Marketing Insider: Let your humanity show

March 21, 2012

Issue 8

Successful case acceptance-especially among new patients-begins long before case presentation. When a new patient enters your office, his antenna is finely tuned for all messages-spoken and unspoken-that will help him form an impression of your practice. When that impression is positive, it increases your chances of treatment acceptance.

Successful case acceptance-especially among new patients-begins long before case presentation.

When a new patient enters your office, his antenna is finely tuned for all messages-spoken and unspoken-that will help him form an impression of your practice. When that impression is positive, it increases your chances of treatment acceptance.

So first, it is important to let your humanity show. This means letting the person know your interest in him extends beyond the basic dental appointment. After you welcome the patient, you can ask how he learned about your practice and then talk a bit about yourself and, later, your commitment to quality dentistry.

Bridge building

When you do this, you’re building a bridge between your practice and what’s important to your patients-namely, their desire for a caring, thoughtful health care provider. You’re also providing an opening for the patients to talk a little about themselves, their work and more. It may seem like a digression, but it is a great way to connect with your patients-that is, show them your sincere desire to understand, respect and like them.

Turning to dentistry, you might begin by discussing your goal to provide the best options for the patients, and to let them know their wishes will be respected. This has the positive effect of dissipating any stress the patients may feel about “being forced to make a decision.”

Anyone experiencing that kind of pressure is typically too distracted to concentrate on what you are saying. Assure your patients that you will provide them with everything they needs to make the best choice, and that a timely decision is in their best interest.

By this point, you’ve built positive communications with the patients and, ideally, achieved a level of trust. Your next task is to have the patients share with you what, in terms of dentistry, is important to them.

You can start by asking if they has any questions or concerns about their oral health, if they’re happy with his smile and if there’s anything they might want to change about the appearance of their teeth.

Then just listen. It’s important to remember that silence is your friend: When someone is silent, it usually means he is considering your point and wants the space to arrive at his own conclusion. So, when in doubt, remember: less is more.

Patients’ stories

In all likelihood, your patients will tell you their ‘story.’ Body language, eye contact and active listening will demonstrate to the patients you understand and care about what they are is saying.

Your reply is equally important. Depending on a patient’s response, you might say, “If I hear you correctly, you’re tired of being embarrassed about your smile, is that right?”  Concluding this question with, “is that right?” makes it a close-ended question (or closed probe).  A closed probe can only be answered by yes or no.  

When you have the patient conclude the exchange with an unambiguous reply, he has have given you an opportunity to satisfy his need (with a treatment plan) or continue probing for more opportunities. For example, you might ask, “Is there anything else we might be able to help you with?” If the answer is yes, simply ask, “What is that?”

After your exam, the next step in getting to case acceptance is to show your patient how your proposed treatment will help him achieve his goals.

Continuing with the above example, let’s assume your probing determined that your patient has been interviewing, and his self-consciousness about the appearance of his teeth makes him feel anxious and lack confidence during the interview.

You might then say, “I can appreciate exactly what you’re saying. While people should judge us on our abilities, it’s often our appearance that tips the balance. Well, I’ve got good news. We can provide you with a choice of solutions to get you to where you’ll look forward to sharing your smile with everyone-friend, stranger, and prospective employer alike-and we’ll be able to do it in time for your next interview.”

If your patient responds with something like, “That would be great, doctor!” you’ve just confirmed a need, which is the impetus that drives someone to accept treatment.

The next step is to summarize your treatment recommendations, being sure to relate each procedure to how it will address the stated need of your patient.  Upon successful completion of this step, the patient is ready to be handed off to your scheduling coordinator to handle the “paperwork.”


Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA, is president of American Dental Marketing Company, a Chicago-Based dentistry marketing consultancy. Mr. Bobrow is available for a complimentary telephone consultation by calling 1-800-723-6523 or at Info@AmericanDentalCo.com.