Harvesting the Gold : Beginning the Dental Sales Process
Liz was staying with Barb and Joe for the two weeks she was in Grand Forks. Barb decided they would pick up Jen and be at Joe’s office by 8 am Monday morning. Their plan was to spend the week dedicated to the sales effort at Joe’s practice, train Joe’s new receptionist, and then move on to Brian’s practice to do the same.
They all sat around Joe’s meeting table with last month’s patient files pulled into a few neat piles. The first pot of coffee was getting low, so Barb prepared a second pot and pressed the brew button.
Liz had her laptop, where she had all of Rich’s sales letter templates and procedure documentation files stored. With Jen and Barb looking on, she pulled the oldest patient file from the top of the first pile on Joe’s desk and opened it up. Under “Treatment Plan,” there were no comments. The patient had a clean checkup and a follow-up appointment 9 months later.
Barb said, “Well, I guess we’d better move on to the next one.” “No way,” Liz responded. “Look at this gal’s profile. She’s 44 years old. Joe told Rich that he just started taking color snapshots a year ago and that he stores these pictures with the computer record. Let’s have a look.”
Liz was familiar with Joe’s practice management software since it was the same program that Rich used. All she needed was Joe’s password to access the records. A minute later, as the three of them crunched closely around Liz, looking at the images popping up on the computer screen, they all saw the opportunity. You didn’t have to be a dentist to see the difference between the images taken the year before compared with those taken that year.
Liz pulled up one of Rich’s sales form letters on her laptop, changed the signature line and call-back numbers to Joe’s practice, and saved the letter to a new folder. Using her flash memory disk, she copied the folder onto Joe’s computer and pulled up the letter. Within five minutes, through the use of the letter-writing feature of the program, the letter contained the two sets of pictures, side by side, with the dialogue that carried the patient, gently, through the first four of the six layers of resistance.
The letter ended with a special invitation to take advantage of Dr Joe Armstrong’s Get Ready for Winter Whitening Special. In the closing paragraph, Dr Armstrong explained how his busiest times were around holidays and school breaks. With the slower winter season approaching, he offered loyal patients, who had been with him for at least a year, the opportunity to dramatically improve their appearance and smile at great savings. The letter invited patients to call with any questions or to set up a financial plan that would meet their needs.
Jen asked, “Why did you have that part in the letter that says you are only offering this to patients who have been with you for at least a year? Wouldn’t you also use this offer to attract new patients?”
Liz had asked Rich the same question when the promotion was first developed, so she knew Rich’s logic and agreed with it. “It’s exactly because such a discount would attract new patients that Rich refuses to offer it to new patients. He does not want to start a price war with his peers to get new patients. He believes that strategy can only have negative results for everyone.”
Barb questioned, “Why offer the deal at all? Why don’t we just send out the sales letter with regular pricing and see what happens?”
Liz smiled, proud of the experimentation that she and Rich had conducted over the past two years and the experience she now could share. “In marketing and sales, you should never be too smug thinking that you know the right answers in advance. Once we admitted that we couldn’t always predict human behavior, especially in response to our marketing efforts, Rich and I understood that we had to experiment. We tried several different approaches, even to the point of changing single words or headings in our sales letters, to see if we would experience different results. It amazed us how a one-word or one-sentence change in a letter could drive a much better or much worse response. To answer your question directly, Barb, we found from experimentation that the time-limited deal got much quicker and stronger results. It surprised the heck out of us because the people that took most advantage of the deals were our wealthiest patients! Personally, I think they appreciated being recognized and rewarded for their loyalty, something many businesses don’t practice.”
Barb was curious. “What’s the difference between marketing and sales?”
Liz replied, “You know, I talked with Rich about that question a lot. Rich said to think about marketing as dealing with a group of patients, not individual patients. He called it a group segment approach. He said the job of marketing is to attract a segment of the market to your practice. He quoted an Israeli physicist, Dr Eli Goldratt, whom he heard on a worldwide satellite broadcast on the Theory of Constraints about 10 years ago. Dr Goldratt said, ‘Marketing is attracting ducks to desire the corn that’s in your field.’ He described sales as shooting a sitting duck. So in marketing, we think about a group of prospects who have some needs in common that we can fulfill, and in sales, we deal with each prospect individually to target our services to that person’s needs.”
Even with the time taken for this discussion on sales and marketing, Liz had the first letter printed and sitting on Joe’s desk, waiting for a signature, within 45 minutes. Liz had planned to get 10 letters out every day that week. She knew that the next nine letters would also generate discussion, so she calculated the time remaining. Between lunch and breaks, and assuming she could speed up a little after lunch, she figured that all 10 letters would be ready for Joe between 4:00 and 5:00 that afternoon.
At 5:15, after all the patients were dispatched and Joe’s receptionist and assistant had left, Joe was sitting at his desk with Liz, Barb, and Jen. He looked over the letters and said to Liz, “This is fantastic. At first glance, there’s a couple of thousand dollars’ potential here, at least. If we did this every day and got 10% of it, that’s $50,000 a year just for sending out letters!”
As Joe began to sign the letters, he asked, “So how long did this take? An hour?”
Liz gave Joe an annoyed look and admonished him for underestimating the amount of w/>