Spring 2003

Table of Contents

Breaking Down the Money Barrier

By Patty Spannagel
Senior Member Consultant, 1-800-DENTIST ®

About the author

Patty Spannagel, a Senior Member Consultant with Futuredontics/1-800-DENTIST®, has coached over 800 dental offices across the country on practice management strategies and practical solutions on how to best achieve success with 1-800-DENTIST. Patty joined Futuredontics in 1996 with over 16 years of dental office experience. Since then, she has enjoyed meeting and coaching many wonderful dentists, and their enthused staff members, to develop new ways to reach out and help consumers in need of dental care..

Prior to joining Futuredontics/1-800-DENTIST, Patty served as Vice President of Education for her local chapter of Toastmasters International wherein she provided training modules for improved public speaking techniques for people interested in improving their speaking skills. When she is not traveling the country, Patty resides in Illinois with her husband and three children, who also happen to be teachers.

She can be
reached via e-mail at: pspannagel@futuredontics.com. To request information on the 1-800-DENTIST program, visit 1800dentist.com or call the Membership Development team at

Why should you take the time to encourage a caller who says they have no money to come into your dental office? Good question. We certainly see red flags waving in front of us when we hear those words, "I have no money," but what most callers leave off the end of that sentence is "for dentistry." The majority of people do not budget money for dentistry. Therefore, when it comes time for the "avoider" patient to see a dentist, the initial reaction is, "I can't afford to go." Money then becomes the barrier preventing them from coming into the office.

They picked up the phone and called because they have a dental symptom or concern. At that point, they were saying YES to seeing the dentist. However, they may waiver and their focus then seems to change. Before we know it, we are faced with that money barrier and our caller is saying NO to the dental appointment we offer.

How can we encourage them to schedule this needed appointment? We appeal to their emotions and ask about their symptoms. We express our, as well as our doctor's, concern and we acknowledge their apprehension about money. The most powerful words you can use to reduce the concern about cost are, "I would like to invite you in for a no charge [or low cost] evaluation." (Please note that we are not saying "a free consultation" or "a quick look-see.") What these words tell reluctant callers is that they are special, and because we care about them, we want them to have the opportunity to meet the doctor and experience what our practice is all about.

The avoider's expectation is low. They are anticipating a visit to the dental office to be a painful experience. They are often afraid of an injection, and/or concerned about being ridiculed for not coming in sooner. We can exceed their expectation by providing a caring atmosphere, making them feel completely comfortable, and expressing our pleasure to see them in our practice. By applying this protocol we can reduce a caller's concerns about money and open the avenue to value and perceived need. It is also important to let the caller know, "Doctor will explain your options, but nothing will be done without your permission." With this statement, we are letting them know they are in control to make the final decision about their dental treatment.

Price shoppers contact dental offices every day. Instead of viewing this as an interruption, view it as an opportunity to introduce a new patient to your practice. After all, they're in the market to buy something, they just aren't sure what they will be buying. Shoppers believe they are buying a product, but in reality we are providing them a service.

Focus on the service provided in the practice by telling the caller about your dentist and the practice. By providing "wonderful doctor" statements, we help the caller make the decision to come into our dental office. We are not necessarily in competition with other dental offices, despite the price comparing done by shoppers, but rather we are in competition with everything else on which they can spend their discretionary dollars. Many are willing to spend their money on dentistry when they feel comfortable and understand the value of the service provided.

Quoting fees, providing fee ranges, and discussing insurance coverage on the phone prior to a caller's first visit only increases their level of anxiety and makes money an even larger barrier. By using the simple words "invite in," we extend our hospitality to the reluctant caller. An invitation gives the caller a feeling of inclusion, as someone special and important to your practice. And we all want to experience those feelings of self worth, no matter how fearful we may be about seeing a dentist. The no charge (or low cost) evaluation allows a potential patient to make an informed decision about choosing a dentist and also serves as an opportunity for that person to appreciate the value of services your practice provides.

Once value is understood, the barrier of money can be reduced. Break down that barrier of money concern, extend an invitation, and welcome the opportunity to bring a potential new patient into your practice.

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