February 13, 2020
by Cathy Jameson, PhD
‘‘The # 1 secret to overcoming cost objections is to actively listen to your clients/patients and simply create value that exceeds their expectations.” — John DiLemme
At the end of a great treatment presentation, you might think a patient is ready to say yes and instead, you hear a statement like this, “I know I need this treatment and I want to do it but it’s just too expensive! I can’t afford it right now. I’ll have to think about it.”
Do you find this to be discouraging? Do you ever wonder how to deal with OBJECTIONS, including the one of cost? Cost, according to surveys, is the major reason that people either do not come to the dentist at all or do not say yes to treatment once it has been presented. Not surprising, right?
However, an objection can be a gift. Yes, a gift. Let’s look at objections from that vantage point.
Tom Hopkins of Scottsdale, Arizona, says that an objection is actually a step forward in completing an agreement. Mr. Hopkins believes that if your patients do not pose any objections or raise any questions, they’re probably not interested in what you are proposing. In other words, an objection means that the person is interested. And that’s good! That’s why he says that “an objection is a gift”.
Four Insights About Objections:
An objection is actually an opportunity. It defines a specific area of concern. You will need to ask questions to isolate or identify what objections, if any, might get in the way of a person going forward with treatment.
When an objection is posed by a patient, it’s important take the following steps:
Hear Out The Objection – Don’t interrupt. Encourage the person to express him/herself. Objections often diminish when a person is allowed to speak. In addition, this gives you a chance to listen, to show concern, to empathize (not sympathize), and to let the person sense your understanding. Thus, you validate your patient.
Actively Listen – Rephrase and repeat back to the person what you think you have heard them say. This gives you a chance to 1) clarify, 2) reinforce the patient, 3) clarify what the patient’s concern might be, and 4) move forward.
Reinforce the Importance of the Objection – There’s no benefit to disagreeing with or arguing with a patient. When you listen to the concerns, reinforce those concerns and share in the development of possible solutions. You will be less likely to see that patient leave without scheduling an appointment.
Patient: “I don’t want to lose my teeth but I sure don’t want to spend this much money if this isn’t going to last.”
Dentist/Team Member: “Keeping your teeth for a lifetime is important to you, and you want to make sure that the investment you make is going to be one that lasts for as long as possible.”
Dentist/Team Member: “I totally agree with you. We will do our very best to make sure we accomplish great results and that your treatment lasts with excellent home and professional care.”
Answer the Objection – Provide further education. Stress the end results and benefits of the treatment you are recommending. Turn the objection into a benefit. Establish value. Use the “feel, felt, found” response:
Dentist/Team Member: “I understand how you feel. Many patients have felt the same concern about making an investment in comprehensive dental care until they found out that an investment in quality, comprehensive care now will (1) provide better health, (2) last longer, (3) look better, and (4) save money in the long run.”
Confirm the Answer – Get the patient involved by asking questions. Then stop and wait for the response. This involvement helps a patient to feel like an active part of the decision-making process. And that’s exactly what you want!
Dentist: Receiving this type of comprehensive care now would answer your concern about making a stable, long-term investment, wouldn’t it?”
Change the Direction of the Conversation and Move Forward – Using a phrase, such as ‘by the way’ can change the flow of focus of the conversation. Move to another area of interest that will move the conversation in a positive direction. For example:
Dentist: “By the way, Mr. or Mrs. Patient, do you have any particular scheduling concerns that we need to be aware of?”
Once you have dealt with the objections, ask for a commitment—close. Closing an agreement means asking! If you don’t ask for a commitment, you are giving your patient permission to procrastinate!
Dentist: “Mr. or Mrs. Patient, do you have any further questions about the treatment that I am recommending for you—any questions about the clinical aspects of the treatment?”
Patient: “No. I can see what is wrong and what you need to do.”
Dentist: “Once you develop a financial agreement that works for you, shall we go ahead and schedule your first appointment to begin?”
Patient: “I guess so. I might as well go for it.”
There is the dentist’s close—he/she is asking for a commitment or finding out if there are any other objections or barriers that might get in the way of proceeding. Get all barriers out on the table to have a chance to resolve them. Now the financial coordinator will need to do the same thing. He/she will reconfirm the dentistry, present the total fee, the options for payment, get a commitment for one of those options (or a combination of options), and will close. Then, they will schedule that first appointment.
Remember that you control a conversation with questions. When a person poses an objection—don’t freeze up and feel that you’ve hit a dead end. As you skillfully learn to handle objections, you will find that these objections are progressive steps taken to move ahead.
Dentist/Team Member: “Mr. or Mrs. Patient, before I give you the results of my analysis (or before I present the recommendations of Dr. Jameson, and before I explain the treatment I/he recommend(s) for you to reach optimum oral health, first let me tell you that if you have any concerns about the financing of your treatment, we do have convenient, long-term financing right here in our office. I tell you this so that, for now, we can both concentrate on your treatment. But please know that we will discuss financial options in full. We want to make sure that you are clear and comfortable with this important part of your treatment.”
Let’s look at a step-by-step way to handle objections, specifically the objection of cost.
1. Validate Your Services and Your Quality to Yourselves
Do you feel that the value of your services exceeds the fee you are asking for? Before anything else happens, you must believe in yourself, your own worth and the worth of your services. If a patient walks out your door not proceeding with treatment, does that patient win? Or lose?
List the services you provide for your patients—from the initial contact through the entire treatment. Now as a team, answer the following questions:
a. What makes your services special?
b. What added value touches do you provide that make your practice unique?
c. What do you do that goes beyond the expected?
2. Validate Yourself to Your Patients
You must establish a relationship of trust and confidence with a patient before treatment acceptance will result. Your ongoing internal marketing program should have this as its foundation. In planning your marketing/educational program, ask this question, “Does this marketing tool make a statement (consciously or subconsciously) about who you are, what you do, and your mission/ purpose?” If the answer is yes, then the marketing tool is probably going to serve you well. If the answer is no, then you may need to rethink the project.
3. Validate Your Services
In your efforts to validate your services to existing and potential clients, consider the following:
Use testimonial letters from enthusiastic patients. Ask your patients to place reviews on your social media posts. Make this easy for your patients.
Use before and after photographs of your patients to illustrate a particular service you provide (after obtaining written permission from your patient). Use these in the practice during interactive patient appointments and on your social media platforms.
Provide civic presentations throughout your community using before and after slides of treatment you have provided.
a. Concentrate on one subject at a time i.e., cosmetic dentistry, nonsurgical periodontal therapy, preventive dentistry, etc.
b. The program must not be self serving—but rather, educational.
c. Leave a written piece with each participant.
d. Keep the program short, 20–30 minutes.
e. Use layman’s language.
f. Use visual aids—Powerpoint is excellent.
g. Be enthusiastic and energetic.
Make Sure That Every Aspect of Your Practice Epitomizes the Professional Image you Wish to Project
All of these foundational efforts work to establish a value for the service that far outweighs the fee.
Dentist: “And so, Mr. or Mrs. Patient, the financing of the dentistry is a concern for you, correct?”
Dentist: “Once we find a financial solution that works for you, this is the type of treatment you would like to receive. Is that correct?. or Dentist: “If I understand you correctly, this is the type of dentistry you would like to receive?”
Patient: “Yes, it is.”
Dentist: “Then, once we make the financing of the dentistry comfortable for you, is there any reason why we shouldn’t go ahead and schedule an appointment to begin your treatment?” or
Dentist: “Now that we have agreed on the treatment that works best for you and meets your goals, and once Jan has worked out the details of your financial agreement, we will schedule you first appointment and go ahead. How does that sound?”
Learning To Handle Objections
Objections diminish when a person is allowed and encouraged to talk about them.
You can’t push anyone into making a decision (nor would you want to do so) but you can lead them carefully and caringly into making a decision by asking questions and listening. You can’t talk people into moving forward but you can listen to them through the process.
One More Time – Examples of Verbal Skills that Identify and Overcome Objections
A person says, “That’s just too much.” When a person tells you the fee is too much, actively listen to make sure you’re hearing them correctly.
Dentist/Business Coordinator: “Do you feel that the fee is too high for the services I’m recommending for you? Or is the investment difficult for you at this current time?”
Patient: “I’m sure the treatment is worth the fee but I can’t afford this right now.”
Dentist/Business Coordinator: “Tell me, Mr. or Mrs. Patient, if we can make the financing comfortable for you with a convenient monthly payment plan, would this make it possible for you to proceed?”
Dentist/Business Coordinator: “How much per month could you invest?”
His answer to this question would let you know if you could go ahead by offering him a bankcard or a HealthCare Financing Program.
Patient: “Well, I want those veneers because I hate my smile. But $7000 is just too much!”
Dentist/Business Coordinator: “How much is too much?”
Patient: “About $3000 too much. I saved $4000 for this but I had no idea it would be this much!”
Dentist/Business Manager: “So, the solution we’re looking for is a way to finance the $3000 beyond your current savings, is that right?”
Now you know that the $7000 isn’t the problem – it’s the $3000 that needs attention and assistance.
Patient: “I’ll have to think this over.”
Dentist/Financial Coordinator: “Well, I appreciate that, Mr. or Mrs. Patient. I know that you wouldn’t take the time to think this over if you weren’t interested. So that I can make sure that I am clear, can you please tell me what is it that you need to think about? Is it whether or not this is the type of treatment that would be best for you?”
Patient: “Oh, no. I know that I need this.”
Dentist/Financial Coordinator: “Do you need to think about whether or not I/Dr. Jameson would be the one to provide that treatment?”
Patient: “No, if I do this, I want you/Dr. Jameson to do it. I don’t want anyone else to do this!”
Dentist/Financial Coordinator: “Then, tell me Mr. or Mrs. Patient, is it the money? Do you need to think about whether or not you are able to make this investment now?”
Patient: “Yeah, money is a bit tight right now.”
Dentist/Financial Coordinator: “If we are able to make the financing of the dental care affordable for you and your family, woud that make it possible for you to proceed with the care that Dr. Jameson has recommended for you?”
Patient: “Yes, I think so.”
What has happened in this example is that because of careful and caring questioning, the true problem has been identified and can now be addressed. The communication skills here make it comfortable and possible for the patient to say that they need to find a way to pay for the treatment. Many times a patient will say that they need to “think it over” and the dental professional with whom they are conversing with will say, “Oh, okay. Well, give us a call when you are ready.” When a patient says, “I’ll call you”, all bets are off! You must keep control of all situations.
At that moment, the whole issue drops in a bucket. You must identify what the problem is for the patient. You must make it comfortable for him/her to tell you if there is a financial issue. Some people are embarrassed or too proud to come out and tell you that they need some financial help. Let the patient know that you understand the situation and that you have alternatives. Open doors that historically have been closed.
Patient: “I can’t believe I need this much work! How is this possible?”
Dentist/Financial Coordinator: “I can’t tell you that, Mr. or Mrs. Patient. There are many things that affect your oral health: age, nutrition, what and how you eat, home care, stress. etc. Have you been under stress over the last year or so?”
Patient: “Man, have I ever!”
Dentist/Financial Coordinator: “Our responsibility is to evaluate your situation and make a thorough diagnosis based on a comprehensive gathering of data and a complete analysis of that data. Then, after careful study, make recommendations that we believe would help you to achieve and maintain oral health for a lifetime. And that’s what we have done.
You have total control in the decision-making. Whether or not you proceed with the treatment that I/we are recommending is completely up to you and the choice is yours alone. However, my/our responsibility as your dentist/dental team is to do the very best job we can to diagnose, develop a treatment plan, and present to you a course of action that we believe would be in your best interest. Is that okay with you?” “I know I need this treatment and I want to do it but it’s so expensive! I can’t afford it right now. I’ll have to think about this.”
Again, referring to Tom Hopkins, he believes that there is a difference between an objection and a condition. An objection is a request for further information and shows that the person is interested in a continued discussion of the proposal. But a condition is a situation that is going on in a person’s life that absolutely prevents them from going ahead—at least for the moment. Say that a person has just been released from the hospital and has many unpaid bills or that a person has lost their job or perhaps has four kids in college. All of these are conditions that might prevent him/her from accepting treatment. However, it doesn’t mean that he/she doesn’t want it! Referring back to Jeff Gelona, he woud ask, “Is that a no for now or a no forever?”
You are responsible for doing the very best job you can of diagnosing, treatment planning, presenting the dentistry, make the financing of the dentistry as comfortable as you can and then getting out of the way and letting the patient make his/her own decision.
As you are presenting, ask closing questions that will identify objections—or in some cases—conditions. If you identify a condition, let the patient know that you will be there when he/she is ready and that you will stay in touch. Knowing the difference between a condition and an objection lets you know where to go and how to get there. The communication skills for this type of identification are critical. The very best way to identify a condition or an objection is by asking questions and listening—actively!
Here is an exercise for you. Practice will give you the necessary confidence to communicate financially.
a. Did I listen carefully?
b. Did I repeat what I thought were the patient’s main concerns?
c. Did I validate the patient?
d. Did I answer each objection with a valued question?
e. Did I go through the steps of dealing with an objection?
f. When I overcame the objections, did I close?
Do not fear an objection, even the objection of money. Rather, look at this as an opportunity. Know that, if you do your best and the person does not go ahead, they are rejecting the treatment proposal. They are not rejecting you. Combine a strong belief in your team and the services you provide with the skills to get that message across. Then you can deal effectively with, “Gee, Doc, it costs too much!”
About the Author
Cathy Jameson, PhD is the founder of Jameson Management, an international dental management, marketing and hygiene coaching firm. The Jameson Method of Management, developed by Cathy, offers proven management and marketing systems for helping organizations improve their workflow and efficiency in a positive, forward thinking culture. Cathy earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and then a Master’s Degree in psychology from Goddard College. She received her doctorate from Walden University. Cathy has been named one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry as well as being the recipient of the second Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Dental Office Managers in 2014. Cathy has been named a Leader in CE by Dentistry Today multiple times, including in 2019. She considers herself a life- long learner and encourages those around her to be in a constant state of study, growth and action. She is the author of several books, including her latest title, the third edition of Collect What You Produce.
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