“Tales from the Troubleshooter #3”

Recently published on Dentinal Tubules, here’s the third part of Jimmy’s story.

Tales from The Troubleshooter – Case 1. Jimmy’s story.

Part 3. Are they not buying or are you not selling?

The Seven Pillars of Dental Practice Management© are:

  • Vision
  • Financial Controls
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • People
  • Environment
  • Systems

We’re back on track and dealing with the third pillar – Sales. This is possibly the most misunderstood, feared and avoided topic in dentistry and in most other professional services.

There’s a reluctance to embrace the need to have a sales process for  reasons as diverse as:

  • We’re professionals so we don’t need to do that.
  • It’s inappropriate.
  • I couldn’t go on a sales course – I’d rather do another one on implants.
  • We’re really very good at sales, it’s just that our patients really don’t want anything more than basic dentistry.
  • They (the patients) don’t like it when we ask them questions.

…..I could go on.

The real reasons are usually more prosaic:

  • I’m frightened of being rejected.
  • I can’t bear the thought of stepping outside my comfort zone.
  • I don’t know how to react when they say no.

Dentists and hygienists are frequently excellent at communicating clinical “need” and helping their patients to accept the treatment that they suggest. It’s when they take the small step from “essential” to “elective” treatment that they start to lose confidence in their abilities to communicate.

Let’s look at Jimmy’s practice which was facing up to the real threat of under performance for the third consecutive year. There hardly seemed space in, what on the face of it was a very busy practice, for something as basic as “selling” yet in order to compensate for the 10% clawback there was an acute need to increase turnover.

As is frequently the case when during practice analysis I find “busyness” getting in the way of profitability. The mantra of “fill the book” seems to have been passed to infant dentists with their mothers’ milk and it’s their knee jerk reaction to the need for an increase in income. Every practice must see patients so as to be profitable but they must be seen in the right order at the right time and by the right people. For Jimmy and his associate to become more profitable they needed to:
1) Use their time more effectively in order to achieve the NHS targets and
2) Introduce new techniques to increase the private income of the practice.

As with all the Seven Pillars there are overlaps into other areas and improvement in sales spreads across marketing, team, environment and systems.

Time management

  • We analysed the appointment book and were able to reduce no shows by simply ensuring that all new patients and bond-ups were confirmed in advance by using telephone, text messages or email.
  • From the analysis we could see that times allowed for different procedures could be adjusted in order to utilise clinic time more effectively. The ideal is the correct appointment length for each and every appointment along with adequate “buffer zones” and emergency times to provide flexibility. The correctly booked day leaves the surgeon feeling fulfilled but not exhausted.
  • “Fly pasts” – block booked examination sessions were reinstated where the questions to be answered were “do they qualify for NHS treatment?” and “are they ready to start yet?”
  • By “getting hold” of the waiting list the correct number of NHS starts were introduced each month so that the NHS contract was fulfilled and was ready to be completed with a month to spare so that the final month of the financial year could be spent setting up the next year.

Team & Environment
By using team members communication with patients and their parents was improved so that if anyone was not eligible for treatment under the NHS they understood fully the reasons. The benefits of orthodontic treatment were explained and all the private options were offered along with the different methods of financing.

The team soon realised that just two private cases were the difference between  the practice succeeding and failing financially.
A spare room (the old practice manager’s office) was converted into an area for conversation away from clinical areas.

This is neither the time nor place for “sales training” a phrase that alienates many and is misunderstood by even more in professional practices. However when we were getting the team members ready to expand their duties there were a few short lessons they needed to learn.

  • Seek first to understand then to be understood. This is Stephen Covey’s fifth habit and tends to turn on it’s head the conventional view of “get them to understand us first”. This was reinforced by reminding team members of the wise words taught to children of using their ears, eyes and mouth in the proportion that they were given to them.
  • “No” isn’t the ultimate rejection, always leave the door open for the patients to return should they wish to. Information and your enthusiasm will be appreciated, they may not be the right person in the right place at the right time but the knowledge they have acquired may well be passed to a third party who might be keen on what you have to offer.
  • Welcome questions and objections, always ask “is there anything else?”
  • Follow up waverers with a telephone call from the team member who spoke to them, rather than as one on a list for the receptionist.

The results have spoken for themselves.

  • The practice back in profitability,
  • The UOA targets which were 50% behind target half way through the year were reached with time to spare and the new year has started with a bang.
  • Team members are enjoying their new challenges and appreciate being more involved in patient acre.
  • There is an increase in demand for private care which has been achieved with very little money but a lot of common sense being spent on marketing; but more of that next time.

The Monday Morning Quote #118

“There are two types of education.

One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.”

John Adams

The four horsemen of media–here comes tiny media. Seth Godin

More wise words from Seth Godin

The Four Horsemen of Media – here comes tiny media.

The first is when you talk about yourself. Directly to people who care to hear you out.

The second is when you pay someone to carry your message. Media for hire, we call it advertising.

The third is when you cajole the ‘editorial’ side to talk about you, with authority. Publicity is often worth more than advertising, but it’s pesky in that it doesn’t perform on demand.

The fourth, the fourth is all the rage right now. That’s when unanointed kings of tiny media, when bloggers and tweeters and others talk about you.

Why do we persist in believing that these four have much in common? They don’t. Being confused about which is which is expensive, or worse.

You know you’re in trouble if someone on your team says anything like, “But how do we do this quickly? And at scale? Is there a way interns can churn through names? We have money to spend, hurry!”

There are some that would be delighted if PR and social media would just own up and start playing by the rules of advertising. In other words, you ought to be able to buy this sort of buzz. It’s more efficient, more convenient and more predictable.

Of course, it doesn’t work that way. Buying your way into the fourth horseman doesn’t work. Professionalizing it doesn’t work so well either. What works is making something worth talking about.

As it should be.

If you’re hoping that this now important form of media is going to sit there and promote your average stuff for average people made in bulk but pretty cheap product merely because you’re used to paying media companies to run ads… I think you’re wasting a lot of time and money.

This goes deeper than that. You’ll need to take that money and change the product and the service instead.

Link to the original article here.

The Monday Morning Quote

“The problem in my life and other people’s lives is not the absence of knowing what to do, but the absence of doing it.”
Peter Drucker

Books – this is how they work

I love this from de-motivation, thanks to The Word for pointing it out.

Help Make Dental History, UK

A project to build a comprehensive living history of dentistry, the John McLean Archive, is seeking participants from across the UK to help make dental history. Participants are required to participate in the project’s next witness seminar in October; and to take part in an ongoing series of oral history interviews across the UK.

The second witness seminar for the project, which will take place at the British Dental Association’s (BDA’s) London headquarters on 26 October 2011, will focus on changes in dentistry since 1948. Discussion is expected to concentrate on topics including the introduction of the NHS, payment and contracts, developments in equipment and evolution of private practice. Participants in the project’s first witness seminar, which took place in March and looked at the development of the regulation of dentistry, included past Presidents of the BDA and General Dental Council, three former deans of dental schools and a former dean of the Dental Faculty of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. It was chaired by Professor Nairn Wilson, Dean of King’s College London Dental Institute. Deliberations from each of the witness seminars will be published and placed in the John McLean Archive and will be publicly available via the BDA Museum’s website.

Volunteers are also being sought to carry out oral history interviews with dentists and dental care professionals across the UK. The transcripts of these interviews, which will focus on different aspects of the development of dentistry, will also be published as part of the project. Volunteers must have a connection to dentistry, good listening skills and an interest in dentistry. Volunteers selected to take part will receive training in oral history and the use of the recording equipment that will be used in the interviews.

Individuals interested in participating in either strand of activity contact Sophie Riches, the John McLean Archive project co-ordinator at the BDA Museum. Email sophie.riches@bda.org or visit the BDA Museum stand at the 2011 British Dental Conference and Exhibition.

The John McLean archive has been jointly established by the BDA Museum and the Unit for the History of Dentistry at King’s College London Dental Institute. It is funded by a bequest from former BDA President John Walford McLean OBE. It aims to fill a void in the profession’s recorded history.

1) John McLean was a leading dental practitioner and internationally renowned dental materials scientist, author and lecturer. He was appointed an OBE in 1978 and was the recipient of numerous awards, including the John Tomes Prize for research. He served as BDA President from 1994 to 1995.

British Dental Association (BDA)

The Monday Morning Quote – 116

‘The pursuit of a goal that is not values-based is drudgery.’

Thomas Leonard

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