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The rules of engagement

June 1, 2009
You’ve heard the exchange before … “Can I help you?” “No, I’m just looking.

By Louis Malcmacher, DDS, MAGD

You’ve heard the exchange before … “Can I help you?” “No, I’m just looking.”

But if you actually need sales help, chances are good the sales clerks are talking to each other and ignoring you. At the more expensive shops, there’s a security officer at the door looking stoic, almost mean – an interesting personality to set the tone for your visit.

Whenever my wife shops in Las Vegas, none of that matters. In spite of a stern security guard and lousy salespeople, customers still buy. I’ll challenge every store owner that if their front-door people were friendly greeters and their salespeople were engaging, their sales would double.

But most retailers, especially in cities like Las Vegas, haven’t figured that out yet.

Engaging your customers

There is a big difference between greeting and engaging customers. Since we are in the middle of the spring meeting season in the dental industry, and many of you will be engaging dentists, let me give you some rules of engagement.

1. Smile! Your smile tells customers that they are welcome. Do you smile every time you greet someone? By the way, you are in the dental business. What does your smile look like and what does your breath smell like? They better both be good; it is the first thing a dental professional looks at and judges you on.

2. Be friendly! Friendly is a manner that comes from within. It’s a personality and an attitude. It also allows the customer to be more open with you. Are you friendly to your dentist customers all the time? I can tell you when I walk the floor of the Greater New York or Chicago Midwinter Meetings, not all of our sales reps are smiling or very friendly. I understand that the dentist customer can be tough sometimes, but if you are friendly, then they will be friendly.

3. Ask a meaningful question! Ask an engaging question. It can even be a statement, as long as it engages. It can be, “I have something perfect for you and your patients.” Do you have five compelling and engaging questions or statements?

4. Be sincere! This is an element of engagement that is as obvious in its absence as it is in its presence. If you don’t love your job, if you don’t love your company, your sincerity will be in question, and so will your sales. Do you love what you do enough to be sincere about it?

5. Maintain eye contact! Look people in the eye when you greet them. It gives them confidence in you. How would you rate your eye contact? How can you improve it?

6. Know the product or service you sell! When engaging a customer, this is a given. Are you the master of product knowledge?

7. Have a genuine desire to help! This element comes from who you are as a person. Your character. Your service heart. How willing are you to serve others?

8. Have an ability to answer the customer’s question(s) in a manner that leads to the sale. Don’t just answer the question; try to find out why they’re asking it. What kind of answers are you giving to your 10 most asked questions?

9. Tell me what you can do, not what you can’t do! Don’t tell me you’re out of stock, tell me what other store has it and how you’re going to get it to me. How easy is it for your customers to buy?

10. Finally, ask for the sale! Most sales opportunities are lost because salespeople fail to ask for the business. Are you asking for the sales every time? I doubt it.

Engagement challenges you to get one-on-one with a customer in a manner that puts the customer at ease, excites them, and makes them want to purchase from you.

Train your people on the rules of engagement. And if you’re a dental salesperson, master the rules of engagement.

It never ceases to amaze me that people in this business fail to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to them when a dentist calls or walks up to their booth wanting to buy. In these economically challenging times, the power of engagement can help you get to the one word in business that you seek – sales.

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Dr. Louis Malcmacher is a general and cosmetic dentist located in Bay Village, Ohio. He is also an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates as well as a consultant to the dental industry. Dr. Malcmacher speaks to thousands of dental professionals every year, so he has very unique insight into the dental market and how to interact with the dental customer. For the last 25 years, he has intensively trained sales teams and done marketing consulting with dental companies. Dr. Malcmacher can be reached at (440) 892-1810 or e-mail [email protected]. He offers a free e-mail newsletter for dental company representatives, which you can sign up for at his Web site (