Before You Do Aesthetics, You Have To Sell Aesthetics

By Rhys Spoor, DDS

When I first graduated from dental school, the idea of selling my dentistry did not seem to be a good idea and certainly not one I thought would be necessary. I had the naive viewpoint that since I was a doctor all of the patients would accept my recommendations and just do them because, after all, I was the expert. The reality I found was quite different. Aesthetics was absolutely discretionary- nobody dies from ugly teeth and it is relatively expensive. Furthermore, insurance companies put it at the bottom of the list, exactly the opposite of where I thought it should be. What an eye-opener.

So before you start doing significant amounts of aesthetics in your practice, you have to learn to sell the idea of aesthetics to your patients. Selling is not a bad thing, especially when the results we can give to our patients are enhanced self-esteem, better function, improved health, and increased longevity of their dentition. Obviously you need the technical training and ultimately the experience to deliver your peak results, but that is just a matter of continuing education—which we all do anyway.

The following are the steps I have found to be helpful and effective for selling. Frame your aesthetic treatment around you and your team always being honest with your patients, doing your best, and doing what is in the patient’s best interest. Remember that you have a great product, in the end it makes your patients happy, and it is a win-win for everyone. You are selling a solution to their problem.

1. Connecting to build trust
This is the most important step and putting forth maximum effort in the beginning pays the highest dividends later. It takes some time and starts with the first contact on the phone, in person, by email, or however that patient first interacts with you. Introducing yourself and your team is critical–everyone needs to be friendly, competent, and
caring. The office environment should be pleasant, safe, and comfortable. The purpose, the process, and the advantages for the patient should be clarified. Strive to gain the patient’s agreement to the process early on. This is not necessarily an agreement to the ultimate treatment. A positive relationship leads to the necessary level of trust.

2. Asking questions to understand
This part takes some practice, but basically listen more than you talk and ask questions until you are certain you have a concise understanding and clear picture of the problem. Listen actively: ask questions, paraphrase for understanding, and demonstrate empathy. Often, asking the patient for further information and how this makes them feel helps them open up enough to really define the problem. This is not difficult as it is what we all try to do when we provide health care.

3. Defining the solution
Confirm the needs as stated by the patient. Show the value of the solution to resolve
those needs. This is the time for stories— including visuals of finished cases—of how you’ve helped other patients (the idea of the visual is to support the emotional good feeling those other patients have, not how the dentistry was done). Use clear explanations in language that the patient will understand.

4. Gaining agreement
Summarize the needs and recommend a solution tied directly to the needs in terms appropriate to the patient. After presenting the solution, stop and take time to listen again. The patient should be doing most of the talking at this point; a little silence is not a bad thing. Revisit the solution and the benefits one more time and present the fee and timing. Secure the agreement and schedule a follow-up or next-step appointment.

5. Overcoming objections
Objections are just unanswered questions. If objections are present, answering the
patient’s questions may require backing up as far as Step 2 (understanding). Keep in mind that the patient originally sought your help to solve an aesthetic problem and objections are extraneous. However, this is where the process can stop–and without focus by the whole team, will stop. Helping patients overcome objections is more important than any of the technical dentistry we do, and look at the emphasis most of us put on our technical competency. Taking the time at the start to build the proper relationship to the necessary level of trust discussed in Step 1 will, typically, greatly reduce the objections.

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