April 17, 2009
Let’s say you’re interested in expanding the range of services your practice offers. You enjoy doing dentistry and you know from experience that a lot of your patients, young and old, need better dental care. You also know that dental care is a promising growth area in your practice in an era when clients expect better service for their money. So you have a wonderful idea: You are going to sign up for an extensive course in dentistry and learn the ins and outs of high-quality dental care.
You find an appropriate course and take the time to participate in it. You are eager to learn and really get involved with the course material. At the end of the course you invest in more advanced dental equipment and train your staff to use it effectively. You are ready for business.
You go to work after the weekend, all excited. This is the day things are going to change in your practice. With great enthusiasm, you offer your clients better dental care for their pets. You recommend having it done today so that your clients can feel the urgency in taking care of their pets’ dental disease.
Then it hits you: Very few clients accept dental care for their pets, let alone better and more expensive care. Some tell you they need to think about it. Some say they can’t afford it, and some, flat out, say they don’t think their pets need it. You are so frustrated; you know your patients need it and you know you can help them. “Why don’t they get it?” you ask yourself in bewilderment.
Here’s the answer to why
Your clients are ready to buy your service when they are ready, not when you are ready to sell it! Another common reason is that not all your clients want the same level of service. If you offer high-quality dentistry to all your clients, you are both offering too much service to the bottom 70% of your clients and too little service to the top 10-20%.
Become “The Master of the Moment”
No matter how great your service is, no matter how much your patients need it, many clients are not ready for it when you are. Whatever the reason, a large portion of your clients are not going to buy your service right now. If you understand this, you will save yourself a lot of frustration.
This doesn’t mean, however, that your clients won’t buy your new service eventually. The good news is that most will. The bad news is that unless you are the “master of the moment” – you are there when they need your service – they may never do it or will go somewhere else. Consumers act according to their own incalculable reasoning and their own timetable. Many providers mistakenly believe that one mention and one weak reminder for necessary service are enough. Too many give up soon after they don’t get the desired response. This is unfortunate, and it’s costing both clients and veterinary practices a lot of good health and financial rewards.
Do you recall seeing clients, months after they were recommended a service, come in to have it done? They remembered, but they were just not ready when you were.
That’s why timing is of the essence. You need to follow up on a regular basis. The best way is to continually educate your clients on the importance of the service, then pitch yourself, indirectly, as the one who can deliver it with confidence and expertise. This communication should be through letters, e-mails, postcards and telephone calls. How much communication is enough? The answer is two to three times a month, or around 30 times a year. Every year.
No matter how great your service is, no matter how much your patients need it, many clients are not ready for it when you are.
How do you do this?
Every time you diagnose a patient with dental disease, or any other condition for that matter, the client has to hear from you or someone else in your practice about the importance of taking care of the problem. This point person needs to know what she or he is saying and be prepared to answer all the clients’ questions and concerns. Some clients will approve immediately, but most won’t. Those who decline at the time of the exam should go on a follow-up list.
Two weeks after the visit, a letter about the importance of having healthy teeth should be sent to these clients. The letter should include before-and-after photos to illustrate the difference in a patient’s appearance.
Is that selling? No, it’s education.
Some clients will make an appointment when they receive the letter. Those who don’t should receive another letter a month later offering a special price for dental care. An additional letter should tell them to come in during a specified period to get this and that and a reduced price and a bonus and perhaps another still. The idea is to make such an irresistible offer that your clients book an appointment now.
A good way to make the message even stronger is to include one or more testimonials from clients extolling the virtues of the service their pets received and the difference it made in their pets’ lives. With that you are going to get a lot more clients excited about the service. You have moved them from ”needing” it to “wanting” it. Even if they are still not ready, rest assured that when they are ready, you will be the one they choose.
It’s your responsibility to keep educating your clients, raising their dental IQ to a much higher level. If you do that, you will be there for them when they need you.
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