Our coaching team hears the dreaded word a lot. “Callers who ask about price are just shoppers. Too much trouble to deal with.”
And look, we get it. Your dream dental patient probably has good insurance, a comfortable income, and is more interested in scheduling your first available appointment than digging into details you’d rather handle during an in-person conversation with your treatment coordinator.
Plus, as a call handler, being asked about price feels uncomfortable — especially if you don’t know how to answer the question.
But since almost all of us have to be price-conscious in our own lives, it’s hardly fair to expect different from potential patients. Would you spend thousands without asking a few questions?
Of course not. So we strongly suggest that if you, too, shudder at the thought of shoppers, you take a moment to reconsider.
Put yourself in your patient’s shoes
For starters, let’s remember one thing: It’s not easy to be a patient. Even if you’re going in for the most routine cleaning and exam, you’re putting yourself in a physically and emotionally vulnerable position.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, a child or a grown adult, you’ll be poked, prodded, and asked intimate questions about your health.
And when the dentist steps into the room to share the results of your exam, you don’t know how your life is going to be affected. But you do know that the news could be significant — as could the impact on your wallet.
Small wonder that 36 percent of patients are afraid of going to the dentist and 12 percent describe themselves as facing extreme fear.
That’s one reason that creating a gentle, welcoming new patient experience is so essential. And that experience should start when you first answer the phone. An amazing in-office environment doesn’t mean as much if you make potential patients first navigate a gauntlet of hostile “we don’t talk about price over the phone” comments.
Not unless you want them to feel dismissed and even ashamed before ever setting foot through your doors.
(We’ve listened to literally thousands of new patient phone calls and the moment you wave away a potential patient’s question about how much a filling or a crown costs, you can hear a change in their voice. They know you’re not taking them seriously. And they usually end the call a few seconds later.)
Drop your preconceptions
Imagine two callers. Patient A asks if you offer same-day crowns and when you answer yes, immediately books an appointment. Patient B leads with the same question, but when you say, yes, we do, she asks you how much?
Now ask yourself: What assumptions have you already made about these two patients? You’re probably thinking Patient A must be easily able to afford to spend thousands on treatment while writing Patient B off as a shopper who may not be in a position to pay for treatment at all. You may even be subconsciously slapping the “difficult patient” label on Patient B.
Are you right about any of this? Maybe, maybe not. The truth is that you have no idea and you won’t — until you actually meet the patient and present a treatment plan.
Try leaving room for that not-knowing.
Most dental practices don’t know how to talk about price on the phone
Now, we’re not trying to give anyone a hard time here. Another reason so many front desk teams struggle with pricing questions is that those questions are not easy to answer — at least if you don’t have training.
In fact, more call handlers have difficulty answering pricing calls than those on any other topic. And the reason why is incredibly human: because when a patient asks about price, the call handler often starts to feel as anxious as the patient does.
If you’ve taken more than a small handful of pricing questions over the phone yourself, you know this stage of the call is a big deal. And you’re probably familiar with how quickly you can lose the caller if you say the wrong thing, so you’re feeling the pressure.
In other words, both you and the caller are feeling the heat here. But unfortunately, your discomfort will quickly become theirs — unless you know what to say.
How to answer pricing questions over the phone
Fortunately, pricing questions don’t have to be uncomfortable for either you or your potential patients.
In fact, by implementing a sensible call strategy and getting in some practice reps, you’ll quickly feel confident and capable whenever a patient brings up price — or any other tricky question. Even better, you’ll be able to convert most of those callers into scheduled appointments.
Here are some best practices to try:
Redirect pricing questions
Just because a patient asks about price doesn’t mean you have to answer right away. Instead, take charge of the direction of the call by positioning yourself as the one asking questions.
Especially if a patient brings up price early in the call, before you’ve had the chance to build rapport, redirect by saying something like:
“Great question! While I’m checking on that for you, may I ask you…”
Now you can engage them further before circling back to their pricing question.
Speaking of that further engagement, the more rapport you create with a caller, the more air you take out of the pricing question. Try questions like these to help you better understand your potential patient and help them share their story:
- Who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?
- Who can we thank for referring you?
- What’s bringing you in?
- Are you having pain?
- How long has this been going on?
- And above all else: tell me more about this…
That last question is so important because it’s open-ended. By being genuinely curious and giving the caller the opportunity to open up, you’re showing respect and empathy, which goes a long way towards creating real rapport.
Lead to scheduling
Once you’ve redirected the initial pricing question and spent some time building rapport, you need to drive the call towards scheduling an appointment. This is where you can talk about how you can’t give an accurate price until your doctor has had the opportunity to do an exam and determine what kind of treatment is needed.
If a patient pushes you, try asking specific questions about the kind of treatment they’re looking for. For example, you might ask:
Is the tooth damaged enough to need a filling, an inlay, an onlay, or a crown?
When the patient inevitably can’t answer, you can steer them towards an appointment by explaining that your doctor can help them answer that question during an exam and then ask:
So when is a good time for you to come in — mornings or afternoons?
Take pricing questions as an opportunity to talk about financing
Pricing questions are also an opportunity to talk about your financing options. Whether you work with Sunbit, CareCredit, or another major lender, or offer in-house financing, letting patients know you can help them finance treatment can go a long way towards alleviating anxiety.
Paying for a crown — or even larger treatment like Invisalign — may feel a lot less intimidating for many patients if they understand they can do it in manageable monthly installments. So take the time to develop language you use to discuss financing and role play with your call team so they’re comfortable having those conversations.
The goal is to assure potential patients that you will help them get the care they need.
Schedule 80% of your new patient phone calls
The average dental practice schedules between 40% and 60% of new patient phone calls. If you want to hit 80% or better, we can help.
Our coaching team has taught thousands of front desk pros how to master each step of the new patient phone call so that their practices see more new patients without spending a dime extra on marketing. Click here to learn how we can do the same for you.