The Power of "Yes"
Empowering your practice to embrace its potential
Marvin Berlin, DDS
In your career and in life in general, attitude is the ultimate determinate of your level of fulfillment. As a dentist, you have already learned and implemented the skills and knowledge required to provide effective dental care. However, to find overall success in dentistry, you will need more than what you were taught in dental school. You will need to develop the right attitude—a yes attitude.
No matter what their business, some of the most successful people out there are yes people. These are not people who are agreeable in order to avoid conflict and gain approval. These individuals have a yes mindset; they take the extra step in everything they do in order to benefit others and improve themselves both personally and professionally. Unlike those who say “no” to everyone and everything, yes people are positive, open, and committed, which gives them much more overall potential to succeed.
My team’s yes mindset originated in 2005 with the founding of McKinneyDentist.com®, which was created in response to a string of conversations overheard in the front desk area. Even without hearing the caller’s questions, the responses painted a clear picture: “No, you can’t get your teeth cleaned, you might have gum disease”; “No, you have to have an exam first”; “No, you have to have X-rays”; “No, no first visit cleanings”; “No, no no!”
According to the business assistant manning the phones, these types of conversations were extremely common. One of the main reasons for the deluge of “no’s” was that when most new patients called the practice for the first time, their first question was, “Can I get my teeth cleaned?” Since dental school, dentists have been conditioned to answering that question with a “no”—however once these patients heard that answer, they would simply hang up and seek treatment elsewhere. We were spending hard-earned marketing dollars to get the phone to ring and then sending potential patients away because of some old dental school rule. That was when I decided we would stop saying “no.”
A Better Way
Instead of living by that old cliché “no first-visit prophies,” the dental team tried saying “yes” for a change. It was a wild success. Our patients liked hearing that word, and they appreciated being able to get a cleaning on their first visit or have a painful tooth treated prior to undergoing a full comprehensive exam. This was how our “Say Yes” mantra was born, and where we discovered that listening to patients and addressing their immediate concerns works much better than bullying them into doing what you want to do. The imperative is now to do what’s best for every patient right away. This has been an office staple from the early days, and something we’re encouraged to focus on even more since becoming supported by Heartland Dental.
Patients want to be treated like people. They want someone who sincerely empathizes with their situation and cares enough to help right away. When they are sick or in pain, they want relief now, not in two weeks or in a month. Listen to what patients want instead of telling them what they need. When a practice cannot—or will not—provide the care a patient is searching for, he or she will gladly find one that can.
Sometimes working treatment like this into your day is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. You might have to work through lunch. You won’t be able to check your email or return calls and texts as quickly. But if you miss opportunity the first time, it doesn’t always knock again. Making the most out of every opportunity is key to maximizing your production and more importantly, best serving your patients.
If a patient calls complaining of a tooth pain, say, “Yes, we can take care of you now, how soon can you get here?” If the occasional patient wants a prophy prior to having an exam, say, “Yes.” You will have their medical history and can spot probe when they arrive. Then, use the cleaning time to build a relationship, gain trust, and, most importantly, educate the patient on the benefits of lifetime, comprehensive dentistry. In doing so, you can create patients for life.
I used to believe that one should never do a prophy without an exam. Over the years, I’ve learned that meeting patients where they are is a great way to initiate them into a practice and into lifetime care. Remember, these will be occasional situations requiring only simple mental flexibility.
Lead Your Team
Developing a yes attitude will also help you become a better leader in the eyes of your team. Be approachable. Be confident. Be the person who your team turns to for encouragement and insight. Your willingness to go above and beyond for everyone will go a long way in building trust. It is also a great way to evaluate your team’s mindset and help them develop an open, positive, and mentally flexible attitude.
Few offices today operate on rigid schedules; life happens. Some patients are going to reschedule and some are going to unexpectedly call in. Many dentists think they are entitled to smooth schedules, no cancelations, and patients who comply with all recommendations. While that would be wonderful, this is a major cause of stress and disappointment in the industry and it is not how the vast majority of the public realistically functions. Ensure your team is ready to embrace the chaos and say yes to these turbulent times when needed.
Saying “yes” also opens your practice up to new challenges and growth. None of us begin our dental careers as experts. It is only by remaining open to new opportunities and applying ourselves in areas outside of our comfort zones that we are able to progress. There will be mistakes along the way, however, they are a necessity of growth. If you let fear hold you back, you will miss out on invaluable opportunities that will enrich your life.
Sure, taking chances will seem intimidating and going out of your way to accommodate the needs of all patients will mean more work. But say yes. You won’t regret it.
About the Author
Marvin Berlin, DDS, is a senior dentist at McKinneyDentist.com, as well as a supported dentist and clinical director at Heartland Dental.