Most people understand the importance of dental health… so why do millions of people in the UK still avoid going to the dentist?
Cost and anxiety are just two of the barriers, but there are many other factors that today’s dentists need to understand in order to build trust with their dental patients.
Kevin Rose, Dental Business Consultant, explains why the relationship you foster now with both new and existing patients will become key to your future success.
Since 2009, Business Consultant Rob Whittaker and I have been working with dentists and their teams to explore how to grow a dental practice in ways with which both dentists and patients feel comfortable. The key to this approach is in how you communicate the value of the treatments that you offer – ways that are aligned with your own values and beliefs about care. If you get this right, by building higher levels of trust and using effective structures of communication, then you can develop long-term commitment with every dental patient.
If the idea of ‘selling’ to your dental patients makes you feel uncomfortable, your feeling is right!
Healthcare not healthsell
It is a false assumption that dentists, or any healthcare professionals, have to be in sales. Indeed, given the unique position of trust between dentist and patient, the experience of being sold to can often feel negative and manipulative (for both parties), no matter how rehearsed or ethical the technique used. This is not only counterproductive; it could also result in future mis-selling accusations.
There is a better way.
Building trust, credibility and authenticity – your values
‘Why do you do what you do? What are your values, and how can you and your team use them in all your communications to build a relationship of trust with each of your dental patients?’
You don’t need a sales technique to help somebody when you have a relationship with them built upon trust, just like the ones you have with your best dental patients. There are ways that you can grow your practice while staying true to your values and beliefs, and to the reasons why you went into dentistry in the first place.
You are already an excellent communicator
If we work on the presupposition that you are already practised in the art of influencing and persuading others (this is a natural skill which most of us develop intuitively from a very early age) then you immediately get a new perspective.
Most of your life’s achievements have come from this skill and that is why we believe that you don’t need a sales ‘technique’ to get better at it; simply a better understanding of what already works for you and why.
Of course all patients are individuals, as is every dentist that we work with, which means that the more you can adapt to each individual patient’s personality, motivations and decision making processes, the easier you will find it to communicate the true value of how you can help each one of them.
[blockquote cite=”Kevin Rose” type=”center”]If the idea of ‘selling’ to your dental patients makes you feel uncomfortable, your feeling is right![/blockquote]
Your patient’s perspective
It’s an often overlooked fact that until your dental patients see the value of what you can offer them and how it is aligned with their motivations, then it is of no value to them. The only perspective that matters therefore is that of your patient and that is where we suggest you start in all communications.
With a greater level of awareness and focus, you can structure your communications and language patterns, tonality and body language to put patients at ease and build confidence and trust. There are a number of ways that you can do this, but most importantly it is about understanding their concerns and desires.
Has dentistry been asking the wrong question?
In recent years, dentistry has adopted many commonly used commercial tactics in its marketing and communications. These tactics have tended to focus on answering the question, ‘How can we get better at communicating what we do and how we do it?’ in order to attract more patients and increase the volume or value of the treatments that they accept.
However, ask a disgruntled dental patient or somebody that doesn’t go to the dentist and they will want to know that they can trust you, way before they consider your actual dentistry. And, just like other professions that have been tarnished by historic mis-selling accusations now have long-term plans in place to rebuild trust, dentistry has a limited opportunity to learn from the mistakes made by other professions.
The question to answer, which will encourage more people to go to the dentist, is simply ‘How can we build a feeling of trust?’
5 tips to build trust with your dental patients
1. Remember, it’s the way, not the sell
Stop ‘selling’ to your patients! You don’t need to do it and at worst it is proven to result in misselling accusations. Nobody buys what you do or how you do it, they buy why you do it. Do you really want your patients to feel that your ‘why’ is to just ‘sell’ them something?
2. Display consistent behaviour
If your behaviour is true to your values and consistent over time, it will help build trust with everybody that you meet. Your patients are ‘hard wired’ to seek and value consistent behaviour.
Just one example of inconsistency is the media reports about the failure to discuss prices, but it goes way beyond that, even the way that you talk about your prices can be damaging.
3. Think about body language
We all use body language to read others and to build trust. It’s important to know what works for you and why. We don’t recommend the use of the ‘politician’s handshake’ though!
4. Think about your language
Neurolinguistics have a massive role to play in building trust.
The structure, sequencing and pacing of the words that you use will have a dramatic impact upon your ability to build trust with your patients.
Of equal importance is tonality and hypnotic language patterns including presuppositions and indirect elicitation.
For example, words such as ‘but’ and ‘however’ have the effect of negating or minimising the impact of the words preceding them.
5. First impressions
As the saying goes, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. This is so important in healthcare and you can develop your own consistent structure to use when you meet patients for the first time. Think about what key first impressions you would like every patient to have of you and how you will communicate them.
To read more business-focused articles, visit the Resource Library at www.practiceplan.co.uk
Rose & Co work with value-based dental business leaders and their teams to improve business satisfaction, results and dental health. For more information visit www.roseand.co