by Louis Malcmacher, DDS
You get to the office and your schedule is JAMPACKED. On top of that, four people call in the first hour with emergencies that must be seen today. As you try to navigate through the day, more things keep piling up on your desk and in your schedule. Then a dental company representative knocks on your door with information on the latest and greatest product that will change your practice forever. Let's talk about the wild world of dental representatives and how they affect your practice.
Dental reps, as we affectionately call them, can range from obnoxious, annoying, and tactless to being your friend, advisor, and a trusted member of your dental team. First, let me be perfectly frank -- a dental rep wants to sell you something! That is his or her job, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
For some reason, some dentists think that dental companies are evil necessities. These misguided purists believe that dental reps and dental companies should not exist, and that dentistry should be this sociological gift to mankind without any commercial influence. That is not reality, so get over it!
We live in a capitalist society, and your dental office is a business that needs to turn a profit. We chose dentistry to help people live better lives and to make a living. Our profession is very product-oriented -- we need to learn about specific products to be successful.
Dental companies are part of our success in that they provide us with the latest technologies and materials that help our practices function more efficiently. Dental companies help patients as well. Companies spend money on research and development and create new technological advances that make dentistry faster, easier, and better for you and your patients. If the product that a dental rep is selling can help improve my life or my patients' lives by providing state-of-the-art dentistry, then that is certainly a wonderful thing.
Whenever dental representatives come into my office, they may not know they are being interviewed. I am interviewing them and my staff is interviewing them. If their sole purpose is to make a quick sale and get out, they will have a poor interview and will quickly be shown the door. I have to see genuine interest from a dental rep that he or she is trying to make my life better and be part of the wonderful world of dentistry, which means that it's ultimately about the patients. It certainly doesn't take very long to discern this key element. If I recognize this within the first couple of minutes, then that dental rep is far ahead of the pack.
Let's also talk about the time element spent dealing with reps. When I attend a dental meeting or event, I have much time to visit the booths, and I have much time to speak to dental reps and really delve into what they are talking about. At the office, I'm there to treat patients and we get pretty busy during the day. A dental rep who visits the office will get only a few minutes of my time, at best.
One of the best ways for a dental rep to get everyone's attention is by a lunch-and-learn program. A number of companies offer such programs. The company provides lunch for you and your staff, and gives a 30- to 60-minute presentation on the products the company is previewing.
I can tell you one thing about my office -- food is always appreciated! Lunch-and-learn programs are relaxed times when dental reps and my office can really develop a relationship. It also gets the dental team involved, because I am much more likely to purchase a new product or piece of equipment if I see that my team is excited about it. And hey, who is going to turn down a free lunch? Some of the companies that offer lunch-and-learn programs are Philips Oral Health Care (Sonicare), OraPharma (ARESTIN), Procter and Gamble (Whitestrips and Oral-B), and Zila Inc. (ViziLite Plus). Take advantage of these wonderful opportunities to learn with your team.
The team's involvement with the dental rep is also very important. Our favorite dental reps are often patients of our office, people we have come to know and trust over the years. No matter how busy we are, they can walk into our office at any time, come straight into the operatories, and say hello. The reason for this is they are a vital part of our team. A dental rep who becomes your advisor is a very important asset to your practice.
The best thing about these people is that you don't have to pay them -- they are already there for you! Good dental reps bring great practice ideas they have seen in other offices. They have a wonderful knowledge of what other doctors are doing to be successful. I've been involved with training sales teams of many dental companies over the past 25 years. I can tell you that we are very blessed in dentistry. Many dental reps have been in dentistry for a long time. They know how dental offi ces function, they know many of our challenges, and they often have good advice and insight on how to make our practices and daily clinical dentistry more efficient. They are very knowledgeable, and I urge you to take advantage of their experience and expertise.
Dentists spend thousands of dollars every year on dental consultants, and yet we have some of the most talented people around come to our offices and give us good advice for free. Take advantage of it!
Dental company reps often ask me how to get by the gatekeeper of the office, which is usually the front desk. It's fairly easy. Be nice. Front desk and office managers deal every minute of every day with all sorts of pressures. Many times, they don't get the attention they deserve. If a dental rep is nice to them or comes bearing food, that's a sure way to get the office manager or front desk person to grab the dentist for a few minutes for the rep to do his or her thing. If my team tells me to listen to a dental rep, that rep is much closer to getting my attention.
A prime example of what I'm talking about is Tom Lamoda of the GC America Company. Tom has been a trusted friend for many years. He and his family are patients of ours and he is a part of our dental team. Whenever he walks in, we are all happy to see him. I often turn to him for advice. He is a shining example of how a dental rep can be a valuable addition to any dental office.
Dental company representatives can add much to your practice. Take time to get to know some of these people and use them as a resource for your practice. They can be knowledgeable, helpful, resourceful, and a great addition to your team.
Dr. Louis Malcmacher is a practicing general dentist in Bay Village, Ohio, and an international lecturer and author who is known for his comprehensive and entertaining style. An evaluator for Clinical Research Associates, Dr. Malcmacher has served as a spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry and is a consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the American Dental Association. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for Dr. Malcmacher's free e-mail newsletter and see his lecture schedule at www.commonsensedentistry.com.