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Is Dentistry asking the wrong questions?

Is Dentistry asking the wrong questions?
Why is it that some businesses do better than others and why do some dental practices do better than others? Why is it that some dental businesses have enough of the patients in the market that they choose, with the right financial resources and motivations to proceed with the treatment that you recommend? Why is it that in a small island of 60 million people, most of whom have teeth at some point in their lives, why don’t more people go to the dentist?

Lets cut to the chase, these really are the big questions and left unanswered they are the fundamental issues that dental business owners face.

So apart from those that have in the short term a product or service that is significantly different from their competitors, or those that are able to have a sustainably lower price point, what is it that some businesses do that makes them successful and how do they do it?

If you are looking for the answers to these questions, it’s tempting to go running to Google, to ask an expert, to go on a course or even download a list of “top 10 tips” in a hope to find the answers and you will find some useful stuff. But it doesn’t actually explain why these problems exist, it will only be somebody else’s interpretation of what you need to do to fix it.

If the answer can be simply be found by research and looking externally to see what you need to do and how to do it, then why isn’t everybody doing it and getting the results that they want? When everybody has access to the same information and resources; the same marketing companies, the same technology, the same equipment, the same “top 10 tips”, the same financiers, people and even patients…why is it that some businesses are able to perform consistently better than others? Something doesn’t stack up!

In 26 years of observing businesses across a huge variety of sectors including dentistry, I have noticed that most businesses owners are fundamentally asking the wrong questions and in terms of attracting and retaining the right type of patients, most dental business owners jump straight in and ask “what do I need to do to grow my business and how do I do it?”. This is a fundamental mistake because it is what pretty much all of your competitors are doing and because they have access to exactly the same information and resources, they are coming up with similar answers and doing similar things to you. If everything becomes pretty much the same, how is a patient meant to make a choice?

From your patient’s perspective what you do and how you do it, looks pretty similar from one practice to a next. Sure, we are getting more savvy with our marketing, brands, promotions, telephone scripts and sales courses but in the end this just raises the same bar for everybody…no wonder patient’s find it hard to make a choice, particularly the ones that leave to “have a think about it”. What variables are you actually left with; price perhaps? But do you really want to be the cheapest dentist in town and when you ask your patient’s why they chose you, do you really want them to say that it was because you were the cheapest?

So now that we know the answer isn’t really out there, what should you doing if you want to attract and retain the right type of patients for your dental business?  How about the way that you think about your business and your patient’s motivations to buy. Rather than looking externally for what you need to do and how to do it, what happens if you flip things around ask why your patients are behaving in the way that they do? Your patients don’t make decisions based upon what you do and how you do it, they will rationalise their decisions based upon this but the actual decision to do anything comes from a feeling, not features and benefits. And what is the most important feeling that you need to have before you buy anything; TRUST and trust comes from within, nowhere else.

This starts to explain why your potential patients are shopping around, and it’s not just for price I’m afraid, it’s to get a good feeling about you and your team, way before they consider how you can help them and what you will do for them. Think about it, just how important is trust in terms of a relationship between a dentist and a patient. Just what level of trust does a patient need to have in you and your team before they give you permission to put your hands in their mouth! And the answer out there to this is to dive in and (after a bit of “rapport” building) explain what we can do and how we are going to do it, hope they don’t grill us on price too much, explain the features and benefits and hope for the best after overcoming any “objections”. If that doesn’t work out, then there is always your “follow up” and failing that well, they were just shopping around for the cheapest deal…really, is that what is really going on?

This explains why only this week my colleague Jan met with a friend who had spoken to and visited three dental practices, non of whom he felt that he could subsequently trust. Don’t confuse clinical ability and track record here, I mean just fundamentally trusting the people armed with the dental equipment. He felt that he was being “sold to” on every occasion and at one point likened it to feeling like he was buying a used car, not a personally invasive medical procedure!

We have been asking the wrong questions and from the wrong perspective. We have been answering the question “what do I need to do to grow my business and how do I do it? And yet nobody has ever bought anything simply because of what it does or how it does it. The real question is why are you doing what you do and fundamentally why would somebody trust you enough to buy it. That is the question that your patients want you to provide them the answer to. The patients that genuinely trust you are the ones that you look forward to seeing, they tell all of their friends about “my dentist” without needing to be asked or prompted with a sign in reception, they keep their appointments, have the money for the treatment that they want to have done after you have recommend it and there are plenty more of them out there. Unfortunately, the answer to attracting them won’t be found externally.

If you would like to know more about the way your patient’s really make decisions and how you can attract more of them, then we can’t prescribe what to do and how to do it but we will point you in the right direction.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Greta compton
    Reply

    liked this article Kevin

  • Kevin Rose
    Reply

    Thank you Greta. I think the penny is dropping for more and more dentists and I am doing my bit to share this concept. We have simply been asking the wrong question; It isn’t “how do we explain what we do and how we do it to attract more patients?” patients know what dentistry is to a greater or lesser extent, some bad, some prejudiced, some good…the question is what do we have to do so that they trust us enough to invite us to do what we do?

    Let’s face it, the feeling that we get when feel we can trust somebody or something is driven by the limbic system (our own personal protector!) which does not have a capacity for language. This means that explaining what we do and how we do it and hopeing that they trust us is actually the exact opposite to the way that we make decisions. We make decisions when we feel trust and yes then rationalise the feeling with understanding how and what will or may happen if we proceed.

    We have literally been doing things the wrong way around!

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