By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist
More than a few doctors, dentists and other providers suffer from “case presentation phobia.” This seems especially common with elective care discussions.
Skilled and experienced providers may have buried the ill-at-ease feeling, and they probably have “avoidance systems” in place that point to someone else in the office. But, in fact, they hate making a case presentation that (a) asks a patient for a commitment, or (b) talking to a patient about cost, money or financing.
This “phobia” keeps patients from getting the care they want or need, and it suppresses business opportunity and growth for the practice. Consider this real-world illustration. A marketing colleague recently met with a provider who:
- Required the patient to watch a 35 minute video about the procedure before meeting the doctor;
- Talked easily about the clinical and technical details, but spoke of outcomes, results or benefits in brief and vague terms;
- Did not ask about the patient’s interest in, or need for, the procedure;
- Declined entirely to answer questions about cost, deferring to the “office manager;” and
- Never asked the patient for a commitment or acceptance.
To make matters even less inviting, the “office manager” recited the costs without a word about benefits, value or affordability options. The outcome was: “Thanks, but no sale.” A $3,000 elective care procedure just walked out the door. Imagine how things could have gone.
- Informed consent and decisions are important. But patients have little awareness and interest in the clinical and technical details—no matter how complete.
- No one in the office has a more authoritative position to present, convince and convert than the doctor. Even trusted providers who shy away from making a persuasive and personal case presentation win fewer cases.
- The likelihood of acceptance is astronomically higher when the doctor asks, personally and directly, for the patient’s agreement. (Conversely, the acceptance level is near-to-zero when nobody asks.)
The three steps toward case acceptance…
The critical path for case presentation, and to winning case acceptance, can be seen in these three basic stages, and a few timely questions:
QUESTIONS TO UNDERSTAND THE PATIENT’S NEED: First, understand the patient’s motivation or willingness to consider a procedure or elective care. Ask discovery questions such as “What were you hoping we could do for you?” or “What would you like to change?” or “What is most important to you?” (Spoiler alert: It will not be your new whiz-bang techno-device.)
QUESTIONS TO REVEAL OBJECTIONS: Most patient obstacles or objections can be easy to answer when you know the issues. So, ask: “Why haven’t you done this previously?” or “What concerns do you have?” or “If there is one thing that would hold you back, what would it be?”
QUESTIONS TO WIN COMMITMENT: Having revealed the patient’s reasons for acceptance, and having answered their fears or objections, it is simple enough to ask: “Would you like to do this today?” or “Can we arrange a time to begin treatment?” If this uncovers more objections, answer them, refer to the patient benefits, and provide additional information, as appropriate, about a phased treatment plan, finance or affordability options.
Professionals who avoid or defer asking these critical questions will invariably lose business, often to the competition. Our imaginary “presentation phobia” is relatively easy to overcome with practice and determination. The rewards include providing people with a valuable (and sometimes vitally necessary) service, as well as winning greater case acceptance and valuable new business.