As one of the main speakers at the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars for the past twenty years, I’ve been asked (and answered) a lot of questions about the subject matter or treatment acceptance in general.
With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to draft a blog post covering a few of the most common questions that I get (and my answers) on “how to handle patient objections” during the treatment presentation process. By the way, most of this is excerpted from our MGE Communication and Sales Seminars – I highly recommend attending to get all the information we teach! If you can’t make it to the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars, I recommend signing up for our online training platform, DDS Success. I invite you to schedule a free demo to learn more:
Alright, let’s get to it – I hope you enjoy!
Answer: Let’s start by looking at what “I want to think about it” really means. Is the patient going to go home, lay out the literature for the implants you’re recommending, sit in the classical posture of Rodin’s “The Thinker,” and weigh the pros and cons of going ahead with treatment?
For that matter, look at any major purchase you’ve made in the past two years. Did you “think” about it? No, you looked at various factors – affordability, advantages, and so on and decided.
So, what does “I want to think about it,” mean?”
Or it might mean – “I have something on my mind that I don’t want to talk to you (the doctor) about.”
- To give you a perfect answer, keep in mind that I’d have to be a part of the conversation. My answer may vary based on what I’m seeing. But, with that said, the first thing you need to do with ANY objection is listen to what the patient is saying and make sure they understand that you did hear them and the issue they’ve raised.
- Most likely, I’d suggest saying something like: “Do you mind if I ask you another question about this? (yes). In many cases, when someone tells me they want to ‘think about it’ there is something else on their mind that they aren’t saying or don’t feel comfortable saying. I want to you know that as your doctor – the most important thing to me is to get you healthy. Whether we do this treatment now or later. I’m you’re partner in this endeavor and I want you to know that I am here to help. So, is there anything else on your mind that you maybe haven’t said, concerns you might have about the treatment, questions and so on?”
Here’s where you might find the considerations about cost, pain, drills, needles, etc. In other words: what’s really going on. Pick those up as they come. In most cases, just the sheer fact that you – as their dentist – show that you truly care about them and are making yourself available to answer questions and what not will have already made a huge impact on them. Doctors hold a respected position in society. You’re showing this patient that you’re not too “important” to spend the time needed to ensure they understand their treatment.
Question: How would you handle “I only want to do what my insurance covers.”
Answer: Dental insurance…. don’t you love it?
This question is “situational,” meaning if it’s December 10th and the treatment plan would get fully covered with two years of insurance and the patient is asking to do some now and the rest of the treatment the first week of January – well… I’d probably follow the path of least resistance here.
Now, let’s say it’s March. Or to complete the patient’s treatment plan, you’d have to phase it over four years to maximize benefits. Well, now we have an issue.
The most important factor in all of this is the doctor – specifically the doctor’s clinical opinion of what must be done. Insurance coverage or lack thereof has no bearing on the treatment plan and what is needed.
So, how would you address this. Well, let me start with telling you what NOT to do. DO NOT cop an attitude with the patient because you now feel they are “insurance driven,” and “don’t care about their teeth.” Instead, as with any treatment presentation, make it a comfortable environment that encourages communication.
A good salesperson (I know you hate that word – but you are in fact selling here), is not just good at “talking.” They are even better at encouraging the prospect (patient in this case) to talk and make it easy for the prospect to freely communicate.
Adopting a negative attitude more or less kills that “comfortable environment.” And look – this is a person – they have hopes, dreams, ambitions, ideas and so on. For some reason, they feel – after what you’ve explained – that it’s OK to wait to complete their treatment plan.
(Related: Why Patients Think Dentists “Over-Diagnose”)
Which brings us back to the doctor.
Keep in mind, while you as the doctor understand WHY your patient needs this treatment – which includes the overall importance of it. Unless your patient is another dentist – they do not have the same level of understanding.
But they DO understand money.
So, when you run into this issue – patient wants to wait or “phase” their case over a couple or more years, but they really shouldn’t from a clinical perspective, then you know one thing:
The patient does not grasp the importance of doing the treatment now.
(Related: 2 Rules for Improving Treatment Acceptance)
So…you’ve probably guessed my answer here. Again, make sure they know you’ve heard them and then explain why it’s important that you do all the treatment now. What are the ramifications of waiting? What are the risks? Why is it important in your clinical opinion that they get it done now versus over the next two or three years? And make sure you explain it in a way that’s easy to grasp for the layperson – i.e. don’t use complex medical terminology.
If you are truly concerned from a clinical perspective that the crown, you’re recommending now might be a crown and root canal next year – explain this. Don’t lie – be honest or try to make it worse than it is. If you’re not sure that something will or won’t happen, then you’re not sure and you can tell them that. Share your true thoughts and concerns. If anything, your patient will have a far better understanding of you and where you are “coming from” with your treatment recommendation.
In the end – this explanation – and again the care and time spent – will help your patient understand the importance of the treatment and make them able to associate it properly with its cost.
Question: What would you say if a patient told you that they needed to “talk to their husband/wife,” before committing to treatment.
Answer: This is a tricky one and has multiple answers based on the situation.
To start, “let me talk to my husband/wife,” might just be a “brush-off.” I admit I’ve been guilty of it in the past. “Hey Jeff, do you want to buy “X?” (I don’t). My answer: “Let me talk to my wife about it.” If the salesperson were to press me on it – I’d probably tell them I just don’t want whatever it is they are asking me to buy (which is my usual response these days anyway).
But in many cases, it’s not a “brush-off,” it’s a valid objection.
For major purchases (such as a large treatment plan), many spouses talk with one another. Some have “dollar limits” they can spend without consulting one another. It varies as much as there are people.
For that matter, I have similar agreements with my wife. If I were to go out and drop a ton of money on something without discussing it with my wife, I’d probably be sleeping on the couch. Assuming I was still alive… just kidding… not really.
So, with all of that in mind, let’s pick apart this objection.
(Related: Presenting Treatment with Confidence)
You’ve presented the patient’s treatment plan. They say, “Sounds good doctor, but I need to go over it with my spouse.”
After I understood the objection, I’d probably ask: If you were to go ahead with it, would he/she be upset?
Now, you might not feel comfortable asking this. I am, and honestly, it’s no big deal. I’m not “pressuring,” them. I’m asking a question to better understand.
They say, “Yeah, he/she would be mad. We have an agreement about these things, etc. etc.”
So, where do you go from here? Some doctors I know would ask the patient to call their spouse. And that’s fine if that’s what you want to do.
I would go down another track.
(Related: 3 Ways to Boost Case Acceptance)
My biggest concern about this case is that the patient is going to go home, talk to their spouse and the spouse (not having sat through the case presentation) is going to zero in on one thing: cost. Why might this happen? Well, having missed the treatment presentation the spouse won’t understand its importance, yet will, like everyone else in society, understand the cost.
And of course, all of this depends on many things. Maybe the spouse is a patient of yours and understands the value of dentistry. In many cases though, especially with a new patient – the spouse isn’t already a patient.
So, what to do? Well, I might say something like:
“I understand you need to go over this with your husband/wife. Here’s what I’d like to do. If you’re comfortable with it, I’d like the opportunity to meet with both of you and explain the treatment plan to him/her and answer any of his/her questions. My concern is that they didn’t sit through our meeting and may have questions. I want to make sure we get those answered for him/her so that you both can make a decision.”
When you do this, one of a few things is going to happen.
- They will take you up on the offer and schedule a consult to bring in their spouse. And with both there, they should be able to make a decision. Also, as an added bonus, if the spouse is not a patient, you have a new patient opportunity here as well.
- They will tell you that this is not necessary, and they will have no problem getting their spouses agreement. In these cases, I would focus on ensuring that the patient is good with going ahead with treatment. You might just check this – “So, you’re ready to move ahead with this, assuming everything works on the home front?” or “If it were up to you alone would you move ahead with treatment now?” Look – this isn’t 100% and you’re going to “lose” some here. You will have people who say they are “good to go,” when they are factually not. It’s going to happen. Ideally, we eliminate as much of this as we can – but it will still happen – just much less.
- There isn’t a way to get the spouse in. They have a crazy work schedule, are out of the country for two months, etc. In these cases, you can offer up to answer any questions on the phone if they would like – i.e. they tell their spouse about the treatment plan and the spouse can call you with questions, etc. And in some cases that might not even work. Well, like “2” above, you will have some of these that don’t work out. But some will.
In any event, what I’d attempt to do when scheduling a consultation is to schedule it so that all decision makers are present – i.e. when scheduling the consultation, you might ask if they normally consult with their spouse about health care decisions. If so, see if you can schedule it to have them there with their spouse.
Well, that’s about all the time I have for this week. I hope this helps and as always, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. And again, be sure to click here to see the upcoming dates for the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars, and if you can’t make it to any of those, check out our online training platform, DDS Success, for more information like this and to train your entire team from your office. Schedule your free demo here: