The Real Key to Influence



There are many books dentists can read to get better at presentation.  Most of the books can be found in the Sales and Marketing section of your local bookstore.  It seems that over the years I have read most of them.  Add to those the numerous books on philosophy and psychology and I could write my own book.  Hmm…I already have.

But in all seriousness, one book that was recommended to me years ago by Dr. Peter Dawson was S.P.I.N. Selling by Neil Rackham.

Great book…lots of practical information, but like so many books it falls short on specific advice for my day to day experiences with patients.

Let me give you an example.

S.P.I.N. is a process or series of questions that guides your patient interview.  It starts with Situation questions, Problem questions, Implication questions and finally Need payoff questions.

Essentially it is a guide to uncover the patient’s real problems and for you to fit that problem with your solution (payoff).

The real crux of Rackham’s system comes with finding the right implications.  In other words—what’s the real meaning behind the problem?

This is what most sales trainers call the WIIFM part of the presentation…the benefit.  And this is what they used to call in the Bronx…what separates the men from the boys.

The very best have a way of drilling down to uncover the real problems and their emotional implications.  Most of us have heard the sales saying, “People buy on emotion and justify on logic.”

Well the very best understand that and always think in terms of implications.

For example, I had a patient who resisted getting her front tooth fixed until her husband refused to go out in public with her anymore.  Fix the tooth for health reasons?  For functional reasons?  For comfort and appearance?

No way.

But when the idea of not being accepted came up…she was in my office in a New York minute (second reference to the Big Apple).

Yes sitting high up on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is that need to belong.

It is their own particular circumstances and their own story that we need to explore in order to find what moves them.  That is why I advocate a complete examination that focuses on knowing our patients.

As a coach I hear stories like these all the time…specific incidents where the dentist says: “What do you say when they don’t see the problem, or when they tell you this objection or that.”

I tell them there are no words…just a mindset which includes lots of empathy and thinking about emotional implications.

Think in terms of implications — be preventive, so your patients don’t leave with regrets—“I could have had a V-8.”

 In the comments below—leave some specific situations where thinking in the language of emotional implication has helped you or created frustration.

In my next blog post I will give you an example of “selling ideas” rather than dentistry that just might improve your relationship with your laboratory.

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What’s a Dentist For ?

Glossodynia-Burning Tongue

Glossodynia-Burning Tongue




Jvonny has no stomach.  Whatever he eats goes straight to his small intestine.  Jvonny has been a patient in my practice for over twelve years.  I never knew him when digestion was a simple process.  Cancer took his stomach many years ago.  He is an ideal patient who does whatever it takes to keep his teeth.  He hasn’t lost a tooth under my watch.  He’s a good guy and he’s a Giant fan too.

Four months ago he came in complaining of burning tongue.  I referred him back to his physician for a workup.  This week he came in for his cleaning appointment, and he reported that his mouth was on fire.  He also reported that he was losing his sense of taste.  But at times there was relief.  I asked what his physicians had found.  He said that they were treating him for pernicious anemia.  That made sense to me because absorption of Vitamin B12 takes place in the stomach.  He was self-administering the B12.  But his problem was getting worse.

I went to the Internet.  I discussed the need for a nutritionist, someone who could find the right dosage of B12 and folic acid.

Jvonny was grateful.  He said that no other doctor had spent this amount of time with him…how my staff and I showed true concern.  We all felt good…but that’s what we do.  That’s what dentists are for.

Dentistry through the years has gone through many changes.  Remember Doc Holliday? or Painless Parker?  The profession worked hard through the years to clean itself up…to get honor and respect from the public.
With the help of the ADA, dental education and the various specialty boards dentistry became a highly revered and noble profession.

But something is changing.  In many circles dentists are looked upon as tooth mechanics or cosmeticians rather than doctors.  many of our services have been reduced to commodities.  Procedures with codes that are disconnected from the human beings like Jvonny that come to us for advice.

At it’s heart dentistry is an arm of the medical profession and should be treated that way.  Health care is about treating people right.  It’s about sitting down with our patients and helping them solve their issues besides just filling or whitening their teeth.

Every dentist MUST find the dignity in the work.  Please leave your comments below — if you have any insight into Jvonny’s burning mouth syndrome…I would appreciate the input.

If you have ever felt that you have lost the dignity that you thought came with the profession…please let us know.






5 Keys to an Effective Preclinical Examination

In our modern world of social media, face-to-face communication is becoming more ignored. There is no more effective way to get case acceptance than by doing a powerful comprehensive examination, and the most significant component of that examination is the preclinical portion…the time spent before you open the patient’s mouth.

So much is written about strategies and techniques that bring new patients into your dental practice, but without an effective conversion strategy, dentists end up kissing a lot of frogs before they meet the prince.

The preclinical examination technique described below can be the answer to your face-to-face conversion rates.

By breaking down the preclinical examination into its component parts, you can effectively begin to guide your patient toward better dentistry.

Here are 5 rules to follow for every preclinical examination that will lead to a higher level of trust.

1. Use good “improv technique.” Don’t kid yourself, your case presentation begins during the preclinical examination. The effective dentist is continually getting ideas across at all times. One idea that you want to get across is that you are there for the patient…it’s always about them. Remember that. In order to do that, use the rules of improvisational artists like Wayne Brady and Drew Carey, for example, come to the exam without an agenda, never negate your patient, always listen carefully and answer everything with “yes, and.” Future blog posts on this site will include all of the rules of improv and I will apply them specifically to dentistry…for now understand that improv rather than scripting is much more effective.

2. Stay positive. Your preclinical examination should contain positive statements of at least a 3:1 ratio to negative statements. This principle first described by Barbara Frederickson and Mario Losada in the book Positivity is a proven technique in building solid relationships. The “love doctor” John Gottman sites the same studies in his book The Science of Trust.

3. Live in the question. It has been said that that the one who asks the questions controls the conversation. Stay in the “ask” mode. Stop telling and start selling.

4. Be other focused. As written above…it’s always about them and never about you. This comes through very clearly during the preclinical examination…so always focus on your patient.

5. Become a great listener. There is no greater skill to develop than listening. Patients will always tell you what they are looking for in a dentist. Listen carefully.

Follow these five rules and you will build the trust necessary for a great long-term relationship…without that trust your practice will never thrive consistently.