I’ve been practicing for about 10 years now. In that time I have learned that being a dental sales representative can be a pretty tough job. They travel endlessly, have to put up with quirky dentists, and are under constant pressure to meet their sales quota. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing sales reps who seem to do their job effortlessly and others who seem to struggle every day. So I’d like to present an open letter to our friends in the dental industry to help them out any way I can.
Dear sales representative / territory manager / etc:
First of all, thank you for helping us dentists do our job. We need you to help make our practices run. Second, sorry that some of us are weird and/or rude to you. I’m never mean to the sales folks with whom I work, but I still feel that I have to apologize for some of the others. Dentistry can be a stresfull job intellectually, financially, and emotionally; some dentists chose to take that out on the people they work with and that’s lame.
Anyway, I’d like to share some observations and advice from my years working with you and your colleagues. I’ve seen some of you succeed and those folks seem to have a few characteristics in common.
(1) Build relationships. Dentists face a barrage of dental products. We can’t possibly buy everything that is presented to us or we would go out of business. If we chose to not place an order with you, don’t take it personally or give up on us. Get to know us and build a positive working relationship; we may buy from you in the future. Remember, starting a sales relationship with you usually means we’re ending that relationship with one of your competitors. If I start buying from you after we meet and then, a month later, start buying from one of your competitors just because I heard their pitch, you’d be a bit annoyed. Both you and I are waiting to find the right opportunity to start a sales relationship. I may be happy in that relationship with someone else right now, but that may change in the future. When it does, I’ll remember you because you’ve been friendly (and not pushy).
(2) Be a consultant more than a sales person. You’ve probably heard that the dental profession is in a weird place right now. Many dentists are learning that they have to become more active business owners and pay attention to practice management. That creates a great opportunity for you! You’ve been in more dental offices than anyone else. You know what the other dentists in the area are doing. I’m not suggesting that you act as a spy or anything, but rather you can offer observations about local trends. Just like I’m offering advice right now from what I’ve observed, you can also share your insights to dentists who may be struggling in a few areas. Of course, not every dentist will be open to this, but those who are will appreciate it.
(3) Support your dentists. If a dentist has a passion, help them cultivate it. Do they have a study club? Are they an active member of the dental society? Offer to purchase a table at their next meeting. You’ll get some good karma with the dentist and hopefully get some new leadsfrom the event. Are they a specialist? Specialists want new referrals. The successful implant reps I know make introductions between surgeons and GPs and benefit from subsequent sales. When all else fails, you can support a dentist by directly bringing them new patients. Think of your friends, family, extended members of your community. All dentists want new patients and you have access to a lot of potential new patients for them. Refer a few new patients to a good dentist and you’ll find that dentist is much more open to working with you.