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Off & Running: How sales representatives can train dental teams

Sept. 1, 2007
In its 22 years of consulting to thousands of dental and specialty practices, Levin Group has observed that most dental practices have at least one team member who is not fully trained.

Roger P. Levin, DDS

In its 22 years of consulting to thousands of dental and specialty practices, Levin Group has observed that most dental practices have at least one team member who is not fully trained. Dentists are chairside for much of the day and, therefore, too busy to focus on team training. As a result, their practices can suffer. Sales representatives are in a unique position to help train team members on the most current products and services. Yet many practices do not take advantage of this opportunity.

For example, cosmetic dentistry is growing in popularity, but a surprising number of practices offer few or no esthetic services. Doctors view adding new services - even if they lead to increased production - as time-consuming. They also worry whether their team members can implement new services correctly. In a situation like this, the role of the sales representative is critical. Dentists and specialists must come to understand the benefits of an in-house training session offered by a sales representative.

Make the training appropriate

The dental practice is a high-tech work environment. Consequently, an employee’s knowledge base can become obsolete very quickly. In a world where things are changing rapidly, sales representatives can help dental practices by identifying specific training opportunities for each team member. Different team members have different training needs, and skills appropriate for one position may not translate to another. All of this should be considered when training is offered to the dental team. The sales rep should identify specific training opportunities for the dental team based on each one’s job description and responsibilities.

Improving the team

Training is not a one-shot deal. Sales representatives should meet regularly with the dentist or office manager to discuss training opportunities for team members. As technology advances and new products are developed, the dental team will need to upgrade its skills regularly. Each team member presents different opportunities for improvement: Does the hygienist need training to perform more ancillary services? Do all team members need more training on new elective procedures the practice will offer? Does the front-desk person need skill enhancement to use the new database software in the most productive manner?

Levin Group has found that many team members are undereducated in their current positions. Their level of expertise - although adequate for the time being - could become obsolete very quickly without ongoing training.

Maximize the benefit to the practice

Sales reps should stress that their training is an obvious return on investment to the practice. They need to emphasize four things:

  1. The training sessions are free.
  2. Training will be conducted at the dental practice, making it extremely convenient.
  3. The product or service will enhance the practice’s ability to provide improved patient care and generate higher patient satisfaction.
  4. The training is a career development opportunity for the team member.

In the practice-management seminars I present across the country, I often tell the doctors who attend, “If you’re not growing, you’re in decline.” The same rule applies to the dental team. Untrained team members often become bored and unmotivated, which in turn hinders the practice’s ability to grow. Sales representatives should position themselves as individuals who can help prevent this from happening.

To provide the finest patient care, practices need knowledgeable team members. With ever-changing technology, keeping dental team members well trained is a constant challenge. Due to the demands of remaining chairside, the dentist is usually too busy to train each team member. Sales representatives have an opportunity to train the dental team on the latest products and services, thus helping dental practices improve their performance.

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Roger P. Levin, DDS, is founder and CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm that is dedicated to improving the lives of dentists through a diverse portfolio of lifetime services and solutions. Since the company’s inception in 1985, Dr. Levin has worked to bring the business world to dentistry. Levin Group may be reached at (888) 973-0000, or at