by Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
People change jobs more frequently today than in previous decades. Staff turnover can have a devastating effect on dental practices. It also poses challenges to sales representatives who seek to develop strong relationships with team members. While staff turnover is a fact of life in today’s business environment, sales reps can minimize the negative effects when a key staff member leaves by developing relationships with the team - not just one team member.
For example, some sales reps may deal exclusively with the office manager, but working with just one person can be a double-edged sword. Selling products and accepting orders may be fast and efficient, but if that person leaves, the sales rep is often left scrambling to rebuild that practice relationship almost from scratch. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” goes the old saying. By developing relationships with the entire team or at least several team members, the sales rep is building value for the products and services as well as creating a contingency plan in case the primary contact leaves the practice.
Relationship-building largely depends on excellent customer service skills. If a sales rep provides mediocre or poor customer service, he or she will experience great difficulty winning over other members of the dental team. Exceeding expectations, no matter what the line of work, can win over those who are disinterested or disinclined.
Excel at customer service
Customer service is often the biggest asset for the sales representative. It is about treating people well. Many dental practices are highly stressed workplaces. That type of atmosphere can be the result of several factors including staff turnover, high patient volume, and the normal demands of patient care. Inefficient systems also can ratchet up the stress levels for the entire practice. A good sales rep finds a way to decrease stress for the dental team by making their lives easier with superior customer service skills.
Here are a few quick tips to implement immediately:
•Personalize. Begin each conversation with something personal as opposed to immediately jumping in with sales talk. Take the time to talk to different team members about something in their lives.
•Show interest. Try to learn new information about different staff members on each visit. Who are the members of their family? Where have they traveled? What interests them? One of the best questions is, “What’s new in your life?” This question will get more of a response than, “How are you?” Keep notes in a practice profile to remember team members’ interests. Review the notes before getting to the office in order to make the information part of natural conversation when talking with individual team members.
•Talk about yourself. Tell staff members some of the things going on in your own life. If you have kids, relating the trials and tribulations of parenthood is always a good way to develop a stronger relationship with customers. Of course, don’t overdo it. People who go on endlessly about “little Johnny or Joanie” may cause others to avoid them.
•Think special. Do something special for customers. Bring donuts, popcorn, or cookies every so often. A practice that has experienced staff turnover may be running behind and may have to suffer through a shortened lunch break. A little food often goes a long way to building a stronger representative-client relationship.
•Thank you calls. When a practice has placed a large order or tried out a new product on your recommendation, calling the practice and saying “thank you” will build value for your services. This is especially effective for developing a strong relationship with someone new in the practice.
Staff turnover occurs more frequently today than in the past. Developing a strong relationship with many team members rather than just one person is critical to maintaining sales during a period of staff turnover. The tips on customer service mentioned above can help sales reps strengthen their relationships with dental practices and teams.