Sixty Years in the Making

Alan Clibanoff

Much has changed since Alan Clibanoff joined the dental industry 60 years ago. But, his strong connection to his customers has remained steadfast.

When Parkway Dental sales rep Alan Clibanoff joined the dental products sales industry 60 years ago, it was a “simpler” time, he says. The technology was far less advanced, but easier to understand. Indeed, as the industry has grown more complex, the relationship between dealer and manufacturer reps has become increasingly important.

 

First Impressions Magazine: How did you get your start in dental sales?

Alan Clibanoff: I joined the dental industry in June 1957. An employment agency placed me at S.S. White in retail sales in Philadelphia, Pa., where I worked as an inside sales rep until February 1958. Soon afterward, I went on active duty with the Coast Guard Reserves for six months. When I returned to work, there was a new manager, who felt I would do better as a territory sales rep. I’ve been out on the road ever since.

 

FI: When and how did you join Parkway Dental?

Clibanoff: I stayed with S.S. White until 1962, when I joined an independent supply house called Heinsheimer Dental. Heinsheimer Dental eventually was acquired by a nationwide chain, Saslow Dental. Then, 30 years ago, Rob Cherkas, the owner of Parkway Dental, asked me to join his company. Working at Parkway Dental has been a great experience – like working with family!

 

FI: What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve encountered in the dental industry, and how have you addressed them?

Clibanoff: When I first joined dental sales, the industry was much simpler. Since my early years, we’ve seen the introduction of the high-speed Borden Turbine handpiece and the Nova ultraviolet light. The availability of this technology drastically changed cosmetic dentistry. For instance, in my early years, dentists still used porcelain fillings. I could go on and on, talking about visible curing lights and new cosmetic fillings, bonding materials, impression materials and digital impressions. Additionally, there have been vast advancements in dental equipment, from chairs and lighting to intraoral cameras and digital radiography.

Throughout these changes, I’ve found the manufacturer reps – including the literature they share and the product knowledge they offer – to be extremely valuable. It’s never a problem to get the manufacturer reps involved with my dental customers. They’ve always been very responsive in addressing my customers’ needs.

 

FI: What strategies have you relied on through the years to stay connected to your customers?

Clibanoff: I’ve known most of my customers for many years and have always treated them the way I, myself, would like to be treated. They have my business, home and cellphone numbers and can reach me any time. I strive to be honest, reliable and always take care of their needs. If there is a problem with a product, I immediately contact the manufacturer rep, and it is taken care of right away. I call on most of my customers every two weeks, and if I can’t be there in person, I make sure to phone them. Even when I take a vacation, I leave my customers’ contact information with my colleagues so that they can follow up while I’m gone. My customers are like family to me, and I genuinely enjoy doing business with them. We’ve shared lunches and have socialized together. I’ve given them gifts to help them celebrate special occasions. I’ve cried with them in sad times and laughed with them in happy times. They are very special people who mean a lot to me.

 

FI: What advice can you offer new sales reps?

Clibanoff: Give yourself time to build your territory. It could take three to five years. Don’t get discouraged, and always keep smiling! Make sure you take care of your customers’ problems and get them the answers they need as quickly as possible. And, above all, always treat your customers exactly as you would like to be treated.

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