Ask the Expert

Anthony Stefanou

Editor’s note: Anthony Stefanou, DMD, will answer reps’ questions on their dental customers. E-mail him your questions at tonydmd@gmail.com, or visit www.dentalsalesacademy.com

By Anthony Stefanou DMD, Founder, Dental Sales Academy

In a dental offices, your first contact may be a full-time receptionist, office manager, assistant, RDH, dentist, part-time high school student, or someone from a temp service. If you go in with a standard pitch or script, this often will backfire. You have to get to know the office first. Each office is different


Q: I’m new to dental industry sales. I have sold products and services in healthcare/medical fields, but have noticed that dental is not the same. What are some tips to help understand this industry better?

A: Your question is something I come across all time, and it’s an important one for those starting out, or those who are managing reps who are starting in dental. Dental sales is not easier or harder than any other healthcare industry, it’s just different. Those who think that “sales is sales” are going to find success to be more difficult to attain.

Here are four tips as to what makes selling to dentists different:

  1. Adjust and adapt
    Your contacts in dental practices can be quite different, whether it’s titles, roles, or personalities. Some are decision makers, and some aren’t, but all need to be dealt with professionally. What do I mean? In a medical practice, the person who answers the phones or greets you is usually a receptionist. In a dental offices, your first contact may be a full-time receptionist, office manager, assistant, RDH, dentist, part-time high school student, or someone from a temp service. If you go in with a standard pitch or script, this often will backfire. You have to get to know the office first. Each office is different. The flow of decision making is different. What you need to say to each person is different. You have to adjust and adapt.
  2. Dentists have a lot of decisions to make
    Dental offices need a ton of things in order to operate – equipment, products, supplies, technology, services. They perform dozens of procedures, and each step within each procedure requires several supplies. Even with one step of a procedure, there may be several options (i.e. anesthetic, bur, cement) to decide upon. The bottom line is, they have to buy a great deal of things. Most other healthcare disciplines require many less types of products or buying decisions. Because of this, dental office overhead is usually higher than other healthcare disciplines, so they have to be more cost-conscious. Even if you have a great product, they have many decisions to make, and your product may not be a priority.
  3. Dentists are heavily influenced by what their colleagues say
    Dentists, RDH’s, office managers, etc. are more active than any other healthcare discipline on social media and are constantly interacting with one another (in terms of business). There are hundreds of dental related Facebook and LinkedIn groups (mostly private) where they post cases, and ask for opinions of companies, products, and even reps. This affects sales considerably. Again, this has to be recognized and handled by anyone in dental sales.
  4. Dentist are visual
    Numbers don’t click with dentists. Salespeople fail to recognize that return-on-investment calculations are rarely the best way to lead a conversation with a dental office. Dentists, in addition to being doctors, are artistic and mechanical in nature. They are visual. In order for them to seriously consider what you sell, you have to get them to see this on a current, existing, active patient in their practice before they can focus on the investment. I call this the PVC technique (Patient Visual Concept) and we discuss this at length in my workshops.

In addition, another major challenge in selling to dentists is that the dentists themselves are often unavailable or inaccessible. I practiced with a chiropractor for 20 years, and even after all those years, I was still surprised as to how open he was to meet with salespeople calling on the office.

My advice to those new in dental sales is to recognize that while you have to know your company, products, and competitors, the key to success is learning the dynamics of how practices work, and asking questions/prospecting them in a way that’s different from other reps. Offices are bombarded by sales solicitations, ads, and marketing pieces. What makes you stand out? Please consider attending a NYC based dental specific sales workshop in the future through my Dental Sales Academy!

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