By Dr. Mark T. Murphy, DDS, FAGD

Getting patients to ‘YES’ is a challenge, sometimes because we are so forward with telling them what they ‘NEED’ instead of waiting until they ‘WANT’. One technique I have personally used and coached hundreds of others with remarkable success is, to “play hard to get”. Let me explain. If we remain patient and refrain from telling them the answer, the path is easier. By asking questions about what they see or think about the problem we engage their curiosity and co-discovery. These are natural tendencies in patients that are often squelched by our well-intentioned urge to tell them what they need right away. Talk about the problem, ask them questions, show them images using the intra-oral camera and hold off moving to the solutions discussion until they…wait for it…ASK YOU what you think. If we stay in the question with them, they will eventually ask us what we think they should do. Their curiosity gets the best of them and they truly want to know. That is when I play hard to get.

After successfully engaging them about the image of a failing MODBL, showing them the open margins, describing the decay process, asking about percentages of tooth versus material and advising them about the inevitability of this tooth needing a root canal if left untreated, they succumb to their curiosity and ask the inevitable question, “what do you recommend?” This is where it gets fun. Instead of simply answering them, I put on my sales and marketing hat and FAB (features, advantages and benefits) the crown they need. Marketing 101 reminds us to never sell the thing, rather sell the Features, Advantages and Benefits of the thing.

I explain that there are several different clinically acceptable ways to fix that tooth, but I need some information from them to make the recommendation. First, would they prefer a solution/material that will last several years or one that with some luck, might even last the rest of their life? Most folks go for longevity. Then I ask if they prefer the material we use to be tooth colored, silver or gold metal? Most choose the esthetic alternative. Without ever saying they NEED a crown, I simply asked them what features, advantages and benefits they WANT! This improves the odds of completing their treatment significantly, but not to 100%.

One more crown per week or bite splint, or periodontal treatment or implant etc. can have a significant impact on production. Just think, at $1,200 per unit, and 50 weeks you would increase production $60,000 and help fill your schedule. The same can be said for chair time in hygiene as well. No communication skill, script or technique is foolproof, but by shifting the odds in our favor we will get more yesses, fill our schedule and help patients have healthier mouths.