For nearly two decades, I’ve worked with Private Practice doctors across North America. Some entered our DST universe with their operations running pretty much full steam ahead, looking for my help in making the necessary adjustments so their “small hinges” could swing the “big doors” even more effectively.
But far more appeared on my doorstep seeking to accelerate opportunity and the typical solution they walk in with involves finding new patients, an endless quest for more, more, more.
As I’ve stated many times, the myth of MORE is a disaster on many levels, because it’s a false god that never delivers the results intended. Instead of increased revenues, you find yourself in a downward spiral of stress, burnout, and frustration.
Instead, a Lifestyle Practice, reverse-engineered around your goals / priorities and focused on serving our best to our best patients is the real solution you should be seeking to architect and implement into existence.
What’s tragic is how rare this type of thinking and execution is in our industry. Lifelong dreams and goals and potential are never realized or experienced, left stranded on the table because even the simplest acts necessary to make them happen are talked about, half-heartedly started, but never finished and never fully realized. Left to wither and die on the vine so they say.
It’s all-too-easy to blame “Marketing” when you’re looking at a half-empty schedule without high value procedures filling in the slots. The issue — and the solution to the problem at hand — is actually far simpler to diagnose and correct.
It all boils down to Follow-Up.
There’s simply NO successful business where an absolute commitment to going the extra mile and beyond to actually CLOSE THE SALE isn’t given top priority.
The old rule of thumb you’d hear stated in business circles was that you had to ask the average customer four times for the sale before they would finally sign on the dotted line. More recent surveys indicate this number has grown, with the amount of follow-up touches necessary involving 5-7-12-even more.
There are a million reasons why someone would say NO at any given time to something they know and feel and believe is right for them, in their best interest, and will lead to a healthier, happier, better, more fulfilling life. Even though it seems like insanity, it’s just reality, and failing to recognize, understand, and deal with this reality is why so many patients never get high-impact, life-changing treatment and care.
Without proper, diligent, focused follow-up, no business — especially a private practice in today’s environment — can survive, let alone thrive. A MASSIVE amount of the dentistry you could be doing… and money you could be making… is literally going down the drain due to a lack of proper follow-up.
I’ve heard all the excuses. “I shouldn’t have to sell, it’s HEALTHCARE.” “I don’t want to be pushy.” “If I’m a pest, they’ll never say yes.”
As Zig Ziglar used to say, that’s “Stinkin’ Thinkin’.”
Another marketing legend, Eugene Schwartz, identified a broad spectrum where someone might be standing when presented with an offer, from “never heard of it” all the way to “I’m ready, willing, and able to say yes NOW!” It’s a continuum based on all kinds of different factors like emotion, awareness, understanding, need, desire, desperation, and until you engage with that person, you have no idea where they are and how far they have to go.
In dentistry, the biggest excuse, and the one most commonly referenced, is the notion that because we place such a high priority focus on relationships, persistently repeating the need for treatment of one kind or another will inevitably poison the well.
Like all mistaken notions, there is an element of truth to this. If you come from a position where comprehensive health is NOT the goal, then yes, then you’re not operating from a place of integrity.
Your reason WHY is therefore the key — your WHY is to look out for the patient’s best interests, even when they are unwilling or un-ready to consider those best interests for themselves. When you KNOW that what you are prescribing is absolutely in the very best interest of the patient — to their health, their dreams, their life’s goals — then you have a moral imperative to prescribe and then follow up as powerfully as possible.
Your WHY becomes your greatest strength in doing whatever it takes to ensure treatment gets accomplished. And the relationship is strengthened and made better as a result, because you didn’t allow hesitation on the patient’s part to hold you back from doing what it took to ensure no patient gets left behind.
It’s not about their decision of yes, no, or maybe — it’s about whether we truly care enough about them to overcome our own self-limiting attitudes and beliefs to deliver the health and healing they deserve.
When assigning responsibilities for this mission-critical task, understand that follow-up is not something you delegate solely to a single member of your team. The Treatment Coordinator should embrace and own it, however, it’s a responsibility that must be shared across the board with everyone involved.
The mechanisms don’t have to be high-tech or even sophisticated. Hand-written cards mailed out to reaffirm that you care and only want to them live their very best life. Follow-up calls that let them know you haven’t forgotten about them or their needs. Reassessment conferences and appointments where you can once again lay out the evidence (photographic of course is best) for the treatment plan they need to understand and embrace.
Here at DST, we’ve created follow-up letter sequence templates any practice can customize and use for outreach and communication.
Here’s the BIG thing to get about follow-up — it doesn’t merely apply to your newest patients and most recent treatment plans — it’s about being impeccable with your word and truly appreciating the importance of what it is you bring to the table as a doctor and a mentor to your patients. You are there for them. And if, based on all your knowledge and wisdom and understanding of their deepest needs, you’ve diagnosed a path forward that’s absolutely in their best interests to take…
Then take them by the hand to ensure that journey happens.
To quote one of my favorite books — “The Four Agreements” — if you said it, did you do it for every aspect of your practice?
Today, I ask you to think through all the ways you can do a far better job with your follow-up, committing from this day forward to never leave even one single patient behind. Remember, all the things that are worthy, are worthy of making sure they get done.
Next week, we’ll talk about the principle of follow-through and how this applies in a full circle for every team member, as well as patients, in all we do.