This is a new paradigm in how we discuss our dental findings with our patients. It is a concept based upon providing a solution for the needs and wants of our patients. Now many dentists may feel that you are doing this already but are you really? This is because if you had truly answered a problem as far as the patient’s own mind is concerned and if you had truly presented it in a way that connected with the patient, you would have case acceptances ALL the time and every one of your patients would be saying “YES” to all your treatment recommendations. If this is not always the case there are a few tips in this article which you may be able to take to your practices and improve the way you present your cases.
In order to sustain a profitable business, we still need to “sell” our dental services. However, “Solution Selling” is based not only on creating a profitable exchange of dental services for a higher monetary value but also on providing solutions and answers for all problems and situations in our patient’s mouths. It is a technique that can be applied to any aspect of dentistry.
This is about connecting on a psychological level with our patients. It is about how a patient interprets what we are doing for them. Every patient that I have ever known walks through the doors of a dental practice with an agenda. Our aim is to discover what that agenda is. If we realise and understand the agenda, and then we let our patients know that we understand why they have come to seek help, we will have hit the target. This will allow us to advise in a way that the patient feels we are working for them as opposed to selling something to them. People are naturally sceptical, more so these days than ever, and this is a brilliant way of overcoming that scepticism.
Advantages of Solution Selling
- This technique is done correctly will dramatically increase case acceptance levels. This because you will be hitting the target of your patient’s personal requirements and agenda more often than not.
- You will be able to sell much higher monetary value cases.
- You will be able to develop better long term relationships with your patients. This means they will be more likely to return to you with any future concerns because they trust you. This is a big thing, without trust patients do not accept our treatment recommendations.
- These patients are more likely to refer their family and friends.
- You will be able to better meet the needs of your patients and take care of their mouths better.=
- It will give you the opportunity to use your clinical skills in a better way than “single-tooth-dentistry”. After all, we became dentists so we can comprehensively take care of our patients, not so we can just “fix” a tooth.
- This technique will prove more profitable for your business since you will be producing more comprehensive treatments plans. These are usually based on higher fees. (Don’t worry if you have appropriate financial options in place, patients will go head. They usually do with something they feel is correct for them and this process of solution selling will make them want the treatment. This is different from you trying to convince them they need it!)
Stages involved in Solution Selling
The best form of Solution Selling occurs at a much earlier stage than we might at first realise. The following are stages in Solution Selling which you might find useful when incorporating this concept into your business:
Stage 1: Segmental Marketing.
This involves attracting a specific type of patient in the first place. It will make the entire process and indeed even if there were no process in place, it would still make life a lot easier subsequently. Also, if it is possible to bring along a pre-qualified, pre-motivated patient in a cost-effective way, then why not make life easier for ourselves.
Effective marketing usually involves targeting a type of patient more suited to your dental services. Then you promote your practice in a way that attracts that type of patient to it. It requires you to segment the market. This method is much easier than trying to appeal to everyone.
Stage 2: Value Selling.
In order to sell anything, people must believe that they have received value for money. It is no different in dentistry. Therefore, in order to sell your advice and treatment, you need to be building value right from the start. This could be providing an incentive of value to attract your patients to your practice and then to subsequently keep on giving them value for money.
Providing value often allows you to exceed your patient’s expectations and this, in turn, allows you to establish trust and longevity of the relationship.
Value can be given in numerous ways: high-end customer service; providing financial discounts for packaged dentistry; exceeding patient satisfaction; providing dentistry in an environment of relaxation and de-stressing; providing certain treatment at no cost. (However be careful here, “at no cost” does not mean you do not inform the patient you are doing this and you also need to provide a reason for it also. It could be that you want them to experience how good you are before they continue or that you want to do them a favour since you like having them as a patient. No reason and not telling them of the “freebie” will not allow you to build subsequent value.)
Stage 3: Agenda Discovery.
This is a very important stage of Solution Selling, without this you will not succeed at the objectives: the provision of the optimum solution to your patients’ concerns.
Agenda discovery is like answering an exam question, you get no marks for not answering the question asked. Even though your answer may be superb and very knowledgeable, a wrong answer is a wrong answer. Therefore, you need to really read the question well and understand it thoroughly. In the same way, you need to understand very thoroughly your patients agenda for coming to you in the first place.
You need to discover the answer to the following questions:
- Why did they choose you?
- What is their problem?
- How does it make them feel?
- How is it affecting their life right now and how does this make them feel?
- What if nothing was done about it, what impact would this have on their lives?
- What have they done about it so far?
- What worked and what didn’t?
- What do they understand of the treatments available to solve their problem?
- Do they know anyone else who has had similar treatment?
- Is there anything else that is bothering them about their mouths?
- What would they like to do about it?
- What are their expectations of you?
- If you could solve their problems how would they feel about it?
- If you had a magic wand and could change things, what specific things would they change and why?
As you can see this type of questioning will take you and your patients down a journey of discovery. The journey will end with your patient feeling that you are very thorough in your attempt to understand them and ultimately you will be able to present treatment to exactly match their specific needs. Of course, this agenda discovery will take time, but it is this time that will bring about returns in revenue for you later. Also, time is a cheap resource to use up, especially if it can provide substantial gains later.
This discovery process is one every practice needs to incorporate to some level. I feel this is more important when building long term relationships than the biological assessment. This is because if you cannot connect with the patient and the patient doesn’t feel that you actually understand their requirements then in most cases, they will not give you the opportunity to deal with the treatment of the biological conditions.
However, this discovery process can continue into the oral analysis appointment. So by the time you reach the final stage, you will really be well equipped to strike a hit all the time.
Stage 4: Oral Analyses.
This is an assessment procedure that focuses on reinforcement of the patient’s agenda AND also on your findings. Most dentists see oral analysis as simply gathering information quietly without much talking to the patient about what they are finding and seeing along the way. Then, usually, you discuss any findings at the end and present your case at that moment in time. This is a sure way to disaster. It would certainly be very difficult to present higher fees in this way since you are assuming that your patient is going to take your word for it. This is an incorrect and very costly assumption. You will not be able to maximise your efforts, investments or potential in this way.
In Solution Selling, you perform the oral analysis (examination) in a much more conversational way. You need to be seeing something and informing the patient of your discovery and talking about it. You are making the patient aware of how thorough you are at diagnosis and how much you know. All this conversation needs to be in normal layman language. Also at no point should you be discussing costs.
Whilst you are assessing the gums and notice bleeding on probing, you immediately show the patient this in a mirror. This is when diagnostic tools like mirrors, intra-oral cameras become useful. You then continue to assess the periodontal condition after saying:
“Mrs Smith, your gums don’t look very healthy, I think I will do an extra stage in this evaluation to determine just how bad the situation is”
You then go ahead and do your periodontal evaluation. Then you simply say:
“Mrs Smith, as you can see your gums are bleeding every time we touch them. They are very infected. After I have evaluated your entire mouth I will sit down by myself and look at all this information I am acquiring and assess your entire situation. I will then work out exactly how I should help you the best. Next time you come in we will talk about all the possible solutions you have at hand. But don’t worry, I have seen many patients in your situation and I am happy to say we have resolved every one of them. It’s just a case of selecting the most appropriate treatment. You see not every treatment is suitable for everyone –one size doesn’t fit all. I am going to customise and tailor-make a great solution for you specifically. I have it all under control”
As you can see, these are words of reassurance, confidence and solution selling. There is a very slim chance the patient will not be attentive.
It is really important you make the assessment appointment as interactive as possible. This is the key to Solution Selling. You cannot provide a solution to something which the patient does not perceive as a problem. Also remember, you need to keep the patient agenda in mind at every stage so that you can keep repeating that you understand what it is. It is very satisfying from the patient’s point of view to be reassured psychologically in this way.
Stage 5: The Solution Process.
This is simply when you present your solution to your patient’s problems. Because you have undergone a rigorous assessment and discovery process of your patient’s real agenda you will have a higher chance of getting a case acceptance since you will have answered the reason why the patient came to you in the first place.
Make sure you start the process by presenting their requirements and agenda first, then give a summary of how you have assessed their situation to answer it. Patients need reminding all the time of what they have stated in the previous appointments.
You want to get to a stage where your patients are the ones leading the show. You simply direct it.
Also, you will have ensured that your future relationship has been solidified.
A process in Solution Selling is necessary because patients will not always tell you the real reason they have come to see you, they may be “shopping around” or assessing you first, so you are never quite sure of the hidden agenda. Solution Selling allows you to extract that hidden agenda and provide the optimum solution for it. This in turn will help you to get much more case acceptances than you otherwise would have. Also, you are developing your practice in profits and growth, a sure way to future success!