Many of the products you might see at a dental meeting could be used to improve patient care or practice efficiency. But how often have you been brushed off by a dentist when you try to share what you learned? With a little planning, you can make a powerful business and clinical argument for incorporating new products into your practice.
Hygienists attend dental and hygiene meetings not only for the continuing education credits, but to also see the products and services displayed on the exhibition floor.
During my 10-plus years as a dental industry marketing and public relations professional, I’ve learned that dental hygienists are not only extremely passionate about their profession, they are also keenly interested in any product or service that can elevate the standard of patient care and improve practice efficiency.
I’ve stood in many booths for many hours on behalf of many clients, and in my experience, hygienists are inquisitive, open minded, and ask great questions! The problem is that they are not authorized to purchase many of the products that they would love to use to screen, treat, and otherwise help their patients.
This is unfortunate for the hygienist, patient, practice owner, and exhibitor. But it is the hygienist and the exhibitor who are experiencing parallel challenges. For example, how many times have you walked away from an exhibit thinking to yourself, “Our patients can really benefit from this product! If only I could persuade the dentist to invest in it.”
Let me assure you, exhibitors ask themselves a similar question, “Those hygienists love our demonstration! How can we get them to influence their dentists to take a look? Sometimes, if the hygienist and dentist are attending the same meeting, it’s as simple as dragging the dentist to the booth: “You gotta check this out!”
However, many times hygienists attend the meeting independently and pay out of their own pockets. RDHUnder One Roof, for example? So, this leaves the hygienists with the task of reporting back to their dentists about the exciting new products or services they saw at the meeting upon their return to the office.
Building your case
As we know, most dentists are busy and many are, ahem, frugal. And although many hygienists have a great relationship with the practice owner, and their suggestions are valued, many others experience the “talk-to-the-hand” brush-off when making a recommendation.
This can be frustrating, but at the end of the day, the dentist is a clinician who is also a business owner in the very demanding health-care industry. Therefore, you must make a concise clinical and business case for any new idea or product that you suggest.
Dumping product brochures on the dentist’s desk simply won’t cut it. Instead, here are some “Cliffs Notes” suggestions for informing your practice owner about the exciting new dental products you saw in the exhibit hall, and how to effectively explain their benefits to patient and practice.
First, start with the top three to six dental or hygiene products that you saw demonstrated. Create a “scouting report” for each product or service that provides the following information:
- Name of product or service
- Manufacturer name and contact information
- The function or purpose of the product or service
- The benefit to the patient
- The benefit to practice
- Who will be using this product or service (e.g, dentist, dental hygienist, assistant, office manager)?
- Is there an online demo or webinar available?
- Are there supporting clinical studies available?
- Is there a customer support program available?
- Is there product training available?
- If there is product training, how is it provided (e.g., in the office, online, or both)?
- Is there a guarantee?
- Is this product or service sold direct or through a distributor?
- If sold through a distributor, which one(s)?
- What is the price per unit or user license?
- What is the estimated number of units or user licenses needed?
- What is the estimated total cost for the practice?
- Is there a show special? If yes, what is the offer and when does it expire?
- Include any additional comments.
Once you complete this scouting report, you can attach it to any product literature or business card you gathered at the meeting for the convenience of the dentist.
Even if you work for a dentist that values your input regarding new products and services that may benefit the practice and its patients, having this template on hand or top of mind while you are attending your next dental or hygiene meeting can be useful. It will help you direct your conversation with the booth rep and help you gather the information your practice owner will need to decide to begin the sales discussion. You will, in fact, be asking the same questions a business owner would ask.
A word to exhibitors
Why not make it easier for hygienists to introduce your product or service to their practice owners? By using the above template as the foundation for an “at-a-glance” overview sheet that can be quickly read and easily shared with the dentists, you’ll gain increased access to the decision makers.
What’s more, why not create an HTML e-mail version of this document that can be sent to hygienists after the meeting, so they can in turn forward it to the practice owner? Don’t forget to include a link to a demo or webinar as well.
There is a greater chance that your email will be read if it is forwarded to the dentists and prefaced with a note from the hygienists such as, “This is the product I told you about!” What’s more, the hygienist will most likely forward your e-mail to the inbox that the dentist actually reads, instead of “[email protected].”
Although this is not something that occurs at hygiene conferences such as RDH Under One Roof, I have seen instances of “hygienist profiling” at major dental meetings, which is when booth reps give short shrift to hygienists who step into their exhibit.
This usually happens with high-ticket dental technology, because the rep only wants to spend time with “decision makers.” However, this can be shortsighted, as those hygienists may present the only face-to-face opportunity that you have with a practice representative.
The hygienist may not purchase digital radiography equipment, oral cancer screening devices, or digital scanners, but if they use this technology in the office, they may have preferences based on ease of use, ergonomics, etc. What’s more, those hygienists may work in progressive states that enable them to use lasers or administer anesthesia, and so on.
As I said earlier, the hygienist and the exhibitor are experiencing parallel challenges influencing the practice owner. In the balance may lie the standard of patient care, the profitability of the practice, and the ROI for the exhibitor.
Hygienists and exhibitors alike can make it easier to distill and disseminate the information that practice owners need to make the informed business decisions required to improve patient care and boost the bottom line.
I hope this article is helpful to hygienists and exhibitors alike. If you would like a customizable Word document of the dental meeting scouting template, just send a request to [email protected].
Editor's note: This article first appeared in RDH eVillage. Click here to subscribe.