Closing the Sale vs. Showing the Way
“Closing the sale” is a term familiar to those in sales. After setting the stage for a buyer to buy, getting that buyer to sign off on the deal or agree to the purchase right now, today, is an important goal. Letting a potential buyer take time to think about the purchase is viewed as failure. If the buyer thinks it over, he/she may decide the purchase is not a good fit. Perhaps it is too expensive, or doesn’t really suit his/her needs. Not the salesman’s concern. Closing the sale must happen now.
Does the buyer have questions or objections? Hard sell answers and time limits can be used. “Hundreds of people are already taking advantage of this opportunity” or “This offer is only good for today.”
A buyer who doesn’t fully understand what is transpiring is also no barrier to a sale. Playing on the buyer’s reluctance to show a lack of knowledge works well. “Everyone knows these units are a steal,” or “Don’t worry about the home-owners association fees. They are quite reasonable.”
It is important to every dental practice that necessary treatment is identified and performed. It is important to patients and it is important to the success of the practice. We need to pursue effective methods of getting patients to accept their conditions as well as our recommendations. Do tactics to “close the sale” have any place in dentistry? To get patients on board do we really need to pressure them to agree to a treatment plan right now, today?
From my experience, pressure may work in the short term, but will not work well in the long term. If we pressure patients to set up appointments today, they may cancel tomorrow. They may agree to procedures and then refuse to pay, or appear to be accepting and then walk out the door, never to return.
Better than “closing the sale,” we may be more successful with “showing the way.” We can explain what we are seeing in a patient’s mouth, describe what might be done, and offer a plan. We can allow patients to think it over, so if they decide to go ahead with treatment they are invested in its success.
A treatment conference using the “showing the way” technique may be approached like this:
1. Photos and radiographs of a healthy situation can be shown. For example, a first molar with an attractive resin restoration accompanied by a radiograph showing adequate bone support and no apical infection can be displayed (stock photos are ok). A brief discussion of what is seen and why it is healthy is provided.
2. Photos and radiographs of the patient’s situation can be shown. Decay, inadequate bone support, apical issues, etc. can be pointed out.
3. Photos and radiographs of a severe situation can be shown. What happens when decay, bone destruction, and infections are left untreated is described.
4. The dentist’s recommendations for the patient’s situation are offered, as well as the financial aspects of the plan and how the office may be able to help (financing, CareCredit, etc.). This approach can be provided in a private office setting with the treatment coordinator and patient talking, or the dentist may offer treatment recommendations with the treatment coordinator setting up financial arrangements.
If there is no time to prepare a full treatment conference at the close of an exam, a separate appointment set up at the same time as some minor treatment can be scheduled. For example, the patient needs to have an occlusal resin on #3, but also needs an endo and crown on #30. Set up the appointment for the treatment conference followed by chair time for the resin on #3. In this way the patient does not feel they are coming in “just to talk” but will be receiving necessary treatment as well.
In the hygiene department, after radiographs and full mouth perio charting are complete, areas of concern can be shown right at the chair. A photo of the probe extending into a shallow sulcus followed by a photo of the probe disappearing into a pocket is effective. An x-ray showing bone loss also illustrates well the extent of the patient’s condition. Even in the absence of a photo, a hand mirror can be utilized quite successfully. A patient of record can be told that a new situation has arisen that needs to be addressed, with the statement, “It doesn’t make sense to just ignore areas like this. Even though we have been seeing you on a regular basis, infections can develop. Removing the bacteria from these inflamed pockets will allow the body to begin healing.” New patients can be told that a gum and bone infection exists, but that it can be treated.
After explanations have been given, if the patient wants to think it over they should not be pressured. Put their name on a call list in the computer and follow up with them next week. Tell them, “It is our job to let you know what is going on with your health and what can be done about it. It is up to you to decide. We will call you next week after you have had some time to think it over. Call me if you have a question that you think of later.”
We offer solutions to dental problems and maintenance plans to keep people healthy. When our patients trust us, they return for treatment. “Closing the sale” today is typically not a successful philosophy for long term relationships with our patients.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
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