Burning leads

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Bill Blatchford, DDS Dental Economics

Burning leads is the dreaded result of businesses that have marketed to customers with an untrained or unmotivated sales force with no internal systems in place to handle new clients. The net effect is a real loss when customers are turned off and respond with resounding “no’s.”

Dentistry is new to marketing. Our product is one of emotion and desire. We are uncertain about how to approach the “outside world,” and there are no certainties in marketing – no guarantees that one approach will be the magic bullet. We are all hoping that what we do will bring in new patients.

Yet, in many cases, we have not evaluated our internal structure and sales skills to make certain we can handle with care the new clients who inquire about our services. In many practices, there is a real disconnect between the “marketing” department and the “sales” department.

We tend to handle every new call in the same way – the way it has always been done. We are now learning that a client who responds to a message from a print ad, radio ad, direct mail, or Web site is different than an internally generated referral who has been an endorsement from a friend. Marketed clients have no relationship with you and are still in the “looking stage.” They are evaluating your commitment to the relationship on the phone as well as listening and watching during your initial conversations.

What is a marketed client looking for? There are all levels of inquiry, but basically they want to know these three things:

· Can I trust them?

· Do they care about me as a person or just a tooth?

· Do they see me as an important individual, or is it all about office?

Make certain there is great communication within your team about what marketing offers and which materials you have contracted to use. This is the “who, what, when, where, and why” part. Share the marketing pieces and explain when they will be offered. Who are you appealing to and what results are you seeking? Write scripts for phone inquiries, emphasizing emotion and right-brained thinking. Change from your former “order-taking” mentality (“just the facts, Ma’am”) to asking questions, making clients feel heard and making it easy for them to enter your care.

Talk as a group about some of the barriers to entry that you might have. One such barrier might be: “It is our policy for new patients to have the best, most thorough exam with our wonderful doctor first. Then, on the second appointment, you can have your teeth cleaned.” Instead, ask “How can we help you?”

Your potential clients are viewing Web sites 24/7. More and more people are calling with requests like this: “I want eight veneers and a lower bridge with no gold showing.” It is appropriate when specific dental treatment is requested to ask, “Where are you in your research?” Some marketed patients have researched what they want to have done and now are interviewing potential dentists from the Web to find one they trust to do the work.

You are on the list of potential dentists. Make the grade by asking, “What qualities are you looking for in a dentist? How can we make sure we satisfy your needs?” This will open a whole box of emotions, history, and important information.

In addition to mastering no-pressure sales skills, examine your internal structure for appealing to marketed clients. Greet them by name, find out their favorite beverage, and provide it with other goodies at each visit. Be on time and avoid giving guests long forms to complete while they sit alone. Shorten your forms and discuss the questions with them in person on the first visit. Ask questions that encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. Make sure you listen well, and then respond with more questions.

Build trust by asking good questions. Don’t talk about yourself. Your office can speak your brand with nicely framed “after” pictures, an elegant atmosphere, quiet discussion areas, guest comforts during treatments, complete bathroom amenities, and an upscale, yet small, reception area. Practice as a team before launching your marketing plan. Be ready to meet the needs of your guests.

You have committed money and time to marketing. It will make your phone ring. Your job now is to connect quickly and listen well. Make your internal skills match your marketing. Master sales skills to help clients uncover their dreams … and you’ll avoid those dreaded burned leads!

Dr. Bill Blatchford’s Custom Coaching Program focuses on leadership, systems, sales skills, communication, and profitability, and is limited to 50 doctors a year.