Think You Can

Think you can just speak to the dentist? Think again. The team matters

March 1, 2012
In my job at PennWell, I wear a lot of different hats (like you). And, like you, those hats are often switched out on a minute-by-minute basis.

By Kevin Henry, Editor

In my job at PennWell, I wear a lot of different hats (like you). And, like you, those hats are often switched out on a minute-by-minute basis. One of my other roles at PennWell is to serve as the editor of Dental Assisting Digest, a monthly e-newsletter that goes out to dental assistants and office managers.

I recently asked my readers of DAD (as well as the readers of RDH magazine, another of our sister publications) to give me their thoughts on the sales reps that visit their offices and some of the best and worst moments that sales reps have had in their practices.

What is the best thing a dental sales rep has done to make you feel like an important part of the decision-making process?

→ Includes me in price negotiations with doctor.

→ We talk about our options.

→ Answers all the questions or find information if he or she doesn't have the answers.

→ Asks questions, then listen to my response.

→ Is always sure to include me when it comes to discussing products, whether it was to try out the product or ask what my opinion is in regards to a product.

→ Asks to speak with me.

→ Discusses products and asks how it would work in my hands. Also listens when I had a concern about a product.

→ Includes me when trying out new products.

→ Asks me first if the doctor would be interested, then makes sure we get the product as soon as possible.

→ I don't care if they make me feel like a part of the decision-making process. I like when they talk about products pertinent to our practice's needs, wait until there are no patients needing service, and say what they need to and move on, respecting my time.

→ Our rep gave an impromptu talk on intraoral cameras that helped us get back on track and be able to use them!

→ Helps our practice save money with suggestions.

→ He usually tries explaining the current specials or discounts to encourage the sale.

→ Brings me treats and talks to me, rather than trying to talk to the doctor who is scheduled with patients

→ Our good rep that we like knows I am the "money girl," so he makes sure that I know about the cost of products, etc., before he talks to anyone else in the office.

→ My Burkhart rep comes on a day when the doctor and assistants have already left. He'll sit down and take the time to discuss with me the "business" of dentistry and what he and Burkhart can do to help me establish a dental team that will be financially successful. He offers but never pushes. I like that.

→ Asks for my business card and always takes a minute to say hello and check on my needs.

→ Our rep is the best! He addresses each person in the office and makes it a point to leave no one out. He knows I am the practice administrator so he always runs things by me for my input.

→ Brings samples and discusses them with all of us.

→ Our Patterson reps are amazing! They always include me and talk to me with the same respect they give the dentist and include me on product knowledge.

→ They ask my opinion.

"In the practice I presently manage, our sales reps definitely pay attention to me. They make me feel special," said Michele Walker, FAADOM, the office manager at Palouse Pediatric Dentistry in Moscow, Idaho. "Why do they make me feel special? Maybe because I'm the financial heartbeat of the practice and they appreciate my position. I hope so. Whatever their reason, I appreciate them."

What is the worst thing a dental sales rep has done to make you feel like you are not a part of the decision-making process?

→ Pushes products or services not requested.

→ He has a bad attitude toward me.

→ Dismissed the idea of meeting with me first and unfortunately that was a fatal mistake. He killed any opportunity to sell his technology.

→ Not acknowledging my presence during a sales pitch to the doctor.

→ Simply ignores me.

→ Tried to "gloss over" a problem. Also tried to get by on "good looks" thinking we would buy from him because he is good-looking.

→ Doesn't listen to what I say.

→ They drive me crazy when they talk and talk when a patient is standing there waiting. I also dislike when they want to talk about products we will never use (we are a pedo office).

→ When they act like they don't have time for our order.

→ The reps come at random times on different days in different months. It would be nice when we could know when to expect someone. More times than not, it isn't a convenient time and the reps always ask to talk to the doctor or assistant who orders ... but they are working with patients!

→ Treats me like I have no idea how a procedure works or the items used.

→ He walks right by me like I am not there and talks to the staff about a new product without clearing it with me, and they get all excited before I nix it because it is not remotely in the budget. All of this could be avoided if he would just ask in advance or say "hello" to me to start with.

→ Only speaks to the doctor.

→ Basically, doesn't even acknowledge that I am important in the decision-making process for our office.

→ Just asks, "Can I speak to the doctor?" Then doesn't say anything else.

→ I did have one tell me years ago, "Honey, I need to talk to the decision maker here. Can you go get the dentist?" I then replied, "I am the decision maker!"

→ Doesn't understand when I can't meet with them because I have patients.

→ Most sales reps that I had experience with were very egotistical. They would ignore everyone except the dentist. None of us were worth their attention. They focused on the "one with the money."

Do you have any other comments about your relationship with the dental sales reps who visit your office?

"Our rep is genuine. No fakeness at all. Seems to really care about providing us with the best service. He is someone we have remained loyal to no matter which company he works for. So, he makes the difference, not the company he works for." -- Office manager in Idaho.

"I am very ‘pro sales rep.' Assistants and hygienists can learn so much from them. A good rep will educate the team and treat them with respect. They are a wonderful resource to have!" -- Dental assistant in Missouri

"I don't care for most of them. They are quite arrogant and remind me of used cars salesmen. I did love my implant rep from Zimmer, but we just lost her to another job. I also hate when they get our names wrong or aren't even close, and no matter how many times we tell them who they need to talk to they ignore us." -- Office manager in Washington state.

What's the bottom line?

Simply put, while not every team member in every practice has complete purchasing power, they certainly have influence. They can talk about a purchase with the doctor (or office manager) and greatly influence whether you'll make the sale or not. They can also pave the way for you to have success or failures down the road with future sales calls.