Heather Nottingham, VP of Training and Phone Skills Instructor at All-Star Dental Academy, joins the show to discuss sizzling-up phone skills. Heather has over 24 years worth of customer service, training, and phone skills experience and designed the All-Star Dental Academy Phone Success course and the GREAT Call® Process. Heather created the GREAT Call® Process through working in a dental practice for so long and having her own system and process. She noticed that the approaches to phone skills were either theoretical or script-based, so she wanted to create something more recipe-like and easier for team members to remember.
HIGHLIGHTS – Phone Skills
- [02:38] The GREAT Call® Process: A Five-Step Process for Successful Patient Conversations
- [04:16] The Benefits of the GREAT Call® Process
- [05:49] Conversation on “Sharing the Sizzle” in Dental Practice Management
- [12:18] Maximizing Phone Skills to Stand Out in the Patient Experience
- [14:13] The Importance of Sharing the Sizzle: How to Train Your Team to Delight Patients
- [19:41] The Value of Proactive Communication in Dental Practice Phone Calls
- [21:44] Improving Office Sizzle Points
- [23:23] Phone Skills and Online Programs for Dental Practices
RESOURCES – Phone Skills
- [WEBINAR] Dental Practice Excellence: 3 Steps to an All-Star Practice
- [E-BOOK] Loving the Phone – Heather Nottingham
QUOTES – Phone Skills
- I would have a meeting and just write down I would have everybody write down what they think their top three sizzle points are for the office or for the doctor. It doesn’t take very long. You can say what are the top three sizzle points? And then go rank them in order of which one you like the best.
- And sizzle isn’t necessarily just on the phones too, I’ll point out. We’re sizzling on our website. So your marketing company has to share the sizzle on your website effectively to get them to call and pick up the phone. But really the first impression, the first opportunity is that first phone call and then the sizzle continues
- The GREAT Call® Process is a five-part process. It’s an acronym. So Great, each letter stands for a different major part of the process. And we just picked an acronym like Great because we want your calls to be great. It’s also easy to remember. So G is the greeting. Then R stands for Rapport. E is Engage the Patient, a is Ask for the Appointment and T is Take information.
About Heather Nottingham
Heather is the VP of Training & Phone Skills Instructor at All-Star Dental Academy. She is a former retail sales trainer and manager for Bloomingdale’s, Kate Spade, and Theory, and a top new patient coordinator for a multi-million-dollar high-end dental practice where she personally increased revenue by over a million dollars in less than 18 months. She has over 24 years worth of customer service, training, and phone experience, and designed the All-Star Dental Academy Phone Success Course as well as the GREAT Call® Process.
About Alex Nottingham JD MBA
Alex is the CEO and Founder of All-Star Dental Academy®. He is a former Tony Robbins top coach and consultant, having worked with companies upwards of $100 million. His passion is to help others create personal wealth and make a positive impact on the people around them. Alex received his Juris Doctor (JD) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Florida International University.
TRANSCRIPT – Phone Skills
Transcript performed by A.I. Please excuse the typos.
[01:19] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: So we’re talking about sizzling up your phone skills. And as I mentioned in the bio, you’re the phone skills instructor. You created the great call process. Actually give us a little bit of background of why you ended up creating the great call process. How did it manifest?
[01:39] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: I think working in the dental practice for so long, and I kind of had my own system and process, but then teaching it to others, I was like, what am I actually doing? And so I had to think about it. And one of the things that I noticed from doing different trainings and coachings and seminars and things like that in the past is whenever it came to phone skills, it was more theoretical. It was like, oh, you say this or you do that. It was either theoretical or it was a script.
And I didn’t like either of those approaches. I felt like I wanted to have something that was very recipe like. I feel like team members, it’s easier for them to remember. They’re not going to remember a script. And if they’re reading something off of a script, it’s going to sound scripted, which sounds robotic and fake. If you have no process, no step by step process, and it’s just theoretical, you don’t really know what to do in what order.
So it’s just really cool verbiage. But if you’re saying it out of context, like, if somebody calls up and says, do you take my insurance? And you’re like, well, you go into this whole thing, but you don’t have a rapport with the patient, it doesn’t work. So the great call process was created specifically because there are certain steps that have to happen in a certain order for it to work. So that’s why we did it like that.
[03:03] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: Well, tell me about the great call process for those many of our members or all of our members know what the great call process is and those that have seen our webinars understand what it is. What is the great call process?
So the great call process is a five part process. It’s an acronym. So Great, each letter stands for a different major part of the process. And we just picked an acronym like Great because we want your calls to be great. It’s also easy to remember. So g is the greeting. Then R stands for Rapport. E is Engage the Patient, a is Ask for the Appointment and T is take information. Or it can be think if you already have their information.
And I remember that we tried for many years different formulas. We tried sales training and that would get a lot of people into the office, but they wouldn’t convert and they would be unhappy because they weren’t getting a clear experience. And what we love about the great call process is it accomplishes both in the sense of it has a direction to it. But you’re building rapport, you’re building a relationship and there’s no miscommunication, there’s nobody upset.
The patient gets the all star patient experience, right?
[04:20] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: And they really need the order works the best. It’s almost like you describe it as a lock and key combination. I talk about it before as a recipe where it’s like if you’re following a recipe, there are certain things you need to do in a certain way. Otherwise if you’re baking a cake, the cake is not going to rise. Like if you put the eggs in after or you do something in the wrong order. It’s the same thing with the great call process.
So we naturally greet the patient. We want to get their name first. That’s a big one that a lot of people don’t do. We want to know who we’re speaking to so we can use their name in conversation. There’s different aspects of the greeting. Then we move into rapport. So we want to have that personal friendly connection. We want to like the patient. We want them to like us. Then once we go into Engage, which is what we’re going to be talking a little bit about today for the Sizzle, you then already have the rapport established, you know who you’re speaking with.
And then it’s easier to kind of talk about some of those tougher questions, talk about price, talk about showing the value when you already have the rapport. If you try and engage the patient off the bat, which is what a lot of offices and team members do, it doesn’t work as well because they’re like, I don’t know you, I don’t like you. I’m just putting the price into I’m commoditizing you, essentially.
So it doesn’t work as well that way, right?
[05:49] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: That’s the example we give in our webinar. We talk about that. Somebody calls and says, what do you charge for veneers or dental implants? And you give them the price and they go, oh, okay, I’ll call back later. Because what happened is they went to answering the question right away and they engaged. And so there’s no rapport built. They didn’t even have a greeting. And they leave price shopper. Now some other offices, what they’ll do is they just won’t answer the question, and that frustrates the patient or the prospect. So we answer the question, but we put it into context, right?
[06:26] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: Yes or no?
[06:27] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: Exactly. And part of this is the shared the sizzle. So share the sizzle is found in the E section of great, correct?
[06:34] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: Correct, yes.
[06:35] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: What is share the sizzle?
[06:37] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: So there’s an old term from the 1920s. It was an old marketing thing called sell the sizzle. They used to say, sell the sizzle, don’t sell the steak. It was like a marketing thing that they would do. And it was really about like if you were going to a steak restaurant, if you just say, yeah, we have this steak, are they going to be interested? But if you describe it, if you kind of give all the juicy details like they were talking about this example that I was watching where they talk about a steak, and it’s the bone and ribeye and it’s juicy and it’s falling off the bone, it’s going to have twice as much flaAr as the regular steak. $20 more people were willing to pay for it because they were showing the value.
We at allstar, we don’t really believe in sales tactics. We’re more about educating. And so we kind of changed it up. And instead of sell the sizzle, it became share the sizzle because we want to share it with them. We want to highlight our practice. We want to talk about that wow factor and the value, but without being super salesy. So that’s where it came from.
[07:47] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: So what are the three attributes? Or what are the attributes about sharing the sizzle? What are they?
[07:54] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: These are just some little things that I came up with in putting together when I would talk to people on the phone. And what we teach in the program as well is it’s kind of like the three S’s of sharing the sizzle. So specific, it has to be specific special and it has to stand out. So kind of three S’s or Ssso stand out. But yeah, it’s really making sure that we so I can go into the three if you want.
[08:32] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: Yeah, we’d love to.
[08:33] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: The first for specific, for example, we want to make sure that we’re really listening to the patient’s wants and needs. So we do that during the rapport section where we’re asking them questions. Tell me more about this. What did you not like about your previous dentist? What are you looking for. If they say that they’re a fear patient, whatever those things are, we want to be listening and taking notes.
So that when we go to do the Sizzle, and one of the things I’ll point out is when we listen to calls it’s from other offices and different things, the Sizzle is one of the biggest things that is missed in terms of missed opportunity that’s not being done. And I think it’s because they either don’t know to do it or they feel uncomfortable doing it. It’s something you have to practice, feel confident in that, you know, these are the things that if somebody asks me, why should I choose your practice? Boom, you know right away.
And you have specific ones for different types of patients. So, for example, if you have a patient that is a fear patient, we’re not going to be talking about cosmetics, we’re not going to be Sizzling on, oh, this doctor is the top cosmetic dentist. We’re not going to be going into descriptions on cosmetic procedures. We’re not going to be going into a lot of detail on anything except how well we’re going to take care of them and all the things that we have to take care of somebody like that.
So for in your dad’s practice, my father in law, it was, oh, you’re a fear patient, we’re going to take great care of you. We have patients like you all the time. I might use the feel felt found verbiage, which is I totally understand how you feel. Patients have felt like this before when they’ve called up. And what we found is when they came here, they were 100% comfortable and they raved about the experience, and now they’re a patient for life.
So that would be something that would be specific to a fear patient. If we have a cosmetic patient, we’re going to talk about what are the benefits, what are the features of the practice, what are the Sizzle points for that type of patient. So it really just depends. That’s where the specific comes into play. So special is the second S. And so with special, we want to make sure that we’re highlighting maybe some different awards, achievements, accolades of the doctor, the hygienist, whatever it is, whoever is the provider.
And this is something for the team that everybody should be talking about. So we’re all aware of what we have as our Sizzle, and we can talk about that a little bit later in terms of implementation. But special would be like if the doctor does a lot of continuing education, if it’s some special award or recognition for whatever it is. So those are different things that the office would individually craft as they’re creating their Sizzle points.
And then the third we talked about is stand out. And to me, that means what makes you unique, what sets your office apart? Because there’s so many dental offices out there, there’s so many choices that patients have. And I think we can stand out by just listening, making sure that we sound like we care about the patient, taking an interest in them, building rapport. So I think some of that happens naturally. Some of the sizzle happens naturally during the call.
It’s not like just checking a bunch of boxes. However, I think that when we get to this part, it’s like, how are we unique? What are we going to do? Maybe that’s like the stake where we’re describing it paint the picture in the patient’s mind of when they come here. It’s like, oh, you’re going to feel like you’re in a relaxing spa atmosphere. It could be telling them that if they’re interested in invisalign, for example, we are the top 1% invisalign provider in this area.
Or hey, I see that you’re interested in implants. Our doctor not only is the top implant provider in this area, he or she actually teaches other doctors implant procedures. So when they’re thinking like, who do I want to go to? Somebody that just does it or somebody that also teaches it to other people. So all of these different things and this is where when we talk about implementation, it’s going to come to talking with each other and practicing and really getting an understanding of what makes the office special, because some team members might not be aware of that.
[0:13:28] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: It sounds like there’s so many missed opportunities on phone skills and this is just one of them. And in our webinar we talk about and I can put a link to the webinar as well. And this is a free webinar. We talk about these opportunities missed. And this is another one. I mean, these are softballs, which means they’re easy to hit or not even that. I don’t think often the team is even aware of it, that this is an opportunity. It’s like, oh my goodness, the patient is waiting for you to say this. Like, we did a webinar with Larry Guzzardo about referrals and that patients are expecting you to ask them and patients are waiting to hear something to delight them about your practice and this is like the stage to do it and here we go.
And it doesn’t happen. And often doctors will get mad at their team, like, gosh, now obviously if they’re rude, that’s a whole personality issue. But they’re like, oh, they miss these opportunities. And the sizzle is a more advanced technique to be aware of. But they’re like, that was an opportunity to say something. And often it’s hard for a dentist to kind of say, tell them how great I am, because they feel a little bit uncomfortable about that. You can’t get upset at the team because you have to ask yourself, did you train them?
Did you provide them the support and not just the information? They can say, oh, listen to this podcast with Heather and now everything is fixed. No, because we’re talking about her phone skills course in our online training program is the most comprehensive detail course in the market. Not even close.
[0:15:04] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: And sizzle isn’t necessarily just on the phones too, I’ll point out. We’re sizzling on our website. So your marketing company has to share the sizzle on your website effectively to get them to call and pick up the phone. But really the first impression, the first opportunity is that first phone call and then the sizzle continues. Not just in the first phone call, but when we’re getting them to schedule an appointment, when we want to make sure they show up for the appointment, when they’re in the chair. I can’t tell you how many times patients in the chair, they’re sitting there and they say, why should I do my treatment with you?
Or even more so, what happens? And doctors might not be aware of this, doctor presents treatment, doctor leaves the room. Patient turns to the assistant and says, so what do you think about all this? Why should I come here? And then if the assistant is like, well, it’s not going to happen. So that all makes a big impact. So it’s really we got to all be sharing the sizzle. And we can’t have amazing person at the front answering the phone.
[0:16:15] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: But then the clinical team doesn’t know the sizzle either.
[0:16:18] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: The marketing companies will often say that without proper phone skills, it’s a waste, the marketing. And often they’ll push clients away saying, if you’re not doing the investment that it’s really not worth our time and risk. Now, just picking up what I was saying before. So you say, okay, well, we have the information, we see it. That’s number one. We have to have awareness is number one. Then we the information.
Then you have to train. And training is also role playing, practicing, being ready. And team members will often say in doctors, I know. OOH, we hate hearing that. I know already. I’ve heard that already. Well, you got to hear it again. Repetition is a mother of skill. And then demonstrate you can do it. Oh, that’s easy. Okay, role play, go do it. And they’d be like, what? What do I do? And when you put a real patient on the phone, they go back to the old way.
They’re not thinking. So it’s easy in theory, but in practice it takes a lot of time. So people listening. Now you’re saying, oh Heather, it sounds so easy. What she’s doing? Well for this podcast she prepared and she even wrote the course on it.
[0:17:36] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: And I still am coached and still practice and review my stuff. It’s not like, oh, I got it, I’m done.
[0:17:45] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: You got to always be improving. What should team members know about the sizzle, sharing the sizzle?
[0:17:53] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: I think that there’s two scenarios that happen. The first scenario is that a patient will outright ask, what sets your office apart? Why should I choose you. I heard a call a few months ago, great doctor, really nice. Beautiful practice in the south, which they’re always charming. And the patient called up. She was a fear patient. She was interested in an implant. She said price was no issue for her.
She’s like, I don’t care what the cost is. I was supposed to get my treatment done in another office. Didn’t feel comfortable there. Didn’t feel like they cared. It was disorganized. So I’m not moving forward with that office. I’m looking for another office. And she asked the girl on the phone, and the girl could not be less warm. It was like, oh, it was so easy. Like, oh, we’re going to take great care of you. You want to hear that empathy in the Aice and that genuine care, that understanding, and make her feel comfortable.
And the girl was just like, yeah, okay. And I was like, oh, my gosh. And then when the missed opportunities, I’m so patient asked, why should I come to you? Is your doctor good? She said, yeah, my doctor’s good. He’s really nice. I see him myself. And I was like, I hope you see your own doctor if you work there. That’s not a good sizzle. So, I mean, that was a huge missed opportunity. So we have to be prepared if the patient asks that, whether they’re asking over the phone, in the chair, whatever.
However, the biggest missed opportunity, I think, is oftentimes the patient doesn’t ask that question, but they’re still thinking it, right? So we have to proactively talk about that and say, let me tell you a little bit about our office, right? Because sometimes they want to know the price, or they want to know different questions like that. You have to put the price in context, especially if you’re a fee for service office or you’re out of network, whatever.
You have to show the value that this is what we’re going to do. This is how we’re going to take care of you. Then we talk about those other things. Once we’ve built Rapport and we’ve shared the sizzle and put the price in context, then it’s like, well, wow, I get all that. I feel like I’m coming to a spa, so it doesn’t make it as difficult. And then once they get to that point, the price isn’t as big of a deal.
So those are the major things I would say for team members to be aware of is to practice and say it proactively, get comfortable being a cheerleader for the office and for the doctor, because people will pick up on that if you don’t feel confident about it and if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Like, if you just say your doctor’s nice, that’s sharing the stake. He’s a great dentist. Everybody says they’re a great dentist. You know what I mean? So you can’t just use that.
[0:21:10] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: You have to be more specific.
[0:21:12] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: Yeah, it’s generic. It doesn’t stand out. I think of another theme called The Silent Killers and we talk about that in our Dental Practice Excellence webinar. And as you can see, you may not have been aware of this, and we’re just talking about one aspect of the phone call that you’re not aware of. And they’re huge missed opportunities because they’re guised in. They’re so nice, they’re so good to the patients, they’re so sweet.
But as you can see, they’re missing opportunities. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from just these phone skills mistakes. That’s why we call them silent, because they’re not apparent, they’re not in your face. Heather, what would be one thing that we can put in tomorrow to improve the sizzle tomorrow? What’s one simple thing the doctor can do just on the sizzle tomorrow with their team?
[0:22:14] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: I would have a meeting and just write down I would have everybody write down what they think their top three sizzle points are for the office or for the doctor. It doesn’t take very long. You can say what are the top three sizzle points? And then go rank them in order of which one you like the best. I think that’s a simple topic to cover at a meeting because you can kind of get a sense of what does everybody think our Sizzle is for the office if they’re tasked to do it on their own?
I would say if I asked you, what are your top three things that set our office apart, what would it be? And then have everybody write it down and just quickly go over them. And maybe you could do a workshop method where you put it on the board and then you rank them and everybody can kind of Ate on their top ones. But it’s interesting to see some people might not have very specific ones. Oh, our doctor is really nice. It’s a family atmosphere.
[0:23:14] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: You kind of see there’s ones that a lot of people will say and we want to make sure that okay, we can take that, but expand on it.
[0:23:23] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: Yeah, our online program, you discuss that in your course, what to do, how to do it, and they take quizzes and they get feedback on that. I also would suggest that those who are not members great to be members. You can also, depending on which way you’re consuming this information, whether you’re listening on your podcast, whether you’re following us on the social media channels because we post every day, we have a little snippet, 1 minute snippet of some of these interviews and then we link to the entire interview. Plus we’re on YouTube, so you can get the video version or audio and share with your team. This is a great one to share. And Heather can teach your team this, a little sizzle so that can be helpful in the training.
The next step I would recommend for all of you, there are some two resources I’m going to put in the show notes. One is Loving the Phone, which is an ebook, one of the many ebooks that Heather wrote that you can get. And there’s also the Dental Practice Excellence webinar that I do several times a week where we talk about phone skills, broken appointments, turnover, a lot of these areas to combat the silent killers and.
[0:24:38] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: To help grow your practice, the online program. We also have 22 plus roleplay examples.
[0:24:44] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: Oh, good point.
And we go through the roleplays as well as the transcripts of those so you can see what are we saying? There’s a lot of really good sizzle examples in there. So if you don’t have good ones, you can look at those and those will be helpful.
[0:25:02] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: That is a good point, because you have the model, you have the transcripts. So we’re not big and we can do another webinar or another podcast on scripts versus verbiage, because you want verbiage, not scripts. It’s a whole nother thing.
[0:25:14] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: Yeah, you don’t want to read it verbatim, but it gives you a guide.
[0:25:18] ALEX NOTTINGHAM: To handle all these situations, which you have alluded to. And you have done so very good. Thank you, Heather, so much for being on the show. And we’ll have you again next month.
[0:25:31] HEATHER NOTTINGHAM: Yay. Thanks for having me. Bye everybody.