Dare We Talk of Money?

Talk of Money and Piggy bank with dollars

The question of how we talk of money on the phone has been around for years. How do you approach it?

Do we take an absolute stance to never talk about cost on the phones? Should we claim ignorance? What about quoting a range? And how about speaking of payment arrangements?

Setting the Scene

When a potential customer calls asking for a quote or cost range for treatment we immediately feel perspiration beading up on our foreheads. The verbal tap dance begins and many feign ignorance of what anything could cost.

More likely than not the majority of callers have a general idea of cost. They have Googled it, asked around, or have already had a quote provided.

So then…what’s the big deal with the question and this talk of money? What is the question behind the question? That is what we should be asking ourselves and addressing.

Invariably this is a way to ask if you are affordable. Don’t miss this! By not addressing the actual question you risk the provided opportunity to demystify how you can work with them making your services possible in light of their monthly budget. You have not removed a critical barrier to entry for them.

Let’s discuss the various strategies that get used when the talk of money and cost invades the initial call.

Free Ranging

While “free ranging” is a good idea when shopping for eggs and meats, it is not a wise option to the cost question on the first phone call.

When I hear a free-ranging reply it is always with cost ranges way to broad as to CYA. It tends to sound like: “Well…it can be anywhere from $2000 to $8000 for braces.”

Oh my! In an effort to cover any option possible the free-ranging team member has done a great job of scaring away those who don’t have a lot of funds set aside. Conversely, the deal maker will be upset with a final quote anywhere above the low-ball $2000.

Don’t put yourself in this spot.

Amnesia

Oh, the affliction of amnesia…how sad it is…especially when it is not genuine. Unfortunately, this is the way our front desk teams are taught to act out. But this does not evoke trust.

The tap dance of acting as if you do not know the typical costs for treatment come across as just that…acting. The caller knows you know and to pretend otherwise does not foster trust inn the relationship.

One form of this is palatable. It is when you do not dodge the question but rather inform the caller: “There are various factors that impact the cost of treatment and during your free consultation the doctor reviews your case we will provide you all the information about any recommended treatment. Let’s go ahead and get you scheduled for your complimentary exam.”

Validator

Ah, this is what we want. We want someone to see beyond the verbal question and validate the unspoken question…the issue of affordability.

In this instance, we still mention there are various factors impacting the total investment of treatment, but also add, “what I can tell you is that we are very successful in working with so many families to get down payments as low as $xxx and monthlies as low as $xxx. Would that work for you?”

Then guide the caller to make the appointment.

You have now removed a barrier to entry. And you have also provided social proof of helping other families.

Summary

Do not let the talk of money cause anxiety. Also, remember we do not want to be quoting fee ranges or pretending we have no idea what our offices charges. Neither approach addresses the real concern of the caller, which is affordability.

Answer the unspoken affordability question. Discuss what dollar amounts will be used by the team. Then you can let the inquisitive caller know you have been very successful working with many families to get down payments as low as $xxx and monthlies as low as $xxx. The other details will be covered in the complimentary exam so go ahead an get them scheduled to come on in.

5 Categories of Questions

5 Categories of Questions and question marks

There are several categories of questions from which we can draw. In our businesses and our lives, we must realize there is more than one way to ask a question. We need to know which type is most effective. Today we will elaborate on five categories of questions.

The five categories of questions are:

  • Permission
  • Clarifying
  • Discovery
  • Leading
  • Wishing

“If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.”

W Edwards Deming

Permission

We use permission questions at the beginning of our customer interactions. A common one is: “How may I help you?”

Other times we use permission questions are when we need to place a caller on hold (“May I place you on a brief hold?”) or begin a series of questions (“May I ask you a few questions?”).

Notice the use of, “May I”. Politeness is a key component of these type of questions.

Clarifying

Clarifying questions are used predominantly as we exchange information. They help ensure understanding and accuracy.

A common use is when repeating back hear information and adding on, “Did I get that correct?”

Or, if we want to validate our listener captured the essence of our message we may ask, “Do you have any questions about what we discussed?”

Understanding and validation are the goals of these questions.

Discovery

While we use discovery questions throughout interactions with our team and customers, they are used heavily on inquiry calls. The challenge is obtaining a proper ratio of close-ended versus open-ended questions.

Close-ended questions saturate most inquiry calls. This staccato and ping-pong effect of question-answer, question-reply is why many calls sound as if we are going down a list or tabbing through computer screens. (Oh, please tell me you aren’t taking these crucial calls on the computer!)

But by adding strategically placed open-ended questions throughout the inquiry call you create space to uncover valuable information. It also fosters the relationship by demonstrating a greater curiosity about them. Finally, it sure feels better offering information than having it extracted.

Think about it…would you rather answer the typical, “Name? DOB? Address? Phone number? Who referred you?”…or experience a greater free-flow and exchange of information with the following inserted throughout a call, “What prompted you to give us a call today?” and “Is there anything else we can do to make your first visit more comfortable?”

Leading

A well-crafted leading question helps guide the respondent to the intended reply and desired answer. This is a form of influence…or persuasion.

There are times this in not appropriate and why judges call out attorneys for “leading the witness”. But for our offices there are times we need to guide and influence our customers into the options we provide.

Using a leading question is most effective in our offices when needing to schedule customer appointments. After offering two choices, we ask, “Which one works best for you?” The use of “which one” implies a limited resource and option. Compare this to asking, “Do either one work?” as if the provided options emerged from a limitless pool of possibilities.

Wishing

Wishing is a type of question, but it is heading down the slippery slope toward pleading. That is not where we want to go.

Wishing tends to end with, “Ok?” and a near sing-song lilt.

This pattern can slip into our questions and it then devalues our position. Do you know where this is so commonly heard?

child on playground

You’ve got it…the playground!

Have you heard the wishing parent? “Johnny, we are going to go soon. Ok?” Can’t you see the scrunched face and hunched shoulders and hear the wishful lilt in the voice?

It is so easy to change the wish to a clarification. Try this: “Johnny, we are going to go in 5 minutes. Do you understand?”

We must do the same and even elevate it to a leading question. Instead of asking, “Mrs. Jones, when do you want to come in?” change it to, “Mrs. Jones, the doctor has [Option A or B]. Which one works best for you?”

Summary

Be intentional with your questions. Empower your teams by teaching them about these five categories of questions and provide examples. Finally, practice and provide constructive feedback on the effective selection and use of the questions.

“If you want the answer – ask the question.”

Lorii Myers

But let’s add to the quotation…ask the right type of question.

“It’s too…(hard, busy…)”

Picture of cheese as a play on cheese with a complaining whine.

Do you need some cheese with that “whine”? We have likely heard this play on the phrase “wine and cheese” when someone is whining. Our team members are not immune to it…and neither are we.

But let’s face it, phrases that start with, “It’s too…[hard, busy, new, different]” usually equate to one thing…a whine or EXCUSE.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Willingness is a key component of change and growth. Without it, even the most capable person wallows in mediocrity or stagnates their progress.

In order to overcome a challenge or obstacle, we must apply willingness. When I see stories in the news or posts on Facebook of individuals overcoming impossible odds, such as Nick Vujicic, Aldo Amenta, or Anna Sarol, our willingness seems pale by comparison.

“In order to accomplish something, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish it.”

Mike Hernacki

Now I’m not saying this is to do anything illegal but let’s take it to where the rubber meets the road in our offices with two examples of what we can do to foster success.

“It’s too hard to remember.”

Really? I know the change of a habit is not easy but we can prepare in advance.

An example of this is when I hear some individuals needing to exchange one word in their greeting. The culprit is the word “can” instead of “may.” The last part of our introduction should be, “How may I help you?”

And why do we say “may”? “May” is a permission word and “can” is an ability word. You may remember this from your grade school days when you asked your teacher to leave the room to go to the bathroom. You may have said, “Can I go to the bathroom?” to which your teacher sarcastically responded, “I don’t know…CAN you?”

Then you would make the exchange to use the correct word and repeat yourself by saying, “May I go to the bathroom?” Then your teacher would grant you permission.

The same happens on the phone. We have teachers and English majors calling our offices and though they may not say the sarcastic response out loud, I can guarantee they are saying it in their head. So, exchange the word and remove an unnecessary hurdle. Say it correctly and demonstrate you take care of even the little details to get them accurate.

What can you do? Create a reminder…a sticky note to be placed at your phone. That way we set ourselves up for success as we exchange one habit for another. (For more on exchanging habits, refer to Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.)

“We’re too busy to take an inquiry call on paper first.”

Here is another one. When I hear this whine or excuse, it cries the need for a checklist. Checklists are invaluable as a safety net ensuring nothing is missed, and they serve as a communication and trust tool allowing anyone to notice, at a glance, the status of the process.

It is said best in The Checklist Manifesto that checklists:

…provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us – flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness.

Atul Gawande

The debate over taking an initial call directly into the computer versus on paper doesn’t seem to go away. A summary of the debate can be obtained here.

But that is not the point here. We want to apply willingness to create the best first call experience while not forgetting to input the details into our system. So what do we need to ensure we do what it takes to make it excellent and without error? A checklist!

Create a checklist and stick to it. Not only will your callers have a better experience, but you can then move some of the tasks on the list to a quieter time of the day, allowing for level loading of work capacity. Checklists are critical to your office’s playbook of success.

Summary

Watch out for when a whine or excuse bubbles up in your office. A key indicator of them is hearing phrases start with, “It’s too…”

Finally, apply true willingness to overcome the obstacle. Do what it takes! A couple of examples are reminders and checklists. Do so and you will set the environment for excellence!