There is a never ending array of services provided by dentists: implants, endodontics, crown and bridge, orthodontics, cosmetic dentistry, composites, and occlusion.
All those skills are very helpful. There is one single skill that identifies a good dentist, more than any other. It is how well they communicate with clients. The level of competence with dentistry is unimportant until a patient says “okay” and accepts your treatment plan.
Over the years, I’ve seen a large number of practices. I have observed lots of dentists work with clients. I have not been able to discover any correlation whatsoever between clinical excellence and monetary success. In reality, I have seen economically successful dentists who are quite poor. I have seen extremely proficient dental professionals struggle economically.
The usual factor is that all economically successful dentists interact well with their patients. Without exception, the poor dentist has a hard time interacting. Financial success is not the only benefit of interacting well.
Experienced communicators can exercise a better kind of dentistry. Every day they get the chance to perform their best. Their professional abilities get used to the max. On the other hand, poor communicators find themselves regularly extracting teeth needlessly and doing inexpensive patch up dentistry.
The very first thing you notice in a successful office is the tranquility. The next big thing you notice is that the majority of patients undergo substantial treatment. Master communicators talk briefly with their patients. The patients appear happy then they make an appointment.
That’s the heart of the problem. When oral communication is effective, it’s rapid, clear and organized. The client understands, the client makes a decision, the patient proceeds with treatment.
Treatment assessment is never difficult or time-consuming. On the other hand, when communication is improper the procedure takes ages. The patient becomes confused and then leaves to “sleep on it”.
Lots of bad communicators have developed a pattern. Patients leave the practice holding handouts and a printed quote, earnestly guaranteeing to “sleep on it”.
It is only months later when the dentist asks “Whatever happened to Mrs. Jane Doe?”. You get the feeling that the case discussion did not go as well as they had believed.
Numerous bad communicators under-diagnose. They instinctively know that they cannot offer what the patient needs. They only project what they believe the patient will.
As an example, a client may benefit from a complete mouth rehab, but the dental practitioner just tells them about three fillings. The patient accepts, but the dentist fails his patient in this way.
How do you know if you’re not communicating? A dentist has to look himself: look at the mix of services you are doing. If you’re a general dental professional and are doing less than 20 items of advanced restorative dentistry (inlays, crowns, implants, veneers and so on) per month then you are not communicating well. Good communicators in full-time practice do approximately 50 restorative dentistry services per month or more.
Another way a dentist knows he has trouble is by how long it takes talking with patients. Poor communicators have a slow, laborious communication style constructed. Appointments drag on for 20 or 30 minutes or more. Poor communicators would be surprised to discover that it’s possible to explain the treatment and have it accepted within 5 minutes. Master communicators understand that closing the sale doesn’t require a long courtship.
A dentist can close a sale rapidly. His cost of running a modern, fully equipped, well-staffed office can be around $300 per hour or even more.
At that rate, talk is not cheap! Don’t use 20 unnecessary minutes trying to encourage the patient. Don’t squander 20 minutes chatting about the weather.
Long-winded efforts at developing a connection can be self-defeating. You start to resemble a used car salesperson, acting like friends. You run a major risk of triggering the client’s “B.S. meter”.
Now, here’s some excellent news for the dentist — You do not need to be a natural born communicator or have exceptional talent to communicate well. You can become a good communicator by exercising some quickly mastered abilities and concepts.
Take communication courses by the masters, like Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Jack Canfield, Brian Tracy, and Jim Rohn.
If your dental practice is not how you would like it, I recommend that, prior to heading off to take another course on implants, do a course on communication skills. The return on investment will certainly be much higher.
I recently saw a dental expert who had all the technical skills but no communication skills. His practice was just marginally profitable. After just one day of training can turn a practice around by a large percent.
If you have communication abilities and follow a strong system, then the dentist will produce fantastic results. Your “numbers” will improve considerably. You’ll be more financially successful. You’ll get to do more great quality work. Your anxiety levels will certainly decrease, and you’ll have happier clients.