During the last 25 years, I have personally delivered more than 24,000 hours of business training to the dental market, all over the world. I have delivered these programmes in practices and in venues. During this time, I have discovered what the brilliant practices do and they have a very common thread – they are all very proactive. I have also discovered that they do things a little differently to other practices, so here are five off-the-wall strategies to help grow your turnover and profits.
Strategy one – consumables and oral health products
It has often occurred to me when I visit dental practices in the UK that practices don’t make a better effort in selling their consumables. I often see half-hearted, shabby displays, with empty shelves that are even dusty. When I ask at reception how the consumables sales are going, I often get an unenthusiastic answer and yes, wait for it: “We cannot compete with Tesco and Asda”
Let’s be honest, who can? But if that’s the philosophy of your practice, then we might as well pack it in now and not get out of bed. However, you could be sitting on a potential gold mine. Only last month, when I was in Ireland, I was talking to a dentist who has a turnover of €70,000 a year from sales of consumables. Let me share with you a quick story from an in-house course that I delivered a few weeks ago that validates this area of your business. I was coaching a hygienist in a practice who told me that it was very difficult to get her clients to buy her interdental brushes and, as she stated, they are cheaper in the supermarkets.
Now, let’s analyse this for one minute. If that is her philosophy, then it is no wonder sales are going to be poor. If you want more of your patients to say yes to the services and products that you provide, then you need to have 100 per cent belief in your product and service. If you don’t, then you might as well give up and find another job. Your clients are buying all these products from the supermarkets; why don’t they buy them from you? As far as I am aware, I have never heard people in a pub, bar or at a dinner party, discussing the price of consumables. My view is this – if you sell a product, for example interdental brushes, or a service like a visit to the hygienist and you know that your patients are going to significantly benefit from using that product, or service, then you are doing them a disservice by not explaining the benefits to them. They should be walking out of the practice with three months’ supply of brushes in their hand.
Now you might think that is harsh. However, patients don’t know unless they are educated properly. After all, what is the downside to them not flossing? You know the downsides, then why would you not want your patient to go through this and suffer the consequences? To me it does not make sense. The practice in Ireland had a beautiful display that was very pleasing to the eye and they marketed and sold their products well. The dentist even went on to tell me that when they sold the products, his team would often say to the patient that they were a few cents more expensive, but it is more convenient to buy from them, and that they had them here and now. They sold the benefits of the convenience and better products that they had. One last word on this subject. Have you ever seen a shopping list that read: bread, milk, cheese, butter and interdental brushes?
Strategy two – answer the telephone away from the desk
Picture the scene, a patient calls your practice, she is in her late 30s, she has crooked teeth, lacks elf-confidence and her self-esteem is at an all-time low. It has probably taken weeks of Dutch courage to pick the telephone up to call your practice. She takes the plunge. She now wants a life-changing conversation with a member of your team. The telephone gets answered after about 12 rings and then the potential patient gets asked to be put on hold, because the busy receptionist is dealing with a patient in the practice. Does this happen in your practice? If it does, don’t worry you are not alone.
The question is, how much is this potential patient worth to your practice? At least £4,000. Can you honestly give the potential patient 100 per cent attention, deal with her enquiry, and have a life-changing conversation, at the reception desk? I would encourage you to consider taking the telephone out of reception and create a back office, a call centre, where the telephone can be answered in the correct environment. If you have a busy reception area, then the receptionist will probably always give their priority and time to the patients who are in the practice and, therefore, the telephone will go down the pecking order. If a receptionist is dealing with a patient, then it is going to be challenging to have a life-changing conversation with the above patient when you have a busy desk. At the very least, take all new telephone enquiries away from the reception desk and take the call in the back office away from all the distractions you get at the desk, where it is much quieter. This strategy alone will increase the number of new patients coming into your practice.
Strategy three – ask questions
This is so simple, in fact it is common sense. However, the problem with common sense, I find, is that it is not that common. Ask your patients questions about their smile at every consultation. Yes, you heard me correctly, everyone. You can do this in two ways, you can hold a mirror to the patient, or you can take a picture using an intraoral camera. Then show the patient their pictures on a TV screen and ask them to rate their smile. If you did this, then you will create so many opportunities in your practice. I recently delivered an in-house “Ethical Sales and Communication” course to the whole team – I often deliver around 15 of these types of courses all over the world. I love these programmes, because we get the whole team singing off the same hymn sheet. When I contacted a client after the programme, the number one most successful strategy they had implemented was asking every patient, new and existing, how they rated their smile from taking a picture and showing it them on a TV screen. It has created thousands of pounds worth of new opportunities, some with patients who have been clients for more than 20 years.
Strategy four – have amazing before and after pictures
This is a silly question, but would you like more patients to say yes to your treatment plans? If the answer is yes, then take some amazing before and after pictures and then display them in photo books which you can design yourself or companies such as Snapfish.com or Apple offer the same service. I often visit practices and see before and after pictures displayed in shabby albums, or on the walls with cheap looking picture frames. If you display them in attractive photo books, it looks more real and, of course, it demonstrates quality.
It’s so easy to do and only takes about 10 minutes. In a few days you can have incredible photobooks of your clients that you can then show to future clients. Ensure that your pictures show the patients’ faces and not just teeth, as it makes it more human. Of course, don’t forget to ask for consent from your clients to display these. In addition to having these in surgeries, order extra copies and display them in the reception area, as it will give patients time to look at them before they visit the surgery. It might create a conversation with the dentist or a treatment co-ordinator and, of course, new opportunities will be discussed.
Strategy five – answer the telephone out of hours
Think about this, when do most people do their surfing? It has to be at night time right? Probably, between the hours of 8pm and 10pm. If that’s the case, then you could be missing out on many opportunities. So, what if you put on your website that you are accepting telephone calls seven days a week, 24 hours per day – what impact could that have on your business? One thing is for certain, you will increase the volume of people contacting you. Now, you can either decide to answer the telephone yourself, or you could use an answering service company to answer your telephone for you. Before you dismiss this idea, let me tell you it is not a perfect solution, the people that answer the phone for you are most likely going to be students, who want to earn some extra cash so that they pay their way through university. They can only take a message. However, surely it has to better than a client contacting you and only getting an answering machine. How many clients actually leave a message? How many times have you switched your machine on and you have received calls, where no one has left a message? These could be potential clients who are interested in your services. I have an orthodontic practice as a client and they adopted this strategy at a recent training session. The practice manager told me that this one strategy alone was responsible for at least half a dozen new clients every month. Why not trial it and see for yourself. If you decide to take this to the next level, I personally use a company called Answer for You, based in Nottingham.
There you have it, five very simple strategies to help grow turnover and profits. Good luck and let me know how you get on.