by Anastasia L. Turchetta, RDH
Remember your first major meeting? Not only were you excited about the new knowledge you would gain, you would get to see the most up-to-date products. I used to think the most important thing to gain from this experience was the samples provided by the dental companies. I admit that I was once the hygienist who was in a solo game of seeing how many samples I could stuff into my bag. I hoped I wouldn’t come face-to-face with the sales reps because this would hurt my chances for more samples of their products.
That was then.
Today I’m learning what it’s like to be on the other side of the booth as a sales representative for a cold sore product called Viroxyn. At my first meeting, I was excited to share information about this product with fellow hygienists. I could not understand the comments from other sales reps about dental hygienists, and they didn’t know I was one. What I learned is a problem for companies, reps, and dental teams.
But not to worry, there’s a solution for a win/win situation.
The problem for the dental companies is simple. Low attendance plus low sales equals no return for a company. This is business. They pay for a section in the exhibit hall for their booth. Chairs, booth size, tables, garbage cans, shipping, etc. are extra. I have overheard sales reps strategically deciding where to place their booths at a convention. Samples are included, although supplies are limited.
Depending on the company, sales representatives have a dilemma during the convention. For example, some companies pay the representative’s hotel, travel, and base pay, while others pay solely on commission. I have always wondered why I received different treatment from reps at a meeting, and now I know. As a dental hygienist, I do not have buying power. Frustration is felt when samples disappear as fast as one can place them out, and not one team member knows how to use the product. If the product is not used correctly, the desired result is less than satisfactory.
Who loses in this scenario? Your patients.
On the other hand, sales representatives must recognize that when dental team members approach a booth, they may be on a break from their CE course or lunch, and may have a minimum amount of time to grasp new information and technology. Team members deserve the attention of the sales rep, but they should not be too hasty in obtaining a sample, or two or three.
I realized at a recent convention that we would be out of samples by mid-morning. My friend, who is a Mary Kay representative living in the area, offered to create a basket of hand lotion and body products. I accepted her offer and collected names for this “bonus” while promoting the dental product. The idea was a success, and information about the dental product was delivered as well.
Dental companies are encouraged to continually attend meetings. Attendance must be improved not only by dental team members, but the doctors themselves. Keep in mind, low numbers relate to low attendance from companies, which ultimately hurts the dental organization that is hosting the meeting. Sales may increase if a strategy is applied from within each dental practice.
Wouldn’t it be great if dental hygienists, dental assistants, office administrators, etc. had purchase budgets specifically for dental meetings? The funds would benefit their performance in the practice, improve patient care, increase patient compliance, introduce new technology, and boost productivity.
I encourage staff meetings prior to attendance at a dental meeting to discuss a “wish” list for each department in the practice. Develop a budget and communicate with each team member what is expected of a product or piece of equipment. Trust your team and utilize the advances in dentistry!
Anastasia L. Turchetta, RDH, has been a practicing clinical hygienist for 17 years. Her dental hygiene coaching business, Strategic Hygiene, presents seminars and consultations to practices by implementing assisted hygiene programs, introducing passive income centers, and thus improving patient care. She speaks both nationally and internationally, and she has been published in several dental publications. Anastasia is also a feature author in Conversations on Health & Wellness and sales representative for Viroxyn. She may be contacted at www.strategichygiene.com or [email protected].
Editor’s Note:The “exhibit hall” featured in the photographs on this page was at the RDH Under One Roof conference in Norfolk, Va., in August 2004.