I go to several dental trade shows each year, and at every trade show, no matter how large or small, I see one particular vendor who sells massage chairs. The owner, Dr. Fuji, is a bit of a character, and he and his team invite everyone to try the chairs–and I mean absolutely everyone. They don’t try to decide if the person is a potential buyer, or if they can afford the chair. In fact, they know that 99 out of 100 people are not potential buyers. They just don’t know who that one person is going to be, so they offer a trial to one and all, and as a result their booth is always busy, and they attract every possible buyer this way.
Every business, including the dental business, operates with a percentage of success, a ratio of potential customers to actual customers. No one bats 1.000 in baseball, and no one converts 100% of callers to a dental practice into patients. And no dentist has 100% case acceptance.
I want to drive home two points about this: first, get comfortable with the fact that you will not convert everyone into a patient, nor will everyone accept comprehensive care. Second, the way to guarantee failure is to not make the attempt. In a way, it’s like a lottery, only with much better odds. With the lottery, it’s very likely you won’t win, but you definitely won’t win if you don’t buy a ticket. With patients, I say be like Dr. Fuji. Let them try out your office to see if they like it. They won’t all become long term patients. Accept that. Embrace that. It’s a numbers game. Don’t fall into the trap of pre-judging. You only worsen your odds of finding that great patient.
Most practices keep track of no-shows, and some track what a new patient cost them through advertising, but very few track how many patients called and never appointed. I know of way too many offices that train their front desk to essentially over-screen patients by asking too many questions, and putting most of their energy into determining if the patient can afford their practice, or if the patient is a good fit. How can you determine such things over the phone? The typical new patient is an avoider/procrastinator who has budgeted nothing towards their oral health. All you will do is repel patients.
If they absolutely have no money and want free dentistry, or they insist on using their “insurance” and you don’t take it, then fine–don’t appoint them. But everyone else, bring them in, give them a great experience of dentistry, and over the next five years, a certain percentage will accept comprehensive care and bring five new patients to the office. And everything that you and your team does will affect what that percentage is. Because, you know, everything is marketing.