Was That a “No” or a Buying Signal?


You’ve just had a useful and informed discussion with your patient about a recommended treatment; outlined all the pros and cons, discussed likely timescales, cost estimates, benefits and shown examples of similar work you have undertaken for other satisfied patients.

Many clinicians expect, or hope for, a straightforward :’Yes, let’s go with that‘ or ‘No, not for me thanks‘.

If you do get the immediate go ahead from a fully-informed patient, then congratulate Dentist discussing x-ray with his patientyourself on a good and well reasoned discussion. Say no more than ‘Thank-you‘ and book the patient in after leaving them with the required treatment plan and information.

More likely the response will be non-committal or the patient will ring reception later to defer  or cancel the appointment using words like:

  • ‘Ok, let me think about that’
  • ‘Not sure that is for me’
  • ‘Sounds a bit expensive’
  • ‘Not sure I like the sound of that’
  • ‘Have been thinking about it and . . . .’
  • ‘Maybe another time.’

Unless your patient says something along the lines of  – ‘No thank-you, I have listened to your recommendation and all you have to say but this treatment is definitely not for me‘, he or she is not yet sure and needs some more help and support before making the decision.

The patient isn’t actually saying ‘no’ but is not yet convinced for whatever reason. These

are buying signals which mean ‘Maybe, but convince me a little more please.

It can be very easy to thank the non-committal patient and leave the treatment plan with them to come back to us when ready. Hence the very long list of outstanding treatment plans which I often find on practice management system in many of the practices I visit.

This ‘leave it for now’ approach is often seen as a quick and easy way out for all. After all the patient doesn’t want to go ahead with it despite all that we have said and surely it is polite and good customer service to stop there? Wrong on all counts.

  • Quick & Easy? – Yes at that moment in time maybe, but the wrong approach. The dentist, Treatment Co-ordinator and maybe others have already spent a lot of time talking through what he or she believes is right for the patient. We don’t want to lose that time and a complex treatment appointment, unless we know for certain the patient does not wish to go ahead.
  • Polite? – No, we haven’t encouraged the patient to talk through their concerns or the time and opportunity to ask  questions.
  • Good Customer Service? – No, the treatment plan is right for the patient and it seems that we haven’t given all the information needed or identified concerns which the patient still has and which we may be able to resolve for them.

Buying signals are very subtle and whenever speaking with patients, either in the surgery or in follow-up conversations, we need to constantly watch out for them and react.

Always remember that unless there is a definitive ‘no’, we should be politely asking useful, probing, open questions to help the patient better understand and be more open about their concerns. This approach helps us to overcome and resolve concerns and uncertainties, which is our job.

Of course there will always be the occasional ‘no, thank-you‘ from patients but if we have done our job properly, we should be confident that the decision has been made for all the right reasons and we accept that it isn’t right for the patient at this moment in time.

Understand why the treatment wasn’t right and look out for trends. If more and more people are saying ‘no’ for similar reasons, then we may need to do something about it – maybe new equipment, alternative pricing,  finance packages or an alternative solution which meets the needs of more of our patients.

‘Open’ questions encourage the patient to talk and cannot be answered by a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ which can often end the conversation and make you feel awkward as to where to go next:

  • ‘Can we make/remake an appointment for you?’ – Closed question, likely answer ‘No thanks’ and difficult to turn around if the answer is no.
  • ‘When is a good time for us to book you in for this treatment?’ – Open question without a quick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
  • ‘Does that answer all your questions?’ – Closed question likely to prompt ‘yes’ as a quick escape.
  • ‘What are your thoughts on the treatment options and my explanation?’ – Open question which will encourage discussion of concerns or uncertainty.
  • ‘What is it about the treatment you are unsure of?’ – Open question to help you answer and resolve.
  • ‘How much would you feel comfortable paying monthly for this treatment? ‘ Open question which helps to look into affordability and finance options.
  • ‘Tell me your thoughts about the treatment’ – Open request for feedback
  • Always end a conversation with ‘When would be a good time to speak with you again?’ – Open question which leads to agreement to follow-up and discuss further

Always remember the old adage that we have two ears and one mouth and should aim to listen far more than we speak by encouraging discussion. The conversation is not going well if you are doing all the talking (unless of course the patient still has a mouthful of instruments).

Over time you will start to incorporate some of the more common concerns into your original discussions with the patient which will improve your treatment acceptance levels and reduce follow-up time.

The good thing about looking out for and responding to buying signals is that it gets much easier with practice. You will soon see that most patients come up with very similar concerns , uncertainties and questions. You will quickly become familiar with and confidently respond to more of these over time using convincing and proven answers.

Why not run off your list of outstanding treatments today and try some of these techniques by calling patients and really understanding why they are still undecided?

Contact Mark Greenwood, Business Coach at Your Dental Manager for more information or support with improving your treatment case acceptance.





Was That a “No” or a Buying Signal?

Building a Closer, Stronger Team



A smooth-running, cheerful, successful practice with an enviable reputation for patient care is all linked to the strength, power and commitment of your practice team.

Successful teams have a number of key qualities including:

  • A good leader with vision, tact, diplomacy and focus
  • Individuals pull together and act as one team
  • All understand what makes a good week and what the practice is trying to achieve
  • Everyone contributes a fair share to the team’s workload
  • No hidden or personal agendas
  • Individuals spot when others need support and offer to help
  • All recognise the strengths and contribution of others
  • Open, honest and thoughtful communication
  • A varied range of skills, knowledge, personalities and characters
  • Good working relationships with, and respect for, each other
  • Recognise and adapt to the different ways in which people approach work
  • Enjoy working together

Team-building sessions for practices are often focused on the the ever-popular bowling, theme-parks and nights out at the local restaurant or wine bar. All good fun, great for morale and definitely help to develop one or two of the team qualities – but what about the rest?

How can you start to understand:

  • What makes you and others within the team tick?
  • How you and your colleagues like to work?
  • What is important to you and your colleagues?
  • How you react to others and how others see you?
  • How best to communicate with the team and individuals?
  • How best can your Manager, manage the team?
  • How best can your Leader, lead the team?

As a certified trainer and facilitator for Everything DiSC®, I can now help you strengthen and develop your practice team through a real understanding of all the above, pulled together and delivered in a fun and interactive workshop supported by individual work-style profiles for each of the team.

DiSC Certified Trainer Blue PNG SmallAhead of the 2 – 3 hour workshop, all members of the team complete a simple on-line questionnaire which assesses the way they like to work, how they react in typical work environments and how they like to work as part of a team.

From this we generate a comprehensive, but very easy to read and understand, 20 page profile highlighting and discussing the strengths and impact of each individual’s preferred work-style, priorities and role within the team, on others. Everyone gets to take this away with them after the workshop for personal development and to keep as a reminder or prompt.

The profiles are also great for both the team member and team leader to use as part of personal development planning.

We see these different styles all around us but often individuals don’t understand or know how to react which then causes friction and misunderstanding.

Each of us has elements from each of the four DiSC styles within our character – the proWorkplace-Circle_thumbfiles and workshop highlight where your preferences lay and which areas of work or team communication may take you outside of your comfort-zone.

Further value comes from personalised guidelines and recommendations within the profile on how to use your own strengths to work with others in the team who will inevitably have their own preferred style of working.All styles are seen as equally important and the workshop focuses on making the most of each style.

During the workshop, we fully explore the different working styles, ways in which teams interact and how all teams benefit from a healthy mix of individual styles which together make the team stronger, more focused and usually, happier.

To book or find out more about the team workshop and Everything DiSC profiles, contact Your Dental Manager here
Building a Closer, Stronger Team

NHS Choices – Your Reputation On the Line


I still come across many practices unaware of, or sometimes choosing to ignore, potentially damaging comments and complaints placed on-line by patients who have had a poor experience for whatever reason.

Equally, there are often very positive comments which are not being acknowledged or used to boost morale within the practice and share with patients. dreamstime_l_35652392

For NHS dental practices, even those with only a small NHS contract, the easiest and most widely promoted patient feedback opportunity is through the practice NHS Choices page which has been centrally created for all NHS providers.

Anyone searching for your dental practice name on-line is likely to come across your NHS Choices page very quickly and be given the opportunity to provide feedback.

Try it for yourself and have a look at your profile page, particularly if not yet familiar with it and, more importantly, not actively managing it.

Practices should routinely undertake on-line searches of the practice name to identify other feedback portals and to see what is being discussed on-line about your business.

There are two important areas to focus on with your NHS Choices page.

Firstly make sure that it is up to date and that all information on the page is accurate. The page will have been created with information readily available at the time the site was established and someone within your practice would have been asked to take responsibility for this. Do you know who this is?

Practice and team details are accessed by the NHS telephone services such as 111 to assist with enquiries from existing and potential new patients.

Secondly make sure that someone within the team has been given responsibility for checking and responding to all feedback left on the page. This does not happen automatically and the person who keeps the page up-to-date may not yet have the authority to do this.

Individuals can request access and approval to undertake both of these roles by simply sending an e-mail through to servicedesk@nhschoices.nhs.uk with your practice details and the individual’s e-mail address.

Once someone is registered for comment responses, they will be automatically e-mailed with details of all comments added to your practice page so that responses can be managed quickly and effectively. For this reason it is also good practice to have more than one person trained and registered to cover for each other.

If you are new to the NHS Choices portal, useful training resources can be found here:

NHS Choices Training Resources

Managing Patient Feedback

Adverse patient feedback should always be handled professionally, non-judgementally and sensitively just as you would with a patient in the practice.

Recognise the concern raised and highlight any action which has been, or will be taken to resolve.

Don’t attempt to resolve the complaint on-line – let the public see that you have it in hand and that something is being done to resolve. Brief explanations can help.

Never question or challenge the patient on-line but focus on the facts provided and how it will be resolved. In the majority of cases, a well handled complaint will boost your reputation.

Always encourage off-line discussions and ways to resolve the concern by providing contact details for your practice manager. This is no different to complaints in the practice where you would take the patient to a quiet room rather than try to resolve in public.

The post will already have been moderated by the NHS team prior to publication to ensure it is not malicious or offensive but if you still feel that this is the case, you have the option to refer back to the NHS team to have it corrected or removed.

If you have not previously responded to NHS Choices comments, here is a short video clip which explains how it works:

Responding to NHS Choices Comments

I often provide client practices with help and guidance on responding to customer service complaints including on-line. If you would like help or support with this important area of your business please contact mark@yourdentalmanager.co.uk


NHS Choices – Your Reputation On the Line

Smooth Landing For Team Meetings

Noticed how quickly time flies during your team meetings?
Before you know what is happening people are looking at their watches, patients are knocking at the door and phones are ringing.
Meetings often come to an abrupt end with everyone rushing off to start their work with much of the content quickly forgotten.
Here are some quick pointers on how to close your meetings and plan for a smooth landing.
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Smooth Landing For Team Meetings

Had a Good Dental Team Meeting Recently?

YDMLogoBridging the Management Gap

Regular and effective team meetings are a vital and essential part of leading, managing and growing a successful dental practice but are often thrown together at the last-minute without real thought, cancelled at short notice, poorly attended or seen as an opportunity to complain about everything under the sun.

Think back to your last team meeting, which was hopefully within the last 4 weeks, and ask yourself a few quick questions

  • Did your team come out feeling enthused?dreamstime_xs_33338892
  • Did all the team contribute and add value?
  • Does everyone know what they need to do next?
  • Does everyone know what success looks like?
  • Did you all learn something new?
  • Was there something on the agenda for everyone?
  • Were meeting minutes and action points circulated?

If you answered yes to all of these then well done – you are making good use of the meetings and should hopefully be seeing the results. If not then you have everything to gain from making some changes and will probably even start to enjoy the meetings.

Some suggestions for making the most of your next team meeting:

  1. Plan ahead and start to build up the next agenda as soon as the previous meeting has finished. Your agenda should cover a variety of subjects including
    • Follow-up and progress with items from previous meeting minutes
    • Practice performance update
    • Patient feedback and comments
    • Recognition of individual and team successes/celebrations
    • Items & action arising from compliance checks and audits
    • Constructive feedback from the reception team
    • Constructive feedback from the nursing team
    • Constructive feedback from the clinician team
    • Policy/procedure refresher training
    • Management update covering any proposed changes e.g. rota, procedures
    • Update on key success factors e.g. patient numbers, diary utilisation, FTAs
    • Social and “House-keeping”
  2. Invite the team to submit suggestions for the agenda
  3. Don’t allow any one item on the agenda to dominate
    • Any issues which can’t be resolved within the allotted time can be given to one or two people to take away, discuss and come back to the next meeting with a suggested solution
    • Mix any controversial items between lighter, good news stories so that you can quickly move on and lighten the atmosphere
    • If necessary arrange a second meeting to discuss with interested parties
  4. Don’t let individuals dominate discussions (including yourself)
    • Ask quieter members of the team what they think
    • Insist that everyone is given the opportunity to speak
    • Share the agenda items out so that different people come prepared to talk about something of interest to them.
  5. Ask for suggestions, solutions and feedback
    • Don’t underestimate the power of silence – someone will usually fill it quickly
    • Look at different people, this will usually prompt an answer
    • Repeat suggestions back in your own words to clarify & reinforce understanding
  6. Present in different ways to make the meeting more interesting
    • Always face the team when speaking and avoid reading from a sheet of paper – a quick glance at notes should be all that is needed
    • Incorporate short quizzes to check understanding
    • Use short videos to support agenda items – lap-tops are easily attached to modern large-screen TVs or why not invest in a small projector and screen?
    • Make use of flip-charts to explain things
    • Bring in external speakers such as Your Dental Manager to add variety
    • Incorporate some humour
    • Remain enthusiastic throughout, the team will mirror your own attitude
  7. Ask different people to take the minutes and note down actions at each meeting
  8. If meetings are being held during the lunch-period, provide light refreshments
  9. Encourage as many people as possible to attend and offer time off in lieu if not their normal working day.
  10. Make sure that each agenda item has a next step, action point or follow-up
  11. Circulate minutes and check to ensure people who were unable to attend read and understand what was discussed
  12. Always, always end the meeting on a positive with some enthusiastic words of encouragement from the Principal and/or Practice Manager.

Mark Greenwood

Had a Good Dental Team Meeting Recently?