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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One Way to Motivate Patients





In a recent post I explained that one of the most important roles for a dentist is to be a motivator.  Motivation is a leadership skill that too many dentists confuse with education.  Sure education is important, but I know a lot of smart people who never get off the couch.  This blog is committed to making you a better presenter so I want to remind everyone to never lose sight of constantly and consistently motivating patients to “be better.”

Now that could mean a lot…I can write a book about that (actually I am completing that book right now—The Art of Case Presentation).  “We are always presenting,” and “Doctor, you are the message” are two of the topics I cover in the book.

The mouth you see in this blog post belongs to a new patient I saw last week.  What do you think he needs more than anything?  Like the smoker and the overweight person…he needs some motivation.  Obviously he knows the score…he just needs some really good emotional reasons to get moving.  And that is our job.  Or you could argue that our job is just to inform him or that our job is to just make it go away.

The problem with those last two job descriptions is that we tend to “educate” and inform by implying the word, should.  I know a lot of dentists who should all over their patients...I like the term, musterbate (they must do it, or else something bad will happen).  Did you ever should on a smoker?  How far did you get?

So I sat with my patient during our preclinical meeting and asked some questions.  Mostly the questions concerned the obvious orthodontic condition.  I asked the thirty five year old if he ever considered straightening his teeth…he said he was okay with the way they looked, so he saw no need.  I followed up that question with, “Can you think of any other reasons why braces would help you?”

He looked befuddled.  I gave him time to answer but he really had no clue.  So I told him (I educated him about periodontal disease and function and even the oral-systemic connection), but he appeared unmoved…interested, but unmoved.

Then I asked him about his parents.  How were their teeth?  He said his dad still had his teeth but his mom had lots of problems with her teeth.  I asked if she wore dentures, but he didn’t remember because she died early.  “From what,” I asked.

“Heart attack,” he said.  But he said it with emotion, and as if something clicked,  I saw the emotional gap closing.

That is the goal of presentation…to close the emotional gap.

I write about this a lot in my new book, but I wanted to share this story with you because it clearly illustrates the distinction between motivation vs. education.

Dentistry doesn’t do the public any great favors by overemphasizing cosmetics…we can actually devalue dentistry by focusing on things that are superficial for many people.

Science tells us that when we give examples of other people, our brains don’t get the connection.  The gap stays open because our brains see the other as a stranger.  Our job is to get so close that the patient actually visualizes what will happen to him in the future.  Difficult to do?  Yes, but we can do it with morphing software which will eventually be available, but we can also do it with surrogates like our parents.

When we close the emotional gap we also swing the cost-benefit ratio way in favor of the benefit side.

Leadership skills and presentation skills are what will make the most successful and effective dentists of the future…I have always contended that and that is why I have devoted this blog and to those ends.



The One Skill That Leads to Success





I continually get into arguments with dentists and lab technicians about our role with patients and with other dentists.  There just seems to be so much complaining clients who just don’t do what we want or expect them to do.

Last week, on two separate occasions I was discussing this issue with a dentist and a technician.  I asked them what they did when they faced this very frustrating situation.

Both replied in exactly the same way (which, by the way, I have heard over and over again, whenever the subject arises).  They both said, “I educate them.”

As if this education process somehow leads to more compliance.  Well, it usually doesn’t.  But it does absolve the dentists and technician because at least they feel they did the proper thing…the right thing…the moral and correct thing.

It just doesn’t work.  And that is more frustrating.

I suggested to both, like I always do, that instead of trying to educate their clients it might be good idea to motivate them.  The technician said it was just semantics.

Well, it’s not…there is a big distinction between education and motivation, and a good motivator can save a lot of time and be much more effective.

The late Thomas Leonard, founder of Coach University, was very emphatic about making distinctions of words.  You might say it was the basis of his coaching style.

Making the distinction between educating your patients and motivating them will change the way you approach all of your patients.  When you take on the role of motivator, it will not make your job easier…just different.  You will notice that there is an art to motivating people…moving them from what is to what could be.

The business of dentistry is all about changing people, not unlike gyms and diet centers.

Sure, some education is necessary, but to truly be effective we need to motivate.  Do I have to mention flossing?

Motivating patients is an “art.”  That is why I named my books The Art of Examination and The Art of Case Presentation.  If we don’t get our clients to act when they must…we have failed them.  Tough job, yes, and probably the one role we have that we haven’t been trained to do, and the one role when mastered can lead to more success than any other.