In a recent blog I discussed the Pareto Principle whereby only 20% of our success is based on our clinical skills and knowledge and 80% is from everything else. I also wrote a post about the importance of relationships. Additionally, in a previous blog published five years ago, I discussed assessing personalities of our existing patients so that we can customize our conversations with them to enhance the likelihood they will say YES to the treatment we recommend. Because success is all about relationships.
Since you never get a second chance to make a first impression, how do you approach and establish a relationship with someone you don’t know? By the time new patients are in your chair for their first exam, they have already had multiple contacts with your office: their referral source (likely an existing patient, a No. 1 source of new patients), your external marketing (they will have checked out your website and social media), the external and internal appearance of your practice, and the initial contacts with your team (online, by phone and in person). Ultimately, they will decide to stay, pay and refer if they like you, the doctor. But how do you make that happen?
In his book, “Making it Easy for Patients to Say ‘Yes:’ The Complete Guide to Case Acceptance,” Paul Homoly, DDS, CSP, explains that knowing people better helps you find treatment plans that fit their life at that moment, leading to increased case acceptance. To facilitate the process of getting to know your patients, you can use the concept of “The Golden 10,” taught to me by Roger Levin, DDS, CEO of the Levin Group. If you learn 10 personal things about the patient in front of you, you can change your relationship with them from a professional to a personal one.
What are the 10 things to know? Here is my go-to list:
- Who are they? Know their name. If they are older than you, use an honorific before their last name: Mr., Mrs., Dr., Ms., etc. If they are younger than you, use their first name. The sweetest sound a person can hear is his or her own name, so use it.
- Who referred them? Make the connection as to how you and the patient both know the referral source. Say something about that referral source that demonstrates a personal connection, if you can.
- Do they have a family? Many times a family will send one person to check out the clinic, and if they like you, the rest will come. Find out if they have a family, and, eventually, invite the rest to join you at your practice too. Acknowledge their family.
- What kind of work do they do? What is their occupation, location of workplace, etc.? Knowing the kind of work they do will allow you to assess their personality quicker and will help guide the conversation.
- If they are kids, where do they go to school? What grade are they in? Do they participate in activities outside of school? What are they passionate about? Favorite TV show or movie? Connect with them as real people, not objects to talk about to their parents.
- If they are teenagers, what courses do they take in school? What are their interests beyond the core curriculum? What outside interests do they have? What career ideas, if any, are they interested in?
- If they are adults, what interests and hobbies do they have outside of work? What do they do for fun?
- Do they travel? If so, where and how? The locations and style of travel speak volumes about their priorities, interests and personality.
- Why are they in your office? Do they have a specific problem they want addressed? Do they have long-term plans, goals or desires for their oral health?
- What is their dental history? Is it good or bad? Have they had regular visits? What about general health history for them and their family?
The more you know about the patient in front of you, the more capable you appear to the patient. Going through this process also allows you to assess the personality of the person in front of you, their priorities and interests. It enables you to develop a treatment plan that fits their lives and establishes the foundation for a long-term relationship.
Which leads me back to the Pareto Principle. If 80% of our success is due to our non-clinical skills and knowledge, you should find a way to spend 20% of your continuing education budget on that 80% because I believe our success is really all about our relationships.