How to (really) Grow Your Practice…

This week, Simon shares his observations from his travels over the past few months (presenting and chairing seminars, and visiting new clients) on what really makes the difference between practices that are growing and those that are not.

I recently chaired a seminar for The BDA on “How to Grow Your Practice In Challenging Times”. The seminar’s speakers presented their ideas on growing practices including some interesting sessions on: business strategies, practice profile, value added services, financial management and saving tax, motivating and retaining staff and reviewing your prices to maximise your profits. All important stuff.

Most practices I visit are not growing. Most principals I meet when I’m out visiting their practices for the first time or being invited to speak to groups of dentists, are presiding over practices that are shrinking. Recently, I was invited to speak to the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity (also at BDA Headquarters in London) and a straw poll of the 50 or so dentists in the auditorium revealed that around three quarters of the principals saw their practice turnover fall in 2009 compared to 2008. (I know, I know there’s been a recession!) However, this is the inverse result to the practices that we work with where more than 75% of practice principals saw an increase in their turnover last year…

So, what’s going on?

Well, many practices have improved their physical facilities and many have changed or improved the services they offer. However, many of these practices occupy the same buildings they have for many years, with the same number of surgeries, the same number of clinicians and pretty much the same number of new patients walking through the front door (and the same number of patients quietly leaving the practice each month without stopping to tell anyone). This, ‘managed status quo’ is very common and, in my view, is not ‘growth’, evolution maybe, but not growth in pure business terms.

For me, this is what growth looks like. A practice where the marketing creates in excess of 30 new clients a month, 360 additional clients a year, 1020 additional clients every three years and with effective systems in place to retain all of these clients, new and old, such as an effective Membership Scheme, which everybody joins! This level of growth means that every three years the practice equips a new surgery for a new dentist, hires a hygienist for an additional three days a week and adds an additional £350,000 to it’s turnover. Practices that are truly growing have to expand their facility regularly or even move it into new premises from time to time to keep up with the growth as they experience a steady rise in the both the profit and the asset value of the practice. That’s what I call real growth!

So back to The BDA’s “How to Grow Your Practice In Challenging Times” seminar. The sort of growth I describe is really down to acquiring more new patients every month than the number who leave the practice! And then having a team who can deliver:

  • Effective consultations.
  • Effective treatment plan presentations.
  • Effective techniques for overcoming objections.
  • Effectively closing strategies, that is, ask for the business. (Not “do you want to go home and think about it”!)

Ultimately, this is what makes a practice grow, your marketing strategies important though they are, bring people to your door or onto the end of your phone line. It is selling skills and sales systems that really grow practices!

Whilst you’re thinking about all that, here’s 20 sales prevention strategies:

  1. A web site that doesn’t bring in new patients.
  2. Patients who have no idea what you offer.
  3. No sales support materials.
  4. Nowhere to talk to patients other than in your surgery or at the front desk.
  5. No data on your enquirers, what they want, how they came to you etc..
  6. No effective patient retention systems.
  7. No seasonal offers.
  8. Clinical and reception team lack self confidence and product knowledge.
  9. Lack of payment/credit facilities.
  10. Team members lack selling skills.
  11. Dentists and Team Members have ‘dodgy’ smiles
  12. Dirty premises.
  13. Closing the doors/phone line at lunchtime.
  14. Only having one phone line into your practice and no answering service.
  15. Clinicians go home early because there wasn’t a patient booked.
  16. Eager patients can’t get an appointment.
  17. Chatting to colleagues or eating whilst taking the call.
  18. Having mobile phones on in surgery/at the front desk.
  19. Dentists lurking around the front desk
  20. Inefficient software systems

If you would like some help to really grow your practice, then please contact Ernie on 0845 299 7209 or to discuss and find out more about how we can help you.

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