Each of us performs many roles in our lives: father, son, mother, daughter, sister, brother. As sales reps we also perform many roles in a dental office: equipment expert, business advisor, information supplier, friend, and confidant. It is important to understand these roles to understand how you fit into your clients’ offices and how you can best serve your clients in order to grow your own business.
I worked for several years with a sales rep that was not very popular in the industry. Most dentists did not like him, most other sales reps did not like him, and yet he was very successful and had extremely loyal customers. Some of them were so loyal that they continued to buy all of their supplies from him even when the dentists moved across the country. This puzzled me for a long time. I was a ‘nice-guy’ and his success as a ‘bad-guy’ made no sense to me. It was only after collaborating with him on a couple of projects that I learned why he was so successful. He had an excellent business sense, and shared all of his experience with each of his customers. He had a real estate license to help clients find space and negotiate leases; he had connections throughout several industries to get his clients special deals on equipment, financing, construction, and supplies. His customers benefited greatly from dealing with him. He understood his role in the business, and played it up to his advantage.
As I look back on deals that I have won and lost in my career, almost all of them can be related directly to my perceived role in an office. If my role in an office was as the new rep that could provide the best prices, I often won business based on price, only to lose equipment deals to other reps who had more perceived experience. If my role was as an equipment specialist (I was once a service tech) I would get surprise sales of equipment, even when I wasn’t getting the sundries business that I wanted from an office.
Many sales reps do not truly understand the role that they play in each office. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and many offices will have an impression of you in their minds that may or may not fit the reality of who you are. If you introduced yourself to a dentist by showing her a new x-ray machine, she may associate you with equipment or high-tech purchases, when your expertise may actually be endo supplies or marketing. This can work to your advantage if the client has an older practice and needs new equipment, but it can work against you if the client is a young dentist with a new practice.
Fixing these imperceptions requires deliberate action on your part. First, you must identify your strengths and weaknesses. What do you truly excel at? What roles are you capable of playing, and what roles do you want to play?
Second, you must identify the way that each of your offices perceives you. This might involve one of those ‘difficult’ conversations (the type that usually improves your business), or it may mean that you just need to listen a little more closely when talking to your dentists and their staff.
Finally, you must take action. This may mean changing the perceptions of any clients who do not truly understand who you are and the role that you could play in their office. Alternatively, it may mean reinforcing a belief that the customer has but that you have not been capitalizing on.
As 2010 progresses, take action to promote yourself as more than a salesman (or peddler as one of my older clients used to say). This may not pay off immediately, but is an essential step for growing your business from year to year. If you have a marketing degree, start sharing monthly marketing tips with your clients. If you were once a service technician, begin providing equipment checklists and offering clinic walkthroughs to your dentists. If you know everything there is to know about impression materials, hit up your manufacturer reps for samples and host a lunch and learn session for your clients.
What other ways can you think of to promote yourself and your role within a dental office?