It was the UDA dental convention this past week. We had a booth there and got to rub shoulders with our clients, potential clients, and many soon-to-be new clients who signed up for our training. Something a doc said to one of our team members at our booth has stuck with me, and I want to talk about it.

When our team member asked the doc if he had heard about My Practice My Business, he said something along the lines of, “…yes, I’ve heard about MPMB, both good and bad.” Now, I understand I might offend some people. But my team member naturally wanted to know what “bad” he has heard about our company, because we don’t hear a much of that – usually clients and non-clients alike are happy with what we are doing. The “bad” the doc referred to when asked was that we teach “upselling,” and he feels dentistry should not be “upsold.”

I was in hopes that he just didn’t like me. That would have been acceptable in my book. But when one of our colleagues openly admits, whether directly or indirectly, that they make business decisions that are not grounded in business, that really makes me sad, and a bit angry. They spread that ignorance to others, and those misinformed thoughts costs dentists thousands of dollars in revenue each month.

Throughout my career I’ve seen dentists speak negatively about many ‘sales’ ideas that really make pretty good business sense. Here are just a few:

  1. Marketing your practice to patients with offers.
  2. Replacing silver fillings with tooth-colored fillings, when the patient requests it and they are willing to pay for it.
  3. Giving a gift certificate to your existing patients as a way of thanking them for referring family and friends to your practice.
  4. Offering your patients “choice” where choice exists, and charging for that choice.

It’s this last idea that this particular doc had an issue with. Like him, many of you have a difficult time charging for better materials, medications, technology, and procedures. Our research has clearly shown one of two things: either you are using the best materials and doing free dentistry on your patients, or you are using less expensive materials to help increase profit margins. There is a third category, and that is you are all over the place with materials and have no idea if you’re profitable on procedures.

Should you place Straumann implants at PPO LEPAT (Least Expensive Professionally Acceptable Treatment) pricing? Should you order high-end lab crowns when the dental insurance plan is reimbursing you at budget crown pricing? Or should it be the patient’s choice of what goes in their mouth, and then they pay an additional fee for the choice they make? If you’re of the mindset that you signed a PPO contract and you are not allowed to charge an additional fee for a better crown, then you really are lost. Read the contracts you signed. Study your state laws. After you do that, then we should have a conversation.

So, what is upselling? How is it defined? “Upselling is a sales technique where a seller, such as a dentist, encourages a customer to purchase a more expensive item, upgrade a product, or add a on extra features to make a more profitable sale. The goal is to increase the value of the sale, and consequently, increase the business’s revenue.”

Why did Straumann purchase Neodent, and why did Nobel purchase Implant Direct? They did so to be able to compete in cheaper dental implant markets. Very few PPO dentists purchase those expensive dental implants. Yet, knowing what I know, I would want a Straumann dental implant in my mouth if I needed one. And if I’m willing to pay for a better, more expensive dental implant, shouldn’t it be my choice?

Is it shame on me for “upselling” my patients, and allowing them to have a choice in their treatment? Or, is it shame on the doctor who feels that it’s bad to offer choice to his patients, and charging them for the treatment choice that ethically and legally should be theirs, not his?

How often do we see our colleagues express business viewpoints that simply are not grounded in business principles? They pretend to know what they are talking about. I hate to be the spoiler, but doc, no business runs that way, except those we see in dentistry.

Recently I got upsold, or should I say, upgraded, on the mesh I received for my hernia surgery. Optometrists have been upgrading frames, lenses, and contacts for years. Grocery stores upsell food. Tires for your vehicle are not all created equal, and have differing costs. Need I say more?

If in your dental PPO contract, it states that the dental insurance company’s fees are set to the least expensive professionally accepted treatment. Might there be a better, more expensive, professionally accepted treatment that your patient would prefer? Shouldn’t it be their choice? So then, why is the concept of upselling, or as I like to call it, offering value-added services such a difficult concept for some dentists to accept?

There has never been a more important time than now to learn how to run your dental practice like a business. If you are planning on some DSO, or other corporate entity, to take over the running of your dental practice, please don’t be fooled by these groups. They don’t know much more than you do. With MPMB’s business training, you will definitely know more than they do, and you can begin to tap into business potential you never imagined you could have.

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