Avoiding the Hard Sell

Jan. 1, 2007
When I see a new patient, I find myself giving him or her the hard sell. I know what patients need, but they don’t. How can I improve case acceptance?


When I see a new patient, I find myself giving him or her the hard sell. I know what patients need, but they don’t. How can I improve case acceptance?


The best way to lead your patients to understand their dental problems and thus want to treat them is to nurture your relationships with them. “Here’s the rock, paper, scissors game of selling,” says sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer:

“Relationship is more powerful than price.
Relationship is more powerful than delivery.
Relationship is more powerful than quality.
Relationship is more powerful than service.”

You might think that dentistry is different than other sales, but it is not. People buy from those they have relationships with, dentists and team members included. Patients neither know the margin on that crown you just cemented is perfect, nor do they necessarily care that you charge more or less than a dentist down the street or that you have the latest high-tech equipment. If, however, they do not like, trust, or respect you, you will lose them as patients, they will never accept treatment, or both.

How can you and your team improve your relationships so your patients will accept treatment voluntarily and without the hard sell?

  • Ask questions. People want to tell their stories. They want you to know their dental histories, fears and concerns, and dental health goals.
  • Listen, don’t tell. Maintain eye contact and give patients your undivided attention. Ask more questions to probe deeper or clarify, mirror their body movements, and be engaged in the conversation. Paraphrase what you hear so there are no misunderstandings.
  • Be interested in your patients; it’s not about you.
  • Teach your patients about dental health. They must understand problems before they can agree to treatment.
  • Keep your agreements. Do what you said you would do. If you were to call a patient back with more information or check with an insurance company for benefits, then do so in a timely manner.
  • There is no place for blame, judgment, criticism, shame, or excuses in healthy relationships.
  • Give patients your time - spend it getting to know one another. No one wants to feel rushed in your office.
  • Give patients time. They might say “no” in the early stages of your relationship, but they can say “yes” when the relationship matures. Be willing to wait until patients are ready to accept treatment.
  • Be honest. When patients believe in your integrity, they are more likely to follow through with treatment.
  • Create energy wherever you go. Make your dental office a home for happy employees and patients. Patients are perceptive and know when you and your employees are there just for the job.
  • Care about others. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Appreciate your patients and let them know they are important.
  • Always ask, “How can I help you?”

Stop focusing on the sale of treatment and turn your team’s efforts into building stronger relationships with patients. Help them understand their dental needs so they may make informed decisions and want to proceed with treatment. “Don’t celebrate closing a sale; celebrate opening a relationship,” says professional speaker Patricia Fripp. By continuing to nurture relationships with your patients over time, you will eventually see an increase in case acceptance. People buy and do business with those people (dentists included) with whom they have relationships.

Stephanie Houseman, DMD
Dr. Houseman practiced dentistry in St. Louis for 25 years. She is married to a dentist, has two grown children, and understands all too well the demands we place on ourselves. She now works with dentists who want to simplify their lives so that they can enjoy themselves again. She is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute, creator of the 7 Steps 2 a Balanced Life Program™, and author of “The Balance Beam,” a weekly e-newsletter about balance and life. Reach Dr. Houseman at www.7steps2abalancedlife.com or (618) 639-5433.