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How not to sell to a dentist

Jan. 1, 2008
Iam just coming back from four days at the Greater New York Dental Meeting, one of the biggest dental meetings in North America.

by Louis Malcmacher, DDS, MAGD

Iam just coming back from four days at the Greater New York Dental Meeting, one of the biggest dental meetings in North America. It is always a phenomenal show, led by my good friend and GNYDM executive director, Dr. Robert Edwab. For dentists, it is definitely a place where we can kick the tires on new equipment and technology and touch and feel all the new products that have just come out. Since it is also close to the end of the year, I know many dentists put off their purchasing decisions until the Greater New York Dental Meeting to see how they are doing financially and how to best take advantage of tax incentives for buying dental equipment and products.

I had a very interesting experience at this meeting that I would like to share with you. A dental consulting client of mine is in need of upgrading some of his digital equipment. He was in need of approximately $80,000 worth of equipment and upgrades, and I had the chance to visit a few of the companies on the trade floor to determine the best equipment at the best price. We also had a special need since he has custom-built practice-management software and needed to have a demonstration in the office to make sure that the digital equipment we were thinking of buying was going to work satisfactorily.

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We walked up to a well-known digital company and what then transpired was absolutely amazing — the salesman insisted that we buy the $80,000 worth of equipment right there at the meeting and he “guaranteed” that it was compatible with our system. We asked if he could come out first to do a demonstration and he abruptly refused to do so. (We found out later that our client’s office was not in his territory and in order for him to have someone come out to our office, he would either have to share or completely lose the commission on this sale, which is why he tried to hard-sell us into buying it right there on the spot.) We asked him if there was someone else we could deal with and he blatantly refused to have us talk to his sales manager or anyone else. The funny thing is he was absolutely surprised when I told him I had enough of his nonsense and walked away, thanking him for giving me something to talk about in my next column.

We then went to another company and explained our situation about wanting to buy $80,000 worth of digital equipment, but we needed a demo in the office. The salesperson replied, “It would be my pleasure to come out to the office. When is a good time for you?” Who do you think we are going to buy from? It will be the second salesman who will get the order as soon as he steps into the office.

I train sales teams from dental companies all the time. While dental sales representatives share with me their horror stories about bad experiences with dentists as customers, believe me, there are comparable stories from dentists about sales representatives, well illustrated by the story above. No matter what the reasons were, I walked up and was ready to place an $80,000 order, and I just needed one simple thing. It would not have taken much to close my sale because I was ready to buy. Now, while my story is an extreme example, I can tell you there are countless situations where dentists want to buy from your company but you, as a dental company, and your sales team, put up unnecessary obstacles or do not recognize important buying signals from your dental customer. This is why, when I train dental sales teams around the country, I teach them that it is crucial to pick up on the buying signals of dentists, as well as create the circumstances where you give your dental customer opportunities to buy rather than trying to sell them.

Whether you know it or not, your company and salespeople may be putting up roadblocks to dentists wanting to buy from you. There are so many times when dentists are ready to say yes, and salespeople ignore the buying signals and keep talking when all they have to do is write the order. Learn how to help your dental customers buy rather than trying to sell them, and your company will reap the rewards of more sales and happier customers.

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Dr. Louis Malcmacher is a general and cosmetic dentist located in Bay Village, Ohio. He is also an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates as well as a consultant to the dental industry. Dr. Malcmacher is a well-known lecturer and author known for his comprehensive and entertaining style. He speaks to thousands of dental professionals every year. His lecture schedule can be seen at He also intensively trains sales teams and does marketing consulting with dental companies and has been doing so for the last 25 years. Dr. Malcmacher can be reached at (440) 892-1810 or email [email protected]. He offers a free e-mail newsletter to the dental industry and you can sign up at his Web site.