Don’t Just Answer the Question.

answer-the-question-6We all get phone calls and emails from prospective patients looking for a new dentist.  Very often the only question these prospects ask is, “How much is ________ (a cleaning, a crown, an extraction, etc.).”  Another common question is, “Do you take my insurance / discount plan?”

As a private care dentist, I reflexively cringe when I get these questions.  Why?  Because the answer to the question is likely not what the prospective patient wants to hear.  My fees are not “cheap.”  If they’re asking about “price,” then that’s all they care about, right?  Maybe.

If they ask about an insurance plan (I don’t participate in any as a contracted provider), then all they care about is that, right?  Maybe.

Answer the ****ing question!

Oftentimes, it is all they care about.  But, it’s not necessarily the case.  I have heard all the practice management experts suggest that prospects ask those two questions, because it’s all they know to ask.  And, I think that’s true.  BUT…  The experts commonly suggest you effectively avoid the question and try to lure them in for an exam or consultation.  They recommend asking the prospect questions about other things like “which kind of crown are you looking for?”  Or, “Are you looking for a quality dentist?”

And, I’ve even tried these approaches.  They.  Don’t.  Work.  People see through the evasion.  I, as a consumer, HAAATE that Zig Ziglar sales shit.  It’s 2016.  I’ll walk every time someone resorts to that.

Answer the question!  Be honest!  Don’t avoid the question.  People hate that.  But, you can do MORE than just answering the question.

How much would you pay now?

I have found that when it comes to prospects asking about fees, in particular, no answer has resulted in them making an appointment.  If I tell them the fee outright, they move on.  I’m not the cheap guy in town.  If I try the experts’ advice, they also move on.  I don’t think I’ve ever converted one who asked about fees first.  Fees are a tough topic, and while I am jaded at this point, I’m open to any new ideas.  Comment below!

Are you on my plan?

I recently got an email from a prospect through my website.  It was Sunday morning at 10:34 am.


I answered the email in short order.  Sunday 11:07 am.  Answer your emails!!


So, I answered her question directly.  But, I didn’t JUST answer her question.  I mentioned that I have my own savings plan, Quality Dental Plan.  I also asked HER a question.  I asked her a very specific, yet OPEN, question.  I honestly did not expect to hear back.  But, I did!

Sunday 11:40 am:


Again, I replied promptly.   Sunday 12:22 pm.


The following Tuesday, we got this email appointment request:


My office manager called her back and set up an appointment for her AND her mother.  We’ve already received copies of their x-rays from the previous dentist.

The moral of the story:  Even when you think it’s an exercise in futility, try to establish a RAPPORT with the prospective patient.  But, in my opinion, it’s a big mistake to avoid the question as the “experts” advise.   I recommend answering the question, but don’t JUST answer the question.  Ask the prospective patient your own question… one that will start a conversation.

Click here to read a previous blog post about a very similar prospective patient inquiry, where my reply did NOT work.

Chime in with your ideas, successes, and failures in the comments below!

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6 Responses to Don’t Just Answer the Question.

  1. Linda Miles says:

    I agree Mike, don’t avoid the question by asking another question. I, as a consumer hate that tactic too.

    I would recommend saying, “We see patients with various insurance plans and are happy to file their claim forms as a courtesy. We do not however participate in plans that would require Dr. Mike to reduce the time he spends with a patient or the quality of care delivered. Our patients pay at time of service using a credit card. Because we use electronic claims processing their reimbursement is typically back before they receive their next statement. Then I would also mention your QDP which is a great tool as is patient financing such as CareCredit.”

    Or you might say…if they ask WHY we do not participate with their plan: “Dr. Mike has made a commitment to his profession of dentistry and to his patients. He refuses to compromise the care of his patients to the degree that those plans require.”

    NOTE: As we all know….the only way to be profitable with discounted reimbursement is more patients per provider hour and using cheaper materials or labs….also hiring less experienced team and never taking CE! That is compromised care!

    I may have also said: “Mrs. Patient are you looking for the cheapest or the best? I know you can have your dentistry done cheaper but having worked with Dr. Mike for the past two years I also know you can’t have it done better”.

    A few other fee rebuttals: “We’d rather apologize for Dr. Mike’s fees once than the quality of your family’s dental care for a lifetime”.

    Many insurance companies like telling your patients to go to their site and find a dentist in their network. When they called to complain that “My insurance company said your doctor’s fees are too high”. Nicely I would say: “If we had AVERAGE fees, we could only provide AVERAGE care. Our doctor wants the BEST for you and the BEST is a little bit more”.

    Hope on or two of those works for your readers.

  2. Brian K. Van Netta, DDS says:

    Hi Mike. This issue has been hanging over our heads for such a long time. I have had the pleasure of hearing Linda Miles speak at many c.e. courses in my area over the years, and it seems this particular problem isn’t going to be dispatched anytime soon. But, you’ve come the closest to addressing it effectively: be courteous and straight-forward without being defensive. As I have said in previous posts, almost all patients think dental care is too expensive.

    Many times you simply won’t be able to make the patient feel better about it by whipping out a few snappy platitudes as some of the experts suggest. Often times, even the “best” doctors in the “greatest” offices with the “superb” staff members and “state-of-the-art” everything will have off days, compromised care, and things that just outright fail. Then you feel like a complete idiot when the poor outcome just happens to fall on the heels of some of these glib statements.

    After so many years of practice, it just doesn’t pay to engage emotionally with this issue. I simply state (non-defensively) “I think you are worth it”, then let them make their own decision. If you are sincere and always treat people with respect, most of the time the problem is put to rest right there. For those that dig in or are not satisfied, there are many other offices to choose from. For the downright disagreeable, I offer a free tour of my office, which I start by “showing them the door”!

  3. Great article you are right shoot the elephant in the room with the questions and great use of the the porcupine technique!

  4. Shirley says:

    I agree Mike, no one likes it when they feel someone is being deceptive or misleading or avoiding their concerns. I have also found it true that if you are polite and honest with your prospects they will be happy to schedule. On the issue of questions regarding fees, I generally will give them a range and will let them know we have payment options available and would be happy to find a way to make their treatment affordable for them. This has actually converted prospects to patients. You will still experience the “shopper” who will not want to schedule unfortunately. Thank you for your article.

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