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The 7 Biggest Mistakes A Dentist Can Make In Their Business

One of the best speakers in the world has to be Brian Tracy. His logic and skill in communication is unmatched. I was watching his seven part video series that was collectively called “The 7 Biggest Mistakes Business People Make”. They were great and universally applicable to any business, so I would like borrow his ideas and “dentisize” them to help you with the application of the theory in practical terms in a dental practice.

1. Adjusting to the Marketplace: As much as we all wish that nothing changes, everyone would have to admit that nothing stays the same: Equipment, services, techniques, demographics, etc. In business, you need to keep in mind that your competitor has one goal in life: To put you out of business. In dentistry this can be counter intuitive. It may not be the dentist down the street, but most likely it is insurance companies, corporate practices, national healthcare, dental schools turning out more and more graduates, and marketing promoting other flashy consumer goods for your patients to purchase. Times are tough and we, as owners and leaders, must make the tough decisions. We can ill afford to keep marginal staff on the payroll. Overhead control and high productivity are paramount in any successful business and dentistry is being hit from every side when we look at skyrocketing costs and lack of business. The bottom line is that we need to embrace change and dedicate ourselves to action. Darwin said that survival goes not necessarily to the strongest or most intelligent, but to the organism most adaptable to change.

2. Products and Services: Brian Tracy says that 90% of business success is based on having a great product or service. We need to have a system that allows us to get feedback from our patients. Ask your patients what you would have to do in order for them to say: “This is a great service and great office.” Inspiring each patient is the key to progressive, never ending growth. We need to be obsessed with making every patient happy that they came to see us.

3. Talent and People in Key Positions: In other words, the right people in the right seats on your bus. The Gallup Company finished a huge study of corporations and found that 67% of all employees are not engaged in the work they do. In fact, almost 31% were actively sabotaging the companies they worked for. Peter Drucker said: “The only thing you ever have in abundance is incompetence”. We need a team, not a group of people working together, to make a practice great. We need to remember to hire slowly and fire quickly. It’s the ripple effect: Poor performers demoralize everybody else. Good people energize everybody else. You will never go any further in your practice than the one person with the lowest commitment to your vision.

4. How to Create a Great Patient Experience: We have gone from the Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, to the Platinum Rule of “treat others the way they want to be treated”. Only the patient defines quality in dentistry, not the doctor, not the staff. 80% of the patient’s experience is emotional. It’s not the product itself (this is pretty disappointing to the boutique practices or practices that major in just clinical excellence). It’s how the product itself is served, how it’s delivered, how it’s packaged, distributed, etc. People’s emotions determine whether or not they are happy with the product. If you look at the number of directly referred new patients compared to the total number of new patients each month, you will see whether or not you are inspiring or touching the emotions of your patients or not. If you are not getting at least 50% of your new patients from direct referrals, something is really wrong.

5. How to Determine the Critical Numbers in Your Practice: Everything in your practice can be measured, and usually with a dollar number. That dollar amount is a measurement of the amount of service you deliver to the patients. Quantification is the measure of your number and you need to focus on it relentlessly. These benchmarks need to be known and shared with every member of the team: Monthly overhead of 50 to 60%, 50 to 75 new patients per doctor, twice as many hygiene hours as doctor hours, hygienist producing at least 3X what they are paid, 50%+ new patients from direct referral.

6. The 7 Step Sales Processes: Brian Tracy states that 70% of most small businesses in America do no sales training at all. They do product training and confuse it for sales training. This is a huge mistake and we see it every day in almost every dental practice in the US. The Sale Steps are:
a. Prospecting: Differentiate between prospects and suspects.
b. Building trust and rapport: This takes time, listening skills, and questioning techniques.
c. Identifying needs and wants accurately: If you talk about the wrong thing or talk about it too soon, you will kill the sale. Nothing makes a customer more irritated than for you to start selling before he or she is even clear that they need it. If you want the dentistry more than the patient, you have crossed the line.
d. Presenting: This is a discussion. It should be organized, relaxed and staged to have the patient show up, pay for treatment, and refer everyone they know.
e. Answering Objections: Know the answers that will zap the objections. Why, how, and helping them afford the treatment they need. You have to move the patient from this need to actually wanting the treatment.
f. Closing: This is basically asking for the sale. Over 60% of dentists never ask the patient for the sale. It basically is just the way we invite people to take action.
g. Referrals: Done correctly, we will have staged this so that your patients will send you all of the prospects you need.

7. The Importance of Continuous Learning: Most dentists graduate from school and maybe spend a year or two learning their job and then start to coast. Being at the top of your game for your entire career requires you to stay engaged. Continuous and never ending improvement (CANI re: Tony Robbins) is the minimal commitment for success. We need to commit to learning as if our lives depended on it. The top 20% know that majoring in people skills and continually challenging themselves clinically is the perfect system for unlimited growth.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
[email protected]