What dentists can learn from the Cadillac Man
One recent night, I was sitting in my hotel room in Seattle after spending the day lecturing. While flipping through the channels, looking for something to listen to in the background while continuing to work through most of the night, I came across the “Cadillac Man” with Robin Williams. I had seen the movie many years ago and really hadn’t thought twice since. As I watched (thankfully after getting it in the first few minutes), I was shocked that I never realized how many real business lessons were before my eyes. Naturally, while sitting, I watched TV more than I worked, but I found myself thinking about how the operations of a car dealership and the operations of a dental office are strikingly similar.
I never thought, didn’t even dare to compare a professional dental office to what most people mislabel as “shoddy car dealers.” There are some bad apples, sure? But there are also bad apple dentists. For the most part, people in any business, be it dentistry, car sales, restaurants, or even airlines, are professional and courteous people, whose true goal is to help people and provide them with an enjoyable experience.
Our goal at the dental office is to provide a high level of care and an incredible experience to our patients while providing them with the treatment they desperately need. The same is true at a car dealership. Salespeople (and women) want to give us a great experience buying a car that we really need. Just as you wouldn’t expect a dentist to tell a patient they need a crown when they actually need a 1-surface filling, you would expect a professional salesperson to not send a person looking for a minivan in the direction of a 2- sports car. of squares. Are there sellers who will try it? Of course. But there are also dentists who would try it too! Remember that one bad apple does NOT spoil the pile. Also, keep in mind that I am NOT in any way suggesting that we become “hard sell” offices and literally jam dentistry down people’s throats. There is a way that the business of dentistry and the practice of dentistry can work together.
So as I sat and watched this movie, I started to think about what we could learn from this. I was surprised that the most important thing at the car dealership is the goal. We talk all the time about having goals, writing down your goals, sharing your goals and all the advice that we give and receive all the time. But what are we doing in the dental office to keep track of those goals and put them in front of our eyes in plain language every day so that they remain the most important thing? At car dealerships they have “The Board.” It’s actually something I’ve been doing with clients for years and never realized where I got the idea from.
So your goals are defined in some way. Maybe it’s production, maybe collections, and maybe even patients seen in a day, a week, or a month. There is a lot of important information that we generate and review with HOPE every day. End of day reports, production reports, new patient numbers, collections, etc. So how do we REALLY use that information to compare the real numbers to the goal numbers and identify areas for improvement that help us achieve those goals consistently? Use “The Board”. In the office of the dentists / office managers should be “The Board”. A large dry-erase board divided in such a way that target numbers and actual numbers can be compared in an instant. We use one in my office and I can tell you that it takes about 5 minutes a day to update it, but the information provided is priceless. People come and go all day, looking at the numbers, and it generates a fair amount of discussion about what we can do to improve, what happened on the days when we did not reach our goals, and what we can to make sure that those things are not met. it will not happen again. I love my board. The staff love it too, as they can quickly and easily see which days they reached the goal and which days they did not.
Please remember, if you don’t have goals, GET THEM. If you have goals in your head, put them out and write them down. An unwritten goal is simply a dream. Don’t waste time chasing dreams, put that time and effort into reaching your goals. I saw poor Robin Williams running in and out of that manager’s office looking at the dashboard, checking what everyone else had done, using it as motivation for his own behavior. True, he had a certain inner spark and was a terrific salesperson, but that added motivation of seeing others perform in front of his eyes was enough to make sure he used ALL the tools in his arsenal to close deals and help people. You get out of your own way to say yes to that new car.
Just as you used all the tools at your disposal to close deals, so should we. Are you really using all the tools you have in your arsenal to help patients see how important treatment really is? You owe it to your patients to give them the care 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 prolong the life of that tooth, but they refuse to listen? Then a week, a month, or a year later, that tooth breaks and now it needs to be removed. 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 yes. You know it, I know it and they know it. But isn’t it easier to blame you than them? Of course it is. So you really owe it to your patients to help them understand and receive the treatment they really need!
Do you use your intraoral 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 appropriately and to the best of your ability? Are you giving many options or just the best option? I am NEVER a fan of good, better, and better dentistry. Why would anyone want to be good when they could be the best? Introduce yourself correctly and make sure the patient knows that this is absolutely the best option and that you are the best dentist to do it. Help that patient make the right decision by using all the tools you have to educate him properly. Use the camera. Use creative financing options (like Care-Credit). Use pre-approval tools so you can walk along with your treatment plan and say that not only can we provide you with the best dental care, but we also make it easy to pay with convenient payments.
These are the tools that you have at your disposal. We are lucky. Auto dealerships are at the mercy of manufacturers and banks who decide when to run special ZERO PERCENT financing offers. We have access to that ALL THE TIME. We’re so lucky! Do you know what happens when GM executes 0% financing for a 60-month special? Car sales increase. So what happens if you present that option to your patients? I guarantee that your closing ratio will increase.
Finally, and possibly the most important thing your office can do, is FOLLOW your patients. When you present a treatment and the patient does not schedule it right away, follow up with it. Try pre-approval for financing if you haven’t already. Ask your assistant or hygienist to call them and ask if there are questions about the treatment plan. Obviously, if they understood how truly important this treatment is, they wouldn’t delay it. We must have done something wrong. We lost something somewhere. Find out what it was about, correct it, and schedule them.
Many dentists feel they seem too “salesy” if the office calls to follow up and schedule treatment. I will tell you that this is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard in my life and if you are not doing it, you should start IMMEDIATELY. Yes, you are a dental office and your main objective is the treatment of patients. So TREAT THEM, but remember it is 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 very important to remember that. Don’t be afraid to close deals. That treatment will help your patients have a healthier mouth, a healthier life, and a better smile. This is truly a WIN, WIN situation for everyone involved and should be viewed as one at all times.
Getting your business and your practice on the same page is easy. Create, monitor, share and achieve your goals. Use all the tools at your disposal to create amazing treatment plan presentations. Probably the most important thing is to follow up on patients who do not close “IN PLACE”. They need this treatment to stay healthy and happy, and you should do everything you can to help them get it!