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Education as a relationship-building tool

March 1, 2008
Sales representatives can build relationships with dentists when they expand their roles and act as educational resources.

Roger P. Levin, DDS

Sales representatives can build relationships with dentists when they expand their roles and act as educational resources. For many representatives, this means adopting the approach of viewing themselves as consultants rather than vendors. Making this shift demonstrates a willingness to be a partner to the dentist — providing education, training, problem-solving, and a reliable source of information on where the profession of dentistry is heading.

Why emphasize relationships instead of sales?

Building a strong relationship with your customers gives you a competitive advantage over salespersons from other companies. After all, repeat customers are what make salespeople successful in the long term. Whenever you provide hands-on training, assist in problem-solving or supply patient education materials, any “extra” you can bring to the situation enhances your relationship with the practice. This approach goes a long way toward building trust with the dentist.

In its 23 years of consulting to dentists, Levin Group has observed how salespeople act when they’re willing to work as partners to the dental practice. These actions include:

Being a resource to the dentist and the team — Provide lunch-and-learn sessions to dentists who are interested in educating their teams about new treatment areas such as implants and cosmetic services. Remember that dentists are extremely busy treating patients. Often doctors have little time to provide education or answer team members’ questions. You may be primarily meeting with other team members. It’s to your advantage to treat everyone in the practice as your customer.

Figuring out how you can solve a dentist’s existing problems — Try to gain insight into where the dentist’s problem areas lie. What procedures take too much time? Which treatments or materials cost too much per patient? Is there one thing the dentist could fix that would make treating patients immediately better? If you can identify the sources of the dentist’s daily aggravations or inefficiencies, you’ve found areas where the dentist has a strong desire to learn about new products and technologies. With this critical information, you have increased your ability to be of real help to the dentist. This is a win-win situation for the salesperson because a prime sales opportunity has been uncovered.

Adding value to the practice — Don’t just view your job as providing technical solutions to technical problems — aim to support the doctor. Ask questions that focus on the long-range outcome of purchases. Find out what the dentist’s long-term goals are for the practice. When you’ve learned what’s valuable to each of your customers, you can better appeal to a dentist’s unique needs and goals.

  • “What do you want to see happen as a result of switching to this product line?”
  • “Two years from now when you reflect on this decision, how will you judge whether you made the right choice?”
  • “Once this solution is in place, what are your expectations?”

Being a source of information on how technology has performed in other practices — Be willing to discuss other practice’s successes and failures with products and technologies. Discuss how other practices have grown by choosing and incorporating particular products into the practice. Offer opinions on new technologies, even those not part of your product line. Provide dentists with information that cannot be found in brochures or on the Internet. Share the current “buzz” you’ve heard about what’s happening in the industry.


To think of yourself as the dentist’s partner, you must adopt a different mindset and approach toward your job. A necessary step is putting yourself in the dentist’s shoes — to understand the doctor’s unique challenges, and his or her goals for the practice. This approach wins loyal customers, builds strong relationships with dentists, and ultimately produces the repeat sales for which representatives are constantly striving.

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Roger P. Levin, DDS, is founder and CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm that is dedicated to improving the lives of dentists through a diverse portfolio of lifetime services and solutions. Since the company’s inception in 1985, Dr. Levin has worked to bring the business world to dentistry. Levin Group may be reached at (888) 973-0000, or at