At every lunch and learn, you wonder how that dental sales rep got into sales. What a fun job they have! They get to hop from office to office, bring lunch to people, and talk about the latest and greatest new products that will help with day-to-day dental life. Most of the time, they're right. Sometimes, not so much, but you always hear them out. The flexibility of sales is impressive, the benefits are usually top-notch, and the reps get to dress and look on point—no more scrubs. Plus, no more being tied to a patient schedule.
If dental sales intrigue you, it's best to be picky about where you inquire. It is a far better long-term gig if you love the products, the company’s core values, and most of all, the team of people with whom you will be working day in and day out. Your passion for helping people is still there, as well as your strong work ethic, just in a different form.
There's a downside for some people who jump from clinical hygiene to sales. It is not a 9-5 position. You do not clock out and leave your work behind until the next day. When you're in sales, you work a lot, although the sales reps make it look so easy. But extended workweeks may be the only downside to the sales rep position for people who have a passion for what they do. Like most salaried positions, there are a lot of hours. Some practicing hygienists step into sales and find out that it is not for them, so they return to clinical hygiene with a renewed sense of passion. Most who come to the sales side, though, remain and love it.
What education level do you need and where should you look for openings?
Typically, you need a bachelor’s degree, although some entry-level positions require only an associate’s degree. There are many places to look. I strongly encourage you to look at the products you love and start your search with the companies that make them. It is much easier to sell something that you have passion for and trust. I sought out the company that I am working for now because of my love for their products and was fortunate that they had an opening. If your favorite company isn't hiring, find out who the regional manager is and connect with them anyway. Set up a lunch to introduce yourself or send them your résumé. Make an impression that they will not forget, so they'll remember your name when they do have an opening. You can also start following your favorite companies on LinkedIn to see openings immediately. You can also check MedReps, Google Search, or search directly on company websites.
How to get in
Building your brand and networking while waiting for your unicorn job is an excellent place to start. Network with people on LinkedIn, set up introduction meetings with regional managers to ask how to break into sales, ask if job shadowing is something they'll consider, and attend trade shows and visit the exhibitors to meet other reps and start connecting. Build your brand by creating your lookbook. Take emotional intelligence courses such as Next Level Academy.1 Investigate sales courses on LinkedIn.2 Even if you have no prior sales experience and already have a bachelor’s degree, start adding to your portfolio with the sales pearls you gain through these short and insightful courses. This way, when you get an interview invitation, you can speak with the hiring manager as if you were already in the sales field.
How to nail the interview
Richard Bach said it best: “You’re never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true.”3 Even if you are nervous going into the interview, your outward demeanor must be calm and collected. Part of a sales role is building relationships; this is your shot at nailing your first impression. Below are interview results with some of the top hiring managers in the dental sales industry collected specifically for this article to give you a cheat sheet of what to do and what not to do.4 It summarizes characteristics that managers said will either help you win or will make you an instant no.
Once you're in sales, find a mentor who has seen tremendous success—someone whom you want to emulate. Starting something new is always scary, but if you never try it, you will never know if it’s for you. Breaking out of dental hygiene may be frightening, but your fears will subside, and your passion will ignite once you land where you want to be. There is a reason you are pondering, so research, network, and leap. Life is too short to be unhappy.
Dedication: This article is dedicated to my “sales Yoda.” Thank you for always encouraging me, being a leader and never-ending teacher in strategy, setting the teamwork stage, and giving me the autonomy to win. Thank you, KK, for your mentorship.
1. Next Level Academy. Emotional Intelligence Courses. https://www.nextleveldentalhygiene.com/
2. LinkedIn. LinkedIn Learning. https://www.linkedin.com/learning/
3. Bach R. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. 1998; Arrow Books.
4. Geisey N. How a sales rep can make or break an interview. [Interview] June 2021.
Nicole Giesey, MBA, MSPTE, BSDH, RDH, is a passionate registered dental hygienist dedicated to researching, writing, and helping people in general through her current platform. She fell in love with the education process and has invested time in various roles to expand her knowledge, exploring avenues available to hygienists. Nicole started her career as a dental assistant and then progressed into dental hygiene. Next, she branched into dental hygiene education. With the opportunity of getting into dental product management and inside sales management, Nicole leaped into the world of dental sales. She is now a dental product sales representative. For comments or questions, please email Nicole at [email protected].