Sales reps: the new industry experts?

Admit it, when sales representatives come into your dental practice, they are often not given easy access to you, are they? Sometimes, when you are extremely busy and stressed, you may encourage your receptionists to keep the schedule profitable by running efficiently, and that might include turning away a salesperson and preventing them from taking up your valuable time.

This is hardly unusual – after all, you are probably used to getting all the clinical information you require from specific sources such as speakers, journals, education seminars and colleagues.

But how do you define continuing education? When many dentists think about it, they picture a one-day seminar with a speaker delivering information via a PowerPoint presentation. The speaker may share with them information selected both to impress and educate them. Often the information is valuable and helps dentists enhance their clinical and managerial skills, and provide better care to their patients.

However, the sales rep is rarely seen as a source of objective, pertinent information. But dentists would do well to re-think that. Why search everywhere for answers to clinical questions and quality enhancements while overlooking the one individual who comes to the practice and makes this very information available at no cost?

In reality, sales reps are experts on the different suppliers, materials, and products. Yet despite this, too many dentists do not use sales reps effectively. Instead, dentists tend to see them as an inconvenience in their schedule or someone to call only when a problem occurs with an existing product.

Each year, companies make a significant commitment to and investment in updating and educating dentists on new products, services, materials and technologies. They serve as a great source for continuing education by providing reliable information on products and how they can be successfully and profitably integrated into the practice.

Sales reps frequently offer opportunities to dentists for hands-on training as well. Take dental implants, for example. Levin Group finds that restorative doctors handling only one, two or three implant cases a year typically identify only the most obvious and simple ones. A positive and productive experience with a sales rep can change all that. By providing education and guidance, a sales rep can help take a restorative doctor to the next level of profitability and help improve their skills.

So what should you look for when meeting a sales rep? First of all, promptness. Do they keep you waiting? Your dental practice revolves around a carefully built schedule. Obviously you shouldn’t work with reps who don’t respect that.

Another key thing to look out for is how willing they are to understand your practice. Do they try to control the agenda when you meet them or are they open to questions and input from you?

It’s also important to assess how committed they are to delivering excellent service. Many companies have similar products that may be of comparable quality. When that happens, service is the only differentiating factor. What will this company do for you that another won’t?

Dentists have traditionally undervalued the sales rep, but they need to understand and be aware that reps are highly knowledgeable people. In many cases, the rep has more basic knowledge than the dentist about a product, material or technology. I believe the sales rep is one of the best continuing education opportunities in dentistry.

Dentists can often receive more valuable information in a one-hour meeting with a sales representative than in a three-day meeting of some other type.

Therefore, in order to help practices raise their knowledge and skills, it is up to dentists to take advantage of working with such knowledgeable individuals when they come into their practices. Sending them away because you don’t have time to see them might save you minutes, but it could cost you a whole lot more.

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