Academy of Dental Management Consultants Corner: 5 common patient objections: going from "no" to "yes"


man holding hand in front of himself to indicate stop.

The great Zig Ziglar said, “Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, and no trust.”

In dental practices, we hear these objections from patients daily. The strength of your practice success will lie in the entire team’s abilities to overcome these objections and help the patients to move forward with their oral health care recommendations.

“I don’t need what you’re selling me” otherwise known as: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

If the patient doesn't perceive a need, they won't invest in anything. It sounds like, Well, it doesn’t hurt so it must not be that bad. It can wait.”

The forever key to solving “I don’t need it” is improving your patient education cycle. You can’t provide education without getting to the core of their needs. Begin today by asking the patient, "What's most important to you in your oral health?" and "What are you committed to doing in order to get what you want for your oral health?"

A picture is worth a thousand words. Are you annotating your intraoral photographs? Are you sharing them so the patient can see it instead of only hearing you say it? Do you provide them a printed copy of these photos with the decay circled and an arrow pointing at it with the word “decay” along with the treatment plan? Is everyone on the team fluent in the language of dentistry? Can they educate the patient about decay, fractures, functional disease, periodontal disease, and so on? Invest time in creating three to five statements about each disease, what it is, what it does to their oral health, how it can affect the entire body, and what would happen if they don’t proceed.

“I can’t afford it” the long-standing objection of “Will my insurance cover it?”

There are patients who really don’t have the budget to buy the treatment you are recommending and sometimes they use this reply because they’re afraid they can’t afford you. Show them that they can afford your services by offering health care financing like CareCredit, or find a way to meet their budget by strategically planning their treatment to be accomplished over a period of time. I recommend at the end of the new patient evaluation, the doctor ask the patient, “Mrs. Patient, let me study your case and then I will provide you with your personalized strategy for dental health. One of the things I’d like to know before I can make decisions about your care is what’s appropriate for your budget. Have you thought about your budget?”

Are you prepared to answer, “Does my insurance cover this? If it doesn't, I'm not sure I want to get this done!” A good response might be, "We'll do the best we can to maximize your benefits. If we can find a way to comfortably finance your dentistry, would that make it possible for us to go ahead?"

Offer financial options that work well for patients and the practice. Write out the verbal skills that you want the team to say to patients regarding insurance push back and “I can’t afford it.” Well prepared communications are the fundamentals needed to decrease this objection and have more patients saying yes to your treatment.

“I’m Not Ready to Make That Decision Right Now.” Sounds like, I need to talk to my spouse about all of this or I need to think about it.

You can combine the “no hurry” and “no desire” objections into this single response. Don't assume the patient knows the ramifications of waiting for a condition to worsen or begin to show symptoms you know are likely.

Value and urgency can be addressed with thorough patient education and solid financial options. With that, these two objections will then decline. I believe the very best way to create a true sense of urgency is to make the choices clear but simple and make it easy for the patient to understand not only what you're strongly recommending but what the consequences are for doing nothing or choosing a lesser option.

I have to think this over: Mrs. Patient, I know you wouldn't take the time to think this over if you weren't seriously interested. Tell me what is it that you need to think over: the dentistry itself, me doing the dentistry, or the financial aspect of the dentistry?

By clarifying what the challenge is you can be prepared with answers to help the patient understand the urgency of doing the recommended treatment sooner rather than later. Use language that communicates value, exchanging value for value:

Getting rid of pain (feel better) and disease (be healthier)

Prettier smile (look better - feel better about themselves)

Invest in themselves: save money in the long run and keep teeth longer

Translate treatment into "end results"

“I Don’t Trust You… Yet”

This is a core issue. Patients can have all the desire, need, money, and sense of urgency in the world, yet if they don't trust you, they'll be taking their smile to another provider. This one is big! It doesn't matter what they can afford or what they want or need, if they don't trust you, they won't buy.

How do you develop trust? First, you and your team must establish a relationship with the patient. This goes beyond asking when their last dental visit was or if they have ever had an unpleasant dental experience. Invest time in your new patient evaluation by asking questions to get to know the patient, their needs, why they came to you, and what they want (is it a pretty smile or a healthy mouth?). You can establish trust in a matter of minutes. Where do you start? Make eye contact with your patients. Address them by name and above all listen, truly listen. Reflect back what you heard and tell them at the end of the appointment you will study all of the data you gathered and develop their personalized strategy for a lifetime of dental health making sure to address all that they shared with you today. At the case presentation, begin with reviewing what they told you and personalize your recommendations to align with what the patient’s concerns, needs and requests of you were.

Trust is built by telling the truth, delivering what you promise, and standing behind what you do and say. 

A problem is only a problem until it becomes defined. Once it becomes defined, it becomes manageable. An objection is actually an opportunity for you. It defines a specific area of concern, it is a request for further information, and it means that the patient is interested and that he or she needs answers. Work as a team to solve these five common objections and you will have more patients accepting your treatment recommendations than ever before.

Editor’s Note: For information on the Academy of Dental Management Consultants, please click here.

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