Three questions to think about before you approach dental prospects

April 13, 2010

By Anthony Stefanou, DMD

As a dentist who practiced for many years and held sales leadership positions for several dental companies, I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate dental sales techniques from both sides. There is no question that most of you are well informed about the products you represent and your competitors’ offerings. I think you would agree, however, that this is not enough to translate into all the new accounts you want and need. If you are truly interested in putting yourself in a better position to succeed in your quest for new business, consider these three questions.

1. What makes you so different that a dentist should pay attention to you?
Yes, I said YOU, not your product or service. By different, I mean unique, remarkable, special, or VALUABLE! When you’re clear about what you bring to the table that most of the others don’t, you are way ahead of the game. Remember that your competitors also offer pretty good products, possibly at a better price. Most dentists don’t make their decisions on saving a few dollars (those who do can be a big headache for you in the long term!), but they do choose whom they do business with on whether they like or feel comfortable with someone. Do you have something in common with them? Can you help them outside of what you are getting commission on? These things are very often what make the difference in getting an account. We are way beyond the days where the “product itself” makes the sale. The studies, PowerPoints, and fancy brochures are nice, but everyone has these. What’s your value to the dentists? Why should they listen to you? Establish what makes you remarkable early in your first conversation, and you have a fighting chance.

2. What is your one main message?
While it may be true that your product line offers many benefits, you lose folks if you try to rattle off too many things initially to impress them. Unfortunately, you won’t have a chance to “get them back.” There are 12 things that are very important to dentists. I don’t have the space to go into all of them here (we spend a lot of time on this in my sales workshops), but they are things such as “increasing the value of your practice,” or “significantly reducing overhead.” While your offerings should fall into several of these 12 areas, leading with a powerful statement or question focused on one of them (whether in print or conversation) is the ticket to success. You literally have a few seconds to get their attention. Dentists now get hit with three times as many advertisements and solicitations than they did just 10 years ago. Your message (statement or question) should get a dentist to say or think one of two things: “Hey, that’s me!” or “Hmmm…what is this?” If you succeed in doing that, you’re in great shape. You can’t generate a response like that by throwing 10 things at them all at once, because they will have tuned out almost immediately!

3. What is the one question you can ask that “the others” will not?
This is the key to success in dental sales, and it’s also the toughest thing to figure out. But once you do figure it out, you will be so far ahead of your competitors that it’s almost unfair! This one question is not necessarily the first thing you ask, but it should be asked somewhere in the initial conversation. It’s not a closed-ended (yes or no) question, and it’s not something that obviously is a set-up for your product! It also shouldn’t be a negative question, or something that “scolds” them for making a poor decision. It is something that does get them specifically thinking about their practice or situation in a way that actually shifts the situation from a typical defensive sales conversation to an engaging “buying environment.” For example, if you went into an appliance store for a new TV, and instead of the salesperson asking “What size do you want?” or “Which brand are you thinking about?” she asked, “What are your three favorite shows? What do you want your new TV to provide to make your shows more of an experience to watch?” Wouldn’t you be totally focused on her suggestions? Each of you, no matter what you represent, can ask ONE question that no one else can ask. Think about this for a while. Yes, you may need help nailing it down, but when you do, the sky’s the limit!

Obviously there are other skills and techniques to master in order to be very efficient when selling to dentists, but becoming clear on the answers to these three questions will immediately pay dividends. I guarantee it!

Dr. Stefanou is a 1987 graduate of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and owned a private practice until 2006. Since the mid-’90s he has focused much of his time on the “business” side of the industry in sales, marketing, and consulting. He has been the VP of sales or dental director for several companies, and is the founder of the Dental Sales Academy. Several times a year, he hosts a unique live “How to Sell to Dentists” workshop that enables those in dental sales to better understand why dentists buy. Information on the workshop can be found at Dr. Stefanou resides in New York City and can be contacted at [email protected] or at (646) 375-2067.