Dr Michael Sernik, September 2010
Consider the following scenario:
I am getting on very well with my new patient. We like each other.
I have spent a lot of time explaining my extensive treatment plan.
The patient seems to understand my treatment plan and seems interested in proceeding with it when I talk to her, but privately, the patient is not that interested.
The patient has no significant discomfort and has been in this condition for many years.
The patient would like to simply say "I'm not interested in your proposal", but that's really tough to say. It feels rude.
So the patient does what we all do when we want to get out of a sticky situation. They use Polite Evasion. What is polite evasion? Think back to your childhood when you nagged your parent for a new toy and got the response: "We'll talk about it later" or "ask your father (mother)". Now you know that really just means 'I'd like to say no, but I don't want to argue now so just drop it'.
When patients use polite evasion and it sounds like: “Sounds good..... I just need to check my finances”, “I just need to check with my wife”, “I’d like a little time think about it”, ‘I’ll call and book it in when I get back from my trip” “Can it wait for a little while?”.
The most common response from a dentist when they hear these objections is an attempt to handle the objection. The attempts will often fail though because the objection isn’t real, it’s just an attempt to escape the discomfort of saying 'no'. The objections are a smokescreen and any attempt to address them is an exercise in chasing ghosts.
You could easily come to the conclusion that the problem is just one of cost. In reality, however, the most common reason patients resist treatment is that they are actually just not concerned. They think that their situation is stable. After all, in their minds, it has been like this for a long time and it isn't hurting, so why spend a whole lot of money to alter the comfortable status quo?
There are two lessons to learn from this:
- You need to have the verbal skills to create appropriate concern.
- If the concern is in place, then you do nothing to pressure the patient to say 'yes'. In fact all you have to do is get out of the way. A concerned patient just wants one thing from you: a solution.
You will never hear polite evasion from a concerned patient for two reasons:
- A concerned patient wants treatment more than you do.
- If you have done nothing to express a recommendation, they don't feel like you are disappointed with whatever they choose. If you are not trying to get them to say 'yes' then they can freely express whatever they are feeling.
But if we spend our energy trying to talk them into treatment and handle their predictable objections, then all we are doing is getting better at making things worse.
Once you have a new perspective on the nature of the problems that we create for ourselves, your challenge is to find ways of creating concern without being part of that equation.
Focus your communications on the damaging results of the existing condition. This will create appropriate concern. Do not offer any solutions until the concern is in place.
Next, offer solutions in a specific order, from minimal treatment upward. As you do this, you want to have the patient reject the suboptimal treatment which will bring you progressively closer to the optimal solution by default. This process never looks like sales because you are only talking about treatment that you hope the patient will say NO to. All traditional sales have the sales person trying to get the prospect to say YES.
Of course, understanding the theory is only the beginning. This skill takes time to develop and is beyond the scope of any written article. The nuances of tone and pace are integral to high level communications skills and we can only learn these techniques in a live workshop supported by real coaching. In the PrimeSpeak 3-Day Seminar we spend 3 full days on this topic and even then, there is a lot to be done to know how to function smoothly with these counter-intuitive skills.