How to sell to dentists

Nov. 1, 2006
Dealing with your dental customers can be both a challenging and rewarding experience.

by Louis Malcmacher, DDS, FAGD

Dealing with your dental customers can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. It’s rewarding when you teach a dentist a new method or technique to better treat his or her patients - you know you have helped the dentist provide faster, easier, and better dentistry. You have also affected thousands of patients who are receiving that better dentistry.

However, dealing with dentists is also a challenging experience because they are unlike any other species of human beings on this earth. I always enjoy a salesperson who comes from another industry and tells me that he or she will sell to dentists using the same methods and techniques that he or she used with veterinarians, internists, consumers, podiatrists, or anybody else. It doesn’t take long before these reps call me and tell me their frustrations because dentists indeed think and work differently than any other customer with whom they have worked.

One of the things I often do is train sales teams at regional or national sales meetings with a course entitled, “How to sell to dentists.” In order to sell to dentists, you really have to walk in their shoes. Through various role plays and interactivity, I help sales teams really understand the mechanics of the dental office and what the dentists and their teams deal with every minute of every day. In addition to this, there are vast differences in selling to different kinds of dentists - male, female, young, mature, and everyone in between. There are often different tiers of dentists in terms of how progressive they are in accepting change and new technology. Once you understand these basics, and you really understand the daily operations of the dental practice, you can then start to think like a dentist. This makes it much easier for you to talk and understand your dental customer.

There are also many words that have great significance to dentists, as opposed to other typical sales words that you would normally use which really don’t mean anything to your dental customer. Once you understand and start talking this special “dentist language,” it makes your job exceptionally easier. I call this “talking dentist talk.” In various cultures in the world, people may not accept you if you look different. However, once you speak their language, they accept you because they can now relate to you. Really understanding what makes dentists tick and learning how to talk their language is very important to your success.

Every day, we deal with many challenges and opportunities in the dental office. I have to deal with my staff, patients, running the schedule on time, phone calls from my kids, etc. It is a constant balancing act and it can be pretty stressful. Then you, the dental representative, show up and want a piece of my valuable time. I have to decide how I am going to find time to see you. Will I really have time to sit and listen to what you are talking about? Is what you are selling right for my office? As the dentist, I usually want to deal with this in one minute or less, but you, the representative, need much more time than that. If I hear you speaking my language, you will be accepted a lot quicker into my office.

When is the best time to call on a dental office? Is it better to try to get a sale now or let the dentist mull it over? Who is the real decision-maker in the dental office? What is the most effective presentation to make to a dentist, and are you delivering the right message about your product? These are all incredibly important questions that need some solid answers before you speak to your dental customers. These are the kinds of issues I cover in my courses and my consulting to the dental industry. Because I am a real practicing dentist, and through my lectures to thousands of dental professionals a year, I have a very good feel for what dentists want and how to talk with them. Without the answers to the questions I posed at the beginning of this paragraph, your sales and marketing teams are probably wasting a lot of time, energy, and money trying to get a sale.

Learn how to walk and talk like your dental customers. By doing so, you will be a more effective salesperson and be more successful helping dentists help their patients.

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.