The Sales Bag

Salespeople have an intimate relationship with their sales bag; it is almost impossible to be successful in sales without spending at least a few moments thinking about your sales bag and the items contained in it. Still, I regularly hear stories about Sales Reps that are woefully unprepared to do their job. One of my favorite stories involved a new Dental Rep who visited an office without a pen. I guess she thought that her chances of getting an order were pretty slim. She was right.

After being involved in sales for some time, I have created a list of 10 things that a Dental Rep must have in their bags at all times.

1. Order Pad and Pens
It should go without saying that you need an order pad and several pens on you at all times. Carry your corporate order pad of course, but also keep a small notebook in your pocket. This way, even when you run into an office to pick up a return or drop off a sample at the front desk, you will be prepared to write down an order. This is the most basic function of your job, and if you can’t do it, you will never have success.

2. Company Catalog
Again, this is a pretty basic item. Your company catalog is your simplest marketing tool, and you should always have it with you. If you are smart, this book will be full of notes and prices, and will be dog-eared and bookmarked from looking up hundreds of items for your clients. This book isn’t just meant for your clients to read, it is meant for Sales Reps to familiarize themselves with the products that they sell. Always have a spare in your bag to give away to a customer, and keep several extra in your car.

3. Monthly Company Flyers
One of your best chances of selling a new product to a client comes from your monthly flyer. Monthly flyers are often the first place that new products are highlighted, and they usually offer hot prices and flashy ads to attract people’s attention. Once you have distributed your flyers to your clients, keep some extras in your bag for those offices that lose them or have questions about them. I also found it useful to keep a couple of past months flyers in my bag; most manufacturers’ specials run for three months or more, even though they may only be in your flyer for one month.

4. Personal Promotions – Newsletters and Specials
If you are relying on your dental company to do all of your marketing for you, you are missing out on some big opportunities. Dental companies usually do a great job of promoting themselves, and a poor job of promoting individual reps. Any Dental Rep who has ever switched companies knows the value of having a strong personal brand. Identify something that makes you different from your competitors, and then promote it. I was the Sales Rep who could fix things; others may identify themselves as experts in endo or as a practice management consultant. Identify your strength, and then promote yourself.

5. Equipment Flyer
Some of my biggest equipment sales were a result of noticing a service tech from a competing company in an office, pulling out an equipment flyer, and sharing it with the dentist. If you have an actual equipment catalog, you can turn to the proper page, circle an item, and show it to your client. If you don’t have a corporate equipment flyer, carry a few brochures for the most common breakdown items: mechanical room equipment, sterilizers, and handpieces.

6. Talking Pad
Zig Ziglar was a big fan of the talking pad; it is not the same thing as an order pad. The talking pad is a full-sized note pad that you can use to make notes when you are talking to a dentist. On it, write down important points that the dentist makes as you talk. Make a note of his objections to new products so that you can address them. Don’t be shy about using it – if he asks what you are doing, you can say that you are making notes so that you can give him the most accurate information possible.

7. Tape Measure
Buy a 25 foot tape measure and leave it in your bag. You will probably forget that you even have this in your bag, but one day someone will ask you a question about a piece of equipment; “Will a digital pan fit here?” Whip out your tape measure and record the size of the space. Even if you do not know how big a piece of equipment is, you can write down the dimensions of the space and get back to them once you have the information that you need. By being prepared, you will leave your clients with the impression that you are an expert and are able to serve their needs.

8. Burr/Diamond Wallet
I was never lucky enough to get a diamond wallet for my bag; they were as rare as hen’s teeth in my company. However, if you have one, make sure you use it. If you don’t have one, carry a diamond manufacturer’s brochure with you so that you can identify unlabelled burs, show clients the shape of new burs, and identify any missing burrs in their set.

9. Free Samples
I’ve noticed a growing trend away from free samples and more emphasis on money back guarantees in the past few years. Guarantees are important, but nothing beats free. So many reps get free samples, and then leave them on their desks until they expire. If you have product samples in your possession, give them out!

10. Calculator
Most cell phones today have a calculator built into them, but I recommend carrying a simple handheld calculator in your bag. It looks more professional than using a cell phone, and you will need it to calculate prices and discounts for your clients.

If you have been a Sales Rep for any length of time, you will probably have an opinion on this list; there may be things that you feel are unnecessary, or you may have an item in your bag that you can not live without. Share those comments with us!

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Comment by William Davis on February 11, 2010 at 11:44am
Nice post.. good to see a reminder of the things that should be sales 101 for most, but many still forget.
Comment by Billy Richter on December 15, 2009 at 4:57pm
Great article Ryan. The only thing I'd add is my business card. I especially like #4 (become the best resource you can for your customers) and #6 (this really shows the dentist that you're listening and that you're interested).
Comment by Ryan Holota on December 10, 2009 at 10:24pm
Thanks Warren. What did I miss? Do you have any special items in your bag?
Comment by Warren on December 10, 2009 at 6:50am
Great list my former competitor! For us at Schein the first 5 items are in my laptop , but hard copy is a must as well. I carry all my literature/catalogues on my laptop in .pdf format which really saves my back

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