient, the hygienist is educating the patient and giving her the ability to make good, informed decisions about her oral health. When the dentist enters for his exam, he's been briefed by the hygienist and he and the patient can have a good discussion about the patient's treatment choices. This patient never feels like a thing, but like a valued, unique individual.
When it's time to leave, the receptionist inquires about her treatment experience, professionally collects payment and makes a future appointment. The patient leaves to meet a friend for lunch and tells her about the wonderful treatment she received at the dental office. Coincidentally, her friend just came from a dental appointment, too. As a matter of fact, she's the patient we discussed in the first scenario. She listens in amazement and mentally compares her experience with the one her friend is raving about. She asks her friend who her dentist is because that sounds like an experience she'd enjoy a lot better than what she's gotten used to. Her friend pulls the dentist's business card out of the nice little zippered take home kit she received and another word of mouth referral is gained. When people like what you have to offer, they tell other people about it. But, then again, when they don't like what you have to offer, they tell other people about it. So, have you thought about what you have to offer?