What Dentists Can Learn From The Cadillac Man

On one recent night, I was sitting in my hotel room in Seattle having just spent the day lecturing. As I flipped through the channels, looking for something to listen to in the background as I continued to work through most of the night, I came upon the "Cadillac Man" with Robin Williams. I had seen the movie many years ago and really had not given it a second thought since then. As I watched (luckily having done it in the first few minutes) I was amazed that I never realized how many true business lessons were right before my eyes. Naturally, as I sat, I was watching TV more than I was working, but I found myself thinking about how the operations of a car dealership and the operations of a dental office are amazingly similar.

I never thought, nor even DARED to compare a professional dental office to what most people incorrectly label as "sleazy car salesmen". Are there some bad apples, sure. But there are bad apple dentists too. For the most part, people in any business whether dentistry, car sales, restaurants or even airlines are professional, courteous individuals who's one true goal is to help people and give them an enjoyable experience.

Our goal in the dental office is to provide a high standard of care and an awesome experience to our patients while we provide them with the treatment that they unfortunately need. The same is true in a car dealership. The salesmen (and women) want to provide us with an excellent experience purchasing a car that we really need. Just as I would not expect a dentist to tell a patient that they need a crown when they actually need a 1 surface filling, I would expect that a professional sales person would not send a person looking for a minivan in the direction of a 2- seater sports car. Are there salespeople who will try it? Of course. But there are also dentists who would try it as well! Remember one bad apple DOES NOT spoil the bunch. Also, take note that I am NOT in any way suggesting that we become "Hard sell" offices and jam dentistry literally down peoples' throats. There is a way the business of dentistry and the practice of dentistry can work together.

So as I sat and watched this movie I began to think what we could learn from this. I was amazed that the most important thing in the car dealership is the goal. We talk all the time about having goals, writing down your goals, sharing your goals and all of the advice that we give and receive all the time. But what are we, in the dental office doing, to actually track those goals and put them in front of our eyes in simple language every day so that they remain top of mind? In car dealerships they have "The Board". It is actually something I have been doing with clients for years and never realized where I got the idea from.

So your goals are defined somehow. Maybe it is production, maybe collections and maybe even patients seen in a day, week or month. There is a lot of important information that we generate and HOPEFULLY review each day. End of day reports, production reports, new patient numbers, collections, etc. So how do we REALLY use that information to compare actual numbers versus goal numbers and identify areas of improvements to help us hit those goals consistently? Use "The Board". In the scholars / office managers office should be "The Board". A large, dry erase board divided in such a way that goal numbers and actual numbers can be compared in an instant. We use one in my office and I can tell you it takes about 5 minutes a day to update, but the information provided is absolutely priceless. People come in and out all day, looking at numbers, and it generates a good amount of discussion about what we can do to improve, what happened on days when we did not reach our goals and what we can to make sure those things don 't happen again. I love my Board. The staff loves it too, as they can easily and very quickly see what days they hit goal and what days they did not.

Please remember, if you do not have goals, GET THEM. If you have goals in your head, get them out and written down. A goal that is not written out is simply a dream. Do not spend time chasing dreams, spend that time and effort attaining your goals. I watched poor Robin Williams run in and out of that manager's office looking at the board, checking what everyone else had done, using it as motivation for his own behavior. True, he had a certain inner spark and was a magnificent sales person, but that added motivation of seeing others' performance right in front of his eyes was enough to make sure that he used EVERY tool in his arsenal to close deals and help people get out of their own way to say yes to that new car.

Just as he used every tool at his disposal to close deals, so should we. Are you really using every tool that you have in your arsenal to help patients see how important the treatment truly is? You owe it to your patients to provide them with the care that they NEED AND DESERVE. Whether they realize it or not, you are helping them. How many times have you told a patient that a crown will help extend the life of that tooth, but they refuse to listen? Then, a week, a month or a year later that tooth breaks and now needs to be extracted. Saving $ 1000 now can cost thousands in the future. Then they get mad at you because you "never told them" that this could happen. Of course you did. You know it, I know it and they know it. But is not it easier to blame you rather than themselves? Of course it is. So you truly owe it to your patients to help them understand and receive the treatment that they really need!

Do you use your intra-oral camera regularly, and by that I mean daily? Are you showing your patients that crack, that chip or that cavity up close and personal? Put it on the TV screen and make it 27 inches wide. That will wake anyone up! Are you presenting cases properly and to the best of your ability? Are you giving lots of options or just the best option? I am NEVER a fan of good, better, best dentistry. Why would anyone want to be good when they could be the best? Present properly and make sure the patient knows that this is absolutely the best option and you are the best dentist to do it. Help that patient make the right decision by using all of the tools you have to educate them properly. Use the camera. Use creative financing options (like Care-Credit). Use preapproval tools so that you can walk in with the treatment plan and say not only can we give you the best dental care, but we also make it easy to pay for with convenient payments.

These are the tools that you have at your disposal. We are lucky. Car dealers are at the mercy of the manufacturers and banks who decide when to run ZERO PERCENT financing specials. We have access to that ALL THE TIME. How lucky are we! Do you know what happens when GM runs a 0% financing for 60 month special? Car sales go up. So what if you offered your patients with that option? I guarantee you that your closing ratio will go up.

Finally, and quite possibly the most important thing that your office can do is FOLLOW UP with your patients. When you present treatment and the patient does not schedule right away, follow up with them. Try preapproval for financing if you have not already. Have your assistant or hygienist call them and ask if there were questions regarding the treatment plan. Obviously if they understand how truly important this treatment is they would not be delaying it. We must have done something wrong. We missed something somewhere. Find out what it was, correct it and get them scheduled.

Many dentists feel that they seem too "salesy" if the office calls to follow up and schedule treatment. I will tell you, this is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard and if you are not doing it you should start IMMEDIATELY. Yes, you are a dental practice and your primary goal is treatment of patients. So TREAT THEM, but remember you are also a dental business whose primary goal is to stay in business so the practice can continue to help patients! One can never exist without the other and it is so important to remember that. Do not be afraid to close deals. That deal will help your patients have a healthy mouth, a healthier life and a better smile. This is truly a WIN WIN situation for everyone involved and should be viewed as one every time.

Getting your business and practice on the same page is easy. Create, monitor, share and achieve your goals. Use all the tools that you have at your disposal to create amazing treatment plan presentations. Probably most importantly, follow up with patients who do not close "ON THE SPOT". They need this treatment to stay healthy and happy and you owe it to them to do everything that you can to help them get it!

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