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a blog by Chris Barrow

Selling what's selling

One consistent piece of feedback from our Q3 workshop tour was that (to quote one client) "Invisalign sales are stuttering."

That observation may well be true of other treatment modalities but, since Invisalign occupy such a large footprint in the dental sales market, they are going to feature in despatches.

Listening to that reminded me of the distinctions between different sources that patients have to cover the cost of their dentistry.

These can be summarised as:

  1. Discretionary income - I'm going to pay for this out of my wages/profits/investment income/pension;

  2. Savings - I'm going to pay for this out of my bank balance/building society/ISA/mattress/share portfolio;

  3. Capital - I'm going to pay for this by releasing equity from property/taking cash from my pension.

Just in case you are thinking that this is a very modern way of looking at the funding of treatment, I'm going to take you back to 1997, and one of my first dental clients.

An individual who you would describe as a high-roller both then and now - lots of very high-value treatment plans for complex dentistry.

Back in the day I was a newbie dental business coach (fresh from 25 years in financial services) and was surprised when he told me that, if a patient couldn't afford his treatment plans from discretionary income or savings, he would simply ask the patient "do you have any equity in your house?" and, if the answer were positive, suggest that they called their IFA or mortgage broker.

In the late 90's we didn't have easy finance options for dental patients, so I suppose I need to add that category to the above list of payment methods.

4. Finance - I'm going to pay for this by taking a short-term loan (which, by the way, is really just a sub-category of discretionary income).

You've swallowed the financial pill for many years on 0% patient finance and taken the hit on profits (something I have consistently argued against). I notice some social media forums carrying a debate on whether patient finance should carry a "normal" interest charge in the current economic cycle.

Given the above, I'd like to suggest that, when deciding on your marketing campaigns for the rest of this year and 2024, you ask yourself "which kind of patient do I want to attract, those who pay for their treatment from source 1., 2., 3., or 4?

Until such time as we move out of this cycle, it is going to be significantly easier to sell to patients who are funding from savings and capital than it is from discretionary income or short-term loans.

That's why Invisalign is stuttering, because the patients who buy it are from categories 1., and 2. - and the cost of living hurts.

Sometimes in business (if I may paraphrase Lord Alan Sugar) it's a good idea to "sell what's selling" and go where the money is.

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