Asking for money is one of the hardest things to do in a dental practice, but it’s also one of the most important things. There’s a stigma associated with asking patients for money, and it can be an uncomfortable position to be in, so we’re sometimes afraid to collect. What makes it even more difficult, however, is that we often don’t know the right words to use. When you learn to Say This, Not That, however, it opens up the door to some amazing verbal skills that will help you get on the path to collecting what you’re owed.
Say This, Not That
One of the key components to overcoming the fear of asking for money is simply having the right words, and that starts with ACT Dental’s free Say This, Not That resource. It’s one of our most-requested documents, and it comes courtesy of our years of experience. Through time, we have heard so many different examples of ineffective language, so we started writing it all down to create a list of what not to say. It also contains a list of great alternatives to help you move past the language that’s holding you back. Some examples we often hear that just don’t land right are:
- “Would you like to pay today?” Because no one wants to pay, take Jenni’s advice and remove that option. Instead, use “How would you like to take care of today’s investment portion?”
- “We collect at the time of service.” When you instead say, “Let me help you with your investment options for the day of service,” it implies that you’re helping the patient and you’re in it together. It also shows that the money they’re paying isn’t just a payment—it’s an investment in their health.
- “Our office policy is…” The patient needs to know that you’re trying to help them instead of being bound by policy, so tell them, “Let me help you understand how we take care of this in the practice.” It’s all about showing them what you can do for them, especially if you’ve made a change in how you collect money or it’s a new patient used to a different system.
- “We need this upfront.” Instead of merely saying you need a deposit, Christina advises using this opportunity to explain why the deposit is required: “In order to reserve the time in the doctor’s schedule, we’re going to ask you for this amount today, and then we’ll get your appointment scheduled. When you come back, your investment will be…”
One of the coolest aspects of the Say This, Not That resource is that there’s a third section where you can add your own responses and make them your own! The language you use should sound authentic to your practice and not just a script, so use this space to customize the document and make something unique that reflects your voice.
Don’t Fear the Ask
While the language you use matters, the way you say it and the confidence you have while saying it plays a large role. Patients can sense your fear, so have a conversation with your team about their comfort level talking about money to patients. If there’s someone who’s all-in on collections, utilize their strengths and make them the point person. If there’s a lot of uncertainty, you’re going to need to roleplay and practice until everyone becomes comfortable discussing and asking for money.
What makes it even easier is when you have a system in place where the patient is aware of what they’ll owe before they even get to the front desk, because, as Ariel notes, anyone can ask someone to collect if they already know about it. No one likes being surprised with a bill, so implement a system where the patient knows exactly what’s expected of them before they sit down in the chair. Having the financials worked out in advance lets the patient show up comfortable and confident, with the knowledge that you’ve been their advocate through the process.
Collecting Money Isn’t Mean
There’s this belief in dentistry that it’s mean to ask patients for money, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! You’re providing a valuable service to your patients, and it’s worth a monetary amount. Think about when you go to the grocery store—it’s not mean when you have to pay for your groceries, so why would it be mean to pay for dental work? It’s a limiting belief that the work you do doesn’t have value, so throw it out the door and own the fact that these are valuable services that everyone in the practice deserves to be compensated for. To take it a step further, listen to what Kirk says: “Cash is to your practice what oxygen is to the body.” Without that money, the business simply cannot survive, so it’s crucial to get over the fear of asking so the practice can continue.
It’s going to take time to get used to these verbal skills, so come together as a team to brainstorm and practice all the different phrases you can use. The more you practice, the more the fear will disappear, and the more confident you’ll be discussing and collecting money. Download the free ACT Dental Say This, Not That resource today, and use it to create a unique document that will teach your entire team the verbal skills they need to move forward with confidence and collect the money you deserve. For help with how to implement this in your practice, reach out to the ACT team today and let us use our expertise and years of experience to help you build a Better Practice, and a Better Life!
Christina Byrne is the Director of Operations at ACT Dental
Jenni Poulos is a Lead Practice Coach at ACT Dental
Ariel Juday is a Lead Practice Coach at ACT Dental