Communicating with heart in business: What I’ve learned from working with dentists
Since that happy day I was released from cubicle warfare post mining boom, elevating my side hustle to a ‘real thing’, I’ve worked with all kinds of technical professionals and business owners.
The engineers and scientists of the corporate world were progressively superseded by doctors, demolition companies, travel companies, business coaches, venture capitalists, orthodontists – and a surprising number of dentists.
A single fortuitous referral to one dentist organically led to another. And then another. Before I knew it, I became a content creator for dentists.
Websites, blogs, reactivation campaigns, phone messages, articles and ads. If a dentist needs some form of content, I’ve probably written it.
This experience, while forming valuable and greatly appreciated development of my business, was not what I would have predicted for myself in the world of creating content with heart.
What I learned though is dentists are very much like other business owners who are technical professionals. Often exceptionally good at what they do, they aren’t necessarily fluent in translating what they know into the language an average patient can understand and relate to.
That said, and to my surprise, our collaboration has been a wonderful learning curve. And I think it would be fair to say, the feeling is mutual. Read on to learn why.
Why dentists are communicating with heart in business (and why you may have noticed)
Let’s face it, dentists aren’t the most loved medical professionals in the world, are they? In fact, ask just about anyone and there’s a chance they’ll share a dental horror story or two. Whether fact or fiction, these experiences often loom large. Based on a deep fear of dentists, or simply going to the dentist, these stories and fears can prevent a person from having the courage to get along and receive treatment they truly need.
This is problematic. In working with dentists I’ve learned many serious dental issues are silent and can advance to a point where remedial treatment is both costly and complex.
It’s also tricky because these limiting perceptions influence how patients feel, even before they pick up the phone to book an appointment.
Fortunately, dentists overall are a hardy bunch.
I mean, imagine how you’d feel regularly hearing: I hate coming here. It’s nothing personal, I just hate going to the dentist.
It’s highly improbable we’ll go to our favourite coffee haunt and say: I hate trendy cafes. It’s nothing personal, I just don’t like baristas.
Not quite the same thing, right?
For those among us with sensitive skins, this kind of feedback can leave a person feeling, well, less than appreciated.
Add to this overarching PR challenge, significant market changes which have impacted the way dentistry is practised now.
Without wanting to over simplify things, post-GFC, the working world for dentists changed dramatically, as it did for many others. A perfect storm saw the convergence of big corporate dentistry, dental tourism, and an oversupply of dentists among other things. In short, it swiftly ended the guaranteed patient flow to which dentists of a certain age had become accustomed.
As with many challenges holding the potential for transformation, there was no easy fix for this new operating environment.
For dentists it’s taken years of solid work to adjust, recalibrating the way things are done. Apart from navigating the day to day operational demands of ensuring quality care, a professional team, and profitability, dental business owners have had to up their communication game too. The days of trite clinical conversations were over if you wanted to succeed.
Now dentists need a distinctive brand, visually appealing websites with the power to attract and convert visitors. They’ve needed to develop a high functioning team aligned to their values. Their personal one-to-one communication undergone an evolution too.
Many dentists have learned they must extend their repertoire beyond the physical care they provide patients. Through hard won lessons they’ve discovered it’s simply not enough to be technically proficient. Nor is it enough to rely on extensive external marketing. No, instead, they’ve had to go within and dig for gold – a distinguishing characteristic of conscious communication – or communicating with heart in business.
Rather than only sourcing new patients, there’s been a pressing need to cultivate enduring, meaningful relationships with their existing base of patients. New patient flow will always be a part of a dentist’s marketing strategy, but it is no longer the only part. In the words of Dr Jesse Green, Australia’s leading dental coach, “Traditional marketing alone just won’t work.”
In his book Retention, Jesse also notes: “Boring marketing messages published by most dentists are also related to the reluctance of dentists to express their point of difference. Many dentists with whom I have discussed marketing, have told me this reluctance stems from concerns about how they’ll be perceived by their peers.”
Why feelings are part of communicating (with heart) in business
This reluctance is not peculiar to dentists. I’ve found most technical professionals share this unwillingness to communicate what makes them special. Like their patients, they have fears too.
What will people [patients, peers, my family] think?
Is communicating with heart appropriate in business?
What do you mean by feelings?
However, it is in bravely communicating with heart that we – and our business – become more personable, relatable, and accessible. It is how we connect.
If you’re a dentist, here’s what communicating with heart looks like.
You communicate in the language and values of your patients. Instead of pretending people aren’t scared of the dentist, you acknowledge the very real dental fears people have. You then become willing to share their solutions in ways that have meaning for their patients.
Pain-free treatment. No need to worry about needles and anaesthetics that don’t work.
A warm and welcoming environment. Good-bye to sterile clinical bright lights and dental noises.
A wonderful team. Hello friendly cheerful staff who remember your name.
A fun experience. Yes, going to the dentist can be fun. In fact, dentists tell some of the funniest jokes. Who knew?
Genuine understanding and a judgement-free zone. Feel supported and encouraged, not overwhelmed with shame and guilt.
Side note: Did you know lots of people don’t go to the dentist because they’re embarrassed about their teeth or smile. Actually, this is the very reason they should make an appointment immediately.
Communicating with heart in business = loyalty
Every dentist I’ve worked with has a genuine, deep and heartfelt desire to be of service to their patients. Yes, they may have studied dentistry because they had the grades or their dad or mum was a dentist. But after practising a while, they learned dentistry done right can transform a person, not just aesthetically, but from the inside out too.
Because of the challenging environment in which dentists now do business, they’ve been compelled to learn communication from this deeper inspiration for their work. Perhaps uncomfortably at first, but as their confidence and certainty has grown, so too has patient loyalty. Communicating from the heart brings a coherence to their work. In fact, the work of Dr Joe Dispenza scientifically proves communicating in a state of heart coherence creates resonance.
If we translate this to business, the results are every bit as real. If you’re a dentist, you might see it show up in different ways.
Less need to convince patients of treatment. Instead, they feel a deep trust in their dentist. In fact, their dentist becomes part of their personal team, providing a more rounded form of healthcare.
Improved patient outcomes as treatment is delivered in time and more cost effectively. Serious conditions, including oral cancer can be detected and avoided.
Enthusiastic referrals from patients who want to tell those they care for that they can have the same experience. And don’t all businesses want more word-of-mouth referrals?
Communicating with heart in business is not over-sharing inappropriately, flaky, or being inauthentic to attract attention. However, it is communicating more consciously and with awareness to create genuine, lasting connections. It shows you’ve listened and that you truly care.
Regardless of your business or profession, there is space – and a pressing need – for communicating with heart via conscious communication. Try it and you’ll discover a different business evolves.