How dentists make buying decisions

Dentists are complex individuals. They are the CEO, surgeon, anesthesiologist, radiologist, office manager, advertiser, marketer, and fix-it person of their practice.

by Louis Malcmacher, DDS, MAGD

Dentists are complex individuals. They are the CEO, surgeon, anesthesiologist, radiologist, office manager, advertiser, marketer, and fix-it person of their practice. They also have the final say in most buying decisions, so they are the primary buyer. How do dentists make their decisions when evaluating purchases? Here is a quick overview of some thoughts I share when I consult with dental manufacturers about how dentists buy things:

Scientific research - Scientific research on products is necessary, but may or may not influence a dentist’s buying decisions. Research is much more important if it’s a new technology or technique in dentistry that has yet to be proven clinically, but is less important regarding such products as composite resins, which are a well-established modality of operative dentistry.

Peer recommendations - Testimonials from other practicing dentists are always valuable and a good sales technique for your sales team to use. Find a current customer who wouldn’t mind receiving an occasional phone call or writing an occasional letter about why your product works. This can be a very valuable addition to your sales armentarium.

Clinical articles - Practical clinical articles found in dental journals such as Dental Economics are very important, especially when the article is describing an entire technique for which your product is used. The reason I think these are so valuable is because it shows the dentist how to integrate your product into their practice. You can always make a product sale, but if the dentist buys it and never uses it, he/she will never buy it again. What I teach sales teams is that you want product integration, not product sales. Once you teach a dentist how to integrate the product into their daily routine, you will have repeated product sales for a long time.

Key opinion leader recommendations - Key opinion leader (KOL) recommendations work very well in dentistry, especially if the KOL is a practicing general dentist the audience can relate to. If the KOL has a super duper esthetic practice that only does 28 veneers on every patient, many in the audience will have trouble relating to that kind of dentist.

Salesman recommendations - Salesman recommendations are very important and work very well when the salesman has developed a relationship with the customer, has shown the customer how to solve a problem, and uses some of the techniques described above.

Selling to dentists can be both frustrating and rewarding. If you spend time trying to understand your dentists to see what is important to them, that will go a long way to shorten the sales cycle and make your job easier.


Dr. Louis Malcmacher is an internationally known lecturer, consultant, and author known for his comprehensive and entertaining style. An evaluator for Clinical Research Associates, Dr. Malcmacher has served as a spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry and is a consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the American Dental Association. He works closely with dental manufacturers as a clinical researcher in developing new products and techniques, and has had extensive experience training sales teams. For close to two decades, Dr. Malcmacher has inspired his audiences to truly enjoy doing dentistry by providing the knowledge necessary for excellent clinical and practice management. His group dental practice has maintained a 45 percent overhead since 1988.

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