One of my favorite movies was “A Team of Their Own” starring Tom Hanks. There was a scene where Tom Hanks is exclaiming that there is “no crying in baseball”. We saw selling in dentistry becoming the SOP at the same time cosmetic dentistry came on the scene a couple of decades ago. For some of us, “selling” has taken the place of integrity and the “close” has become the benchmark of the successful. In dentistry, I believe that there should be no “selling”. We shouldn’t have to convince someone that they need what we have to sell. The minute you want the dentistry more than your patient, you have crossed the line. I have to wonder if it is possible to act in the best interest of the patient when you feel the need to persuade them to buy. Instead, I would like to make the case for each of us to embrace the idea of “staging” rather than selling. I would also like you to consider that your staff members hold the key to successful staging.
What is “staging”? Staging is carefully orchestrating everything you do to position the patient to want what they need and understand your suggestions in order to make an informed consent. To do this we need to look at what a great patient looks like. If we think about it, we should always try to begin everything with the end in mind. Picture the result you want and then work back from there. In dentistry, we should agree that the perfect answer to the question of “the end in mind” would be patients that show up, pay for their treatment, and refer everyone they know. When you get really good at obtaining that kind of result everything else just slips into place. Staging actually begins with the first phone call or interaction with anyone you might meet and continues indefinitely. It does not end at the point of them buying something from you. It is a commitment from you to have a life-long relationship with every patient you see. The reason why you practice, your true purpose, must always be to “serve” the patient. I think some of us have forgotten that the best dentistry is no dentistry at all. Nothing we do will replace the quality of natural teeth. Any dentistry we place has a date at which it will need to be replaced.
For some doctors, the “why” has become the transaction, not the needs or the desires of the patient. When this happens, integrity takes a back seat to the sale. They say that character is what you do when no one is looking and no one will find out. L.D. Pankey intimated that unless you were financially independent, you would be influenced by your financial need clothed in the justification that this is what you would do in your own mouth.
There seems to be a double standard in dentistry. You can’t afford the dentistry you want to do in your patient’s mouths. You don’t treat your staff to the level of excellence you expect your patients to accept. You act indignant when patients owe you money or can’t afford your treatment plan when you don’t pay your own bills on time. Even being upset when patients arrive late while you always run behind is a symptom of a double standard.
Staging is beginning with the end in mind while serving the patient, identifying and eliminating confrontational blockages to avoid things that are uncomfortable for both you and the patient. Everything is important: From the first phone contact to the check out after the final appointment. You have to be at the top of your game in every area of the practice. We doctors have to step up and become the leaders that we have always needed to be. Take the time to analyze your game plan and perfect the art of “staging” in order to help the patients want what they need.
Michael Abernathy, DDS