The Dental Management Pyramid: Part III
Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
Case presentation is more like an art than a science. In order to increase case acceptance and thereby improve the practice’s success, the clinician must understand how to influentially present information to his or her patients. The more cases closed, the more profitable the practice will become, and the more effectively patients will be served.
Since “selling” skills were never taught in dental school, the Levin Group understands that case presentation can often present a challenge for dentist. Nevertheless, it is critical to discover the answer to the question: “How do I convince my patients that a particular treatment is right for them?” Increased case acceptance requires specific education and practice.
The Four Key Questions
A good salesperson must understand his or her customers. The same is certainly true for dentists. A good dentist must understand his or her patients. There are also, however, a few elements patients must understand prior to their acceptance of a particular treatment regimen. The clinician must begin by providing the answers to four basic questions for the patient during the treatment plan presentation:
1) What is the procedure?
2) How will treatment benefit me?
3) What is the duration of treatment?
4) How much will treatment cost?
What is the procedure?
This question refers to the technical aspects of the case. In order to capture the patient’s attention, this technical information must be presented in an exciting manner. One way to do this is to follow each clinical statement with a reference to the procedure’s benefits. For example, “Mrs. Jones, you definitely need a crown. It will match your other teeth beautifully and should last many, many years.”
The more benefits you can present while addressing the patient’s needs, the better your chance of closing the case. While patients are interested in the technical aspect of their case—to a point—they are more interested in how the suggested procedures will benefit them. Dental cases are never closed following extensive clinical explanations. Rather, they are closed when practitioners are able to explain the benefits of treatment and increase the patient’s comfort level.
How will treatment benefit me?
By carefully explaining each life-enhancing benefit of the treatment, the clinician can motivate the patient to immediately undergo treatment. We teach our clients to state the major benefits of any treatment at least three times throughout each case presentation. The consequences of delaying treatment should also be reinforced during the treatment planning consultation. Although clinicians should systematically identify and reference each patient’s primary reason for treatment, all the ways in which the procedure in question is advantageous should be addressed. If the patient confidently says, “I need to think about it”, following the treatment presentation, the clinician may be failing to properly motivate his or her patients.
What is the duration of treatment?
Most patients feel inconvenienced by the time required for dental treatment. Merely telling patients that treatment will require a specific amount of time may not close the procedure. Therefore, it is important to explain to patients that the time stated is necessary to complete their treatment effectively and thoroughly, with excellent quality. If necessary, divide the treatment into steps or phases so patients will not feel as if treatment is a never-ending process. For example, “Mrs. Jones, your treatment will include three steps: Step one of the procedure will include…, while step two will include…, and step three will include… Your treatment will progress as quickly as possible, but we also want to provide you with the best care available.” Always let patients know that treatment will be scheduled in convenient yet timely appointments, while emphasizing that quality is more important than the time required to complete the procedure.
How much will treatment cost?
Ultimately, this is the question that determines whether or not treatment will be rendered. Generally, the meaning behind this question is not, “How much does it cost?” but rather, “How am I going to pay for it?” Flexible payment options are critical, and patients should be aware that they have alternatives so they can take advantage of treatment. While the clinician should not discuss payment with the patient, the staff should contain a financial coordinator to work with patients regarding all financial considerations.
In addition, it may be helpful to offer third-party financing as an incentive. The inclusion of convenient, low monthly payments may be a major benefit to some patients. If a practitioner is uncertain if the patient is willing to pay the fee in question, then he or she has not created sufficient value to justify the treatment expense. The total cost of treatment is not the primary concern for many patients, and if financing options are provided, their concerns about how to pay for treatment will be allayed. At the end of the day, the clinician’s role is to minimize the effect that cost has on the decision-making process. Most people will find the money to pay for what they want. Therefore, if the case has been properly presented, the patient will be motivated to want treatment and find a usable option.
The incorporation of selling skills is critical to case presentation. Practitioners must be able to effectively explain the procedure, benefits, time, and expenditure to patients while easing their worries, dismantling their fears, and motivating them toward treatment.
Selling is the process of education and motivation. This process is essential, and every member of the office staff should excel in this area. Since patients come from different cultures and socioeconomic levels, variations must be developed in the manner in which cases are presented. Each patient that turns down necessary treatment loses an opportunity for improved oral health, while each patient that rejects elective treatment loses an opportunity for life enhancement. Clinicians should strive to give every patient the opportunity to say “Yes!”
*Founder and CEO, Levin Group, Baltimore, Maryland