The Art of Relationship Selling

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, art is a skill acquired by experience, study or observation.  Likewise, the art of relationship selling is a skill that can be learned through the experience and study/observation of what has worked and continues to work in hundreds of orthodontic practices across the globe.  Over the past 25 years, experience has led to the knowledge and understanding of what works best when presenting the priceless product of a beautiful smile.

It all begins with the understanding that what we are selling is indeed priceless.  The customer must realize that having a beautiful smile will affect their future jobs, spouse, friends, self-esteem and much more.  Focusing on what the customer needs and wants is far more impactful than focusing on what the patient will receive in their short term reality of wearing braces and appliances.  The question then becomes how do we accomplish selling a product where the results are seen years later?  The answer is through a systematic and scripted new patient exam that focuses on building a relationship that makes the patient feel comfortable and safe.

First impressions are critical in making terrific lasting impressions and it all starts with discovering things in common with your potential patient.  Find out what your patient enjoys and make an effort to relate it to your life.  People tend to feel more comfortable and respond better to people who share common interests.  It is crucial that the treatment coordinator and doctor find something in common with their patients in order to build a strong foundation on which to create a successful relationship.  All healthy relationships take time, so make sure to set time aside for getting to know your new patients and finding those things in common.

Excellent interpersonal communication skills are mandatory for any staff member in charge of conducting the first visit.  We need treatment coordinators that can communicate on a deeper level and be empathetic towards the patients needs.  Listening to what the patient has to say and addressing their concerns will pay huge dividends as opposed to overwhelming the patient with information.  It is easy to confuse our patients with orthodontic jargon, so it makes it even more necessary to listen to the patients concerns and respond in a way that shows you care about them.

The next major ingredient for relationship selling is having an intimate knowledge of your service or product that will make the patient feel confident and comfortable with your recommendations.  The treatment coordinator should be well versed in every aspect of orthodontics, whether it is treatment types, appliances, the latest contest and games, financials, etc.  Illustrating a high level of competency with every area of orthodontics will enable you to achieve higher exam to start ratios due to the ability to focus on what you find to be most important to the patient, and then using that information to enthusiastically convey a deeper understanding of their potential interests.

On the same topic of have an excellent understanding of your service or product, have confidence in what you are selling.  Confidence can take any sales person a long way as it radiates from you to the potential patient making a confident decision to start with your practice.  Explain reasons why your products and services are better than other competing products on the market, and especially demonstrate a great deal of confidence in your fellow staff members and highly trained doctor.  Communicating a low level of confidence will only convince the patient that they belong somewhere else for their orthodontic needs. 

Utilizing confidence, it is necessary for every sales person to be able to overcome objections.  Understanding the patient’s objections and having built that relationship will enable you to come up with creative solutions to any reasons that might delay or prevent the patient from getting started.  Part of overcoming objections is not forcing your will, but gently guiding the patient in the right direction with a flexible payment option or a systematized approach to follow-up phone calls where no patients fall through the cracks.

Another foundational aspect for building a strong relationship is the ability to make the patient feel completely comfortable throughout the new patient process.  This includes greeting the patient right away with a big smile and creating an atmosphere that makes the patient feel as if it was their home.  Along with creating a friendly atmosphere, decorate your office with pictures of your patients and showcase your results in a Before and After Album.  Showcasing your results in the right way will lead to more case starts because the patient will be fully convinced that what they are receiving is worth every penny. 

The final aspect and most important for having a successful new patient exam process and building a lasting relationship is achieved through maintaining the highest level of integrity and care for your patients.  Look out for their best interest and go the extra mile to deliver the best quality service and care out there.  Abiding by this simple principle will get you more patient referrals and grow your business better than any other marketing strategies.    

And don’t forget that warmth, a wink, a nod, and a smile is the icing on the cake when it comes to the art of relationship selling. 

Ken Alexander, Founder