The most important communication skills that will help you create lifelong relationships with both your staff and patients
I am going to go through the most important skill that you can possess. In fact, if you have this skill in your make-up, you will be welcome anywhere in the world. The key skill here is the ability to build rapport with people. If you can build rapport with your patients, colleagues and suppliers, then people are more likely to listen to you, take on board your suggestions and, most importantly, trust you. Without rapport, then the rest of the sales process will just not happen.
I have learned over thousands of appointments and interactions in my life that people always buy people first, before anything else. Have you ever tried to buy anything off anyone you don’t like or trust? It’s not easy.
All our successes in life, and you will have your own definition of success, are created by interaction with other people. We cannot persuade people if you have little or no rapport with them.
Without trust, there is no rapport, without rapport, no transaction can take place
My definition of rapport building is when you have a mutual understanding and trust. You are on the same wavelength, in-sync with the person you are speaking to. Let me share with you a story from one of my clients who recently took one of my “Ethical Sales & Communication Skills Programmes”. There are many lessons to be taken from this story.
One of my clients is a dentist called Simon who has a practice in the south of England. He takes the importance of rapport building to another level. He received an enquiry from a potential patient one evening, who was asking about implant treatment. Simon responded to the patient more or less straight away. When we have discussed this on my courses, some of my delegates have stated that it sounded like a state of desperation. But, I thought that, in this day and age, the fact that Simon responded immediately was pretty impressive. The patient got in touch the next day, and after several emails, an appointment was made for the following week.
The night before his new appointment, Simon did his research about the patient by going online, and he soon discovered his patient was a professional speaker and had many videos on YouTube, which Simon subsequently watched. The next morning, after a morning huddle with the rest of his team, something that Simon and his team did every morning to plan the day, he welcomed the patient. He instantly built rapport with him, asked questions about his job as a speaker and a genuine bond was built between the two of them. He complimented the patient on the quality of his YouTube videos and, as Simon was just starting out on his own speaking career speaking at local dental meetings, with a view to growing his referring practice, common ground was discovered.
After further questions to identify the patient’s problems, and after a thorough examination a large treatment plan was agreed between Simon and the patient, and a new relationship was formed. Subsequently, the same patient has come back for more treatment and he has also recommended other patients to Simon’s practice. The natural conclusion was a win-win for both parties.
The lessons you can take away from this story are:
- If you receive a new enquiry, act quickly, because speed is important. We live in an age of instant communication, and I honestly believe people are becoming more impatient, so act straight away. If the enquiry comes in by email, but the patient leaves a telephone number, why not call the potential patient and engage in rapport building? You can invite the patient in for an appointment. Nothing beats a good conversation.
- There is no excuse now not to do your preparation. Years ago, there was only the local library for resources; now there are many such as going online, doing a Google search and using Facebook and LinkedIn. You can learn so much about a new person in seconds, at the push of a button.
- I am a massive fan of group huddles in the morning before the patients walk through the door. Sometimes, if the receptionist has done a good job at the initial call, they can then share with the rest of the team important information about the new patients who are coming into the practice that day. On our reception programme, we encourage the reception team to complete a new enquiry sheet and these are treated like gold dust. The reception team has to communicate all the information in a group huddle in the morning.
- By spending time building genuine rapport, trust was built. Without trust, there is no rapport, without rapport, no transaction can take place. When you build rapport and you find common ground with your patients, amazing things happen afterwards. The key lesson here is to become genuinely interested in your patients, and they will become genuinely interested in what you have got to offer. Remember one thing: patients don’t care how much you know until you demonstrate how much you care about them.
I always suggest, if you can, to find two chairs, or maybe construct a consulting room, and to have a conversation, with your patient before you put them on the dental chair. It might be a scary experience for a patient to go to the dentist and having a two-way conversation puts the patient at ease and makes them feel important. If you haven’t got two chairs and your surgery space does not allow it, then perhaps you can put the patient on the dental chair in an upright position and you can bring your chair round facing the patient. It shows that you are genuinely interested and, most importantly, it will put the patient at ease. Remember, sometimes patients are nervous and apprehensive about going to the dentist – this process puts them at ease.
Over a lifetime, a single patient is worth thousands of pounds to your practice and this relationship needs to be nourished on an on-going basis. I have learnt in my lifetime never to take my clients for granted. If you have excellent relationships with your patients, then you are more likely to get referrals from them. I usually find that if some of these patients are nice and value what you do, then you are more likely to get people of similar characteristics. Nice people know nice people, they can help grow your practice and ensure it flourishes forever. Just imagine receiving one patient referral from each patient, is it possible? Yes it is, but they will only do it if you have amazing rapport with your patients.
I recently spoke to a client who told me that they had now decided to collect their patients from the reception and take them to the surgery and then escort them back to the desk after each appointment. They even got the reception team to ring through to the nurse to inform her what the patient was wearing, so that when she went to collect the patient, the dentist could go straight to the patient and use their name. That really is going the extra mile.
About the authors
Since 1997, Ashley has personally trained and coached more than 10,500 dentists on his two-day “Ethical Sales & Communication Skills Programme”, in 13 countries worldwide helping them to develop world-class communication skills, so that they can deliver the dentistry they love to do and patients want, all in an ethical way. He has personally delivered more than 24,000 hours of business coaching to the dental profession and has written hundreds of articles on this subject which can be found on his learning zone at www.ashleylatter.com Ashley will also be presenting at the Scottish Dental Show at Braehead Arena in Glasgow, on 19 and 20 May 2017.