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How To Grow Your Dental Practice by Building Relationships With Your Patients

March 2, 2011
It's not about who you are, it's about who the patients are if you want to succeed in practice-building.

by Helen H. Cohen, MA, CEG

What distinguishes your dental practice from all the others? How is what you offer your patients different from the same old, same old? What value does your practice provide independent of your core services? What sets your office apart from your perceived competition?

The simplest answer to all of the above questions is: It’s not about who you are; it’s about who they are — the patients!

When patients select a dental practice to do business with, they base their decision on what they know about your office. Too often, the prospective patient may get bombarded with information about you, your credentials, your education, and your skills. Not enough attention is given to what is in it for the patient. This reminds me of a key principle of sales that is simply stated and which definitely applies to the profession of dentistry:

  • The Golden Rule of Sales is: “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.” That is the bottom line.
The best strategy to attract more patients and have more referrals is to build on that principle by fostering and creating an office atmosphere that focuses first and foremost on meeting patients where they are. What messages does your office convey to your existing patient population? How warm and friendly is your office over the phone and in person when patients walk in the door? Patients come to your office assuming you know how to do the dentistry, but what they really want is to get to know you and your staff. They want to be welcomed and feel that they have made a good decision on how to spend their dental dollars on their health. If they like how they are treated and feel you have their best interests at heart, then they will trust you.From the patient’s perspective, they desire friendliness, timely appointments (with little or no wait time) a warm setting, kind customer service, and quality care with fair and reasonable fees. Being more mindful of these factors will support your efforts to build lasting relationships of worth, which will lead to greater patient retention and referrals.As a dental practitioner, you can succeed at case acceptance by focusing on how you and your products and services can serve patients by matching the benefits with patients’ wants, needs, and desires. Try to look at everything from the patient’s vantage point. In today’s market-based economy, you cannot make patients do anything they do not want to do. However, what you can do is to create an environment where they want to “buy.” If you’re out to make a “sale,” then it’s all about you. If your goal is to create an atmosphere where the prospect chooses to buy, then it’s all about them. And that’s exactly what and who it should be about — them! Therefore in reality, sales are about finding out what someone needs or wants. Then help them to get it. The intention and the goal for the dentist should be focused on how to best meet the patient’s needs.Make the choice to establish, build, and retain solid relationships with your patients. Listen to what they want and treat them well. Give them the intrinsic value they seek from selecting to do business with you. Place a higher priority on developing connections with your patients ahead of your dentistry. Deliver quality care above and beyond what they expect. Once they know you, like you, and trust you, then they will “buy” what you offer them (treatment plans and case acceptances). In essence, they are the ones “buying” you and your services! The payback for you will be increased patient referrals, more satisfied patients, and greater profitability and revenues. It is then that your practice can continue to truly flourish.
Are you ready to take your practice to the next level? Helen Cohen nvites you to experience a complimentary (no charge or obligation) 30-minute coaching session to see if you are ready and would benefit from dental coaching. Please visit her Web site at to learn more about the services she provides. Contact Cohen at [email protected] or call her at (913) 491-1368. Her LinkedIn address is, and her blog address is