When Upselling Becomes Overselling

A few weeks ago Lynette returned from the family dentist with a referral to an orthodontist. She needed one of her teeth moved before she could get some more work done by our dentist. We confirmed her appointment for later that week. I went with her as I always like to meet people in the industry.

We both had heard of the practice from friends, but had never visited it before. The suburban practice is a freestanding brass and glass operation with ample parking and beautiful landscaping. The interior was a spacious and well-designed with all the amenities; the kind of place where waiting is not a chore, but a pleasure.

The doctor himself came out and introduced himself and took us back to the patient conference room. We did not go to the exam room initially, which surprised me. He had a very friendly demeanor and a smooth presentation. He did not examine her mouth, and barely mentioned the reason for our visit. Before we got to that, he wanted to give us an orientation of the services he could offer her.

Since she had filled out an initial questionnaire, he mentioned that she had never had been tested for sleep apnea. He asked her a few questions about it, and went into the dangers of undiagnosed apnea. (Since I have sleep apnea, she is more than familiar with the condition and its treatments.)

After that, he went into the cosmetic services available at his facility. He handed us the glossy informational trifold. Some of the following appeared on the list: Massage chairs, chairside hand massage, Botox injections, scheduled whitening packages, veneers, full mouth reconstruction…etc.

By then end of the 30-minute visit orientation we had seen and heard about everything they offered, except the service of moving a tooth a couple of millimeters. Then came the coup de grâce as he asked us whether she wanted to schedule a sleep study, or just take home a monitor to wear at night to see if she has sleep apnea. I love my wife, but she does not suffer fools lightly, so, I was afraid she might use some select and colorful phraseology to explain what he should do with his “take-home-monitor,” but she merely thanked him for his time and that she will contact him later if she wants to go that route. We just said goodbye and left.

When we got to the car, I asked “What was that about?” (Before I continue, I need to explain something about Lynette. She is a gifted marketer and a creative businesswoman. She is passionate and intelligent, but her true gift is in sales. Unlike me, she is good at it, and she likes doing it. Okay, I will continue.) She said, “I was so impressed at how well he was trying to oversell me on things I did not want, that I just wanted to see how he was going to close the deal.” “Did he succeed?” “No, he didn’t, and he knows he didn’t.” “Then why did you let him carry on?” “He paid a lot of money for the training it takes to offer all those services, and I just wanted to see what state-of-the-art dental sales techniques looked like?”

The morale of the story: learn to upsell whatever the patient needs, do not try to replace the need with a more expensive unrequested services. If the doctor had actually asked Lynette a few questions before he started his pitch, he would have quickly discovered that my wife is dental-phobic. Had he focused on doing the orthodontic work, and discovered how nervous she was about it, he could have upsold a massage to calm her down, and/or sedative techniques to keep her from getting nervous in the first place. Those are legit upsells that are well within what the patient will be happy to pay for. He lost her when he started pushing a sleep apnea test without any referral from our family dentist or our family general physician. Learn how to upsell and unlearn how to oversell.


John Ross