13 Oct 2023  •  Blog, Marketing  •  5min read By  • Ashley Latter

You’re not selling, you’re solving problems

Dental Business Coach, Ashley Latter, explains how selling, if done ethically, need not be a dirty word.

Nobody likes to be on the other end of a hard sell. A salesperson who uses hard selling techniques is likely to make their customer feel uncomfortable. They’re unlikely to take the time to build a rapport with their customer so they can get to know that person’s needs. More often than not, hard selling techniques are used by people who are focused on making the sale, rather than fulfilling their customer’s needs.

The sales techniques I have been teaching over the last 30 years are all ethical. So, what is ethical selling? My definition of ethical selling involves the salesperson asking questions to uncover the customer’s (patient’s) problems and then solving them in a way that engages them. Your aim is to create a better future for them in a way that ensures they benefit more than you do.

The ultimate aim is to create a win-win outcome.

To achieve this, there are four steps that need to be completed.

Step one – Build rapport with the right client. Successful transactions are built on trust. People trust people they like and with whom they feel they have a rapport. First of all, it’s important to concentrate on building a rapport with your patient.

The dictionary definition of ‘rapport’ is: ‘a friendly, harmonious relationship. Especially a relationship characterised by agreement, mutual understanding or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.’ As the definition points out rapport makes communication possible or easy. Rapport helps you to demonstrate that you are interested in your patient which helps build the trust essential to a successful transaction.

What I mean by ‘right patient’ is one who has a genuine interest in the services and treatments you are able to offer. For example, if you are an NHS dentist you need to accept that not all of your patients will be interested in paying privately for treatment. There will be some for whom it is not a priority and others, who are simply unable to afford it.

Step two – Ask questions. If you don’t ask questions, how will you know what problems need to be solved? Remember, we’re not selling we’re helping solve a customer’s problem.

A big mistake salespeople make is to start selling before establishing their customer’s needs. If you don’t ask questions, then you can only work on assumptions which may well be incorrect. There is a well-known saying in sales: ‘Never assume as it makes an ass out of u and me.’ A valuable warning.

By clarifying what your customer (patient) needs and wants, through asking questions, you will gain all the information you need to guide them towards the solution (treatment) most appropriate for them. By offering the appropriate solution to their particular problem, the likelihood of them taking up the treatment plan is greater. By asking plenty of questions you’re also likely to uncover more opportunities too.

Step three – Solve the problem – this is the time when you can offer solutions to your patient. As you have established their needs you will be able to suggest the course of action that will meet them.  You will do this using language they understand and that will excite them.

Dentists who enjoy their work can sometimes get carried away with the mechanics of a treatment plan. However, patients don’t always need to know the intricate details of how their desired outcome will be achieved so, keep things simple. Patients buy the destination; they do not buy the aeroplane, so there’s no need to go into too much detail about the plane.

Step four – Gain commitment – As long as you have prepared the ground by building rapport, asking questions and presented the solution to the patient’s problem, it’s now time to ask the patient for their thoughts on what you have suggested? Providing all is well and they are happy with your suggestion, once you have gone through the consent procedure, you will have their commitment.

And that is what you call a win win. Your patient gets a way to achieve the outcome they want and as a dentist, you get the satisfaction of improving things for them by delivering the sort of dentistry you enjoy doing. Smiles all round.

About Ashley

Ashley Latter is an industry-renowned Dental Business Consultant. He specialises in delivering the Ethical Sales and Communication Programme, Creating a World Class Patient Journey, Creating a High Performance Team and also works with a very forward thinking group of dentists and Orthodontists on the Serious Players Club, which is an entrepreneur group.

He has spoken at most of the major conferences in the UK, including those of the BDA, BACD, British Orthodontic Conferences and the ADI Conference.

He is also the author of three books: ‘You are worth it’, ‘The Dental Practice Jugglers’ and ‘Don’t wait for the Tooth Fairy’.


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