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How to sell teeth

On Monday I got Invisalign, an alternative to braces.

Through the process of the 3 orthodontist visits, I learned quite a bit about the company and how they’re able to be so successful. A quick background on how it works, so the story makes sense.

A scan of my teeth and gums were created, and sent to Invisalign. Their software analyzed the position of my teeth, and how they’d need to move. The software then created a series of incremental changes to my teeth, with corresponding clear trays (the “invisible” part of Invisalign) that I’ll wear for two weeks at a time, until my teeth are in the proper position.

Here are my key takeaways from the experience that you can apply directly to your business:

Make it real. During my first visit, I was assured that I was a viable candidate to get Invisalign. At my second visit, they took a scan of my teeth and gums, and instantly showed a simulated image of what my “perfect” teeth would look like. As I’ve said many times here, people aren’t buying your solution, they’re buying a better tomorrow. In this case, my better tomorrow has a perfect smile, not Invisalign.

Escalate the commitment. Little by little, I was asked to commit more time and energy to the process. At first, I only had a 30 minute consultation. That led to a 1 hour appointment where they scanned my teeth. That led to a follow up appointment. Each subsequent I showed up, I was more likely to make the purchase.

Sell the dream before you sell the investment. This wasn’t just Invisalign – my orthodontist did a fantastic job here. Of course he had perfectly white and straight teeth, showing he consumed his own product. What’s more, he was genuinely excited about the difference Invisalign would make for me, long before we discussed the investment.

Charge for financing. Most businesses benefit from offering payment options, but they shouldn’t be free. It’s a huge benefit for your client to pay something upfront, and pay off the rest later. Charge for it. But instead of framing it as a financing fee, you can give an “upfront payment discount,” or charge more if client chooses to pay in installments. You see this in just about every SaaS product in existence.

Shrinkage is a cost of doing business. This one surprised me quite a bit. After my second visit, the orthodontist’s office sent in my info and digital scan of my mouth to Invisalign. I hadn’t paid yet, or signed any paperwork. In response, Invisalign went ahead and created and shipped all of the equipment I needed. When I showed up for my final appointment, all 18 of my trays were there, and I still hadn’t paid or signed anything! They must look at this as a cost of doing business, knowing that the physical presence of the trays increases my likelihood of going forward with it. Some percentage of people will cancel, but it’s obviously worth it if the win rate is increased. Back to point #1, make it more real.

Contracts? Not so important… Instead of asking me to sign a contract, the commitments I made were entirely my time. My guess is that if I’d been a flakey patient, cancelling or rescheduling appointments, the process would have been a bit different. Instead of contracts, it was nothing more than a handshake agreement that kept me involved and ultimately led to the purchase.

I paid, didn’t I? After all that, there was no legalese or iron-clad protections signed by either party. And I still paid. Business is ultimately all about relationships.