Sales Is Not Slimy

Author: Heidi Arndt, RDH, BSDH – Dental Hygiene Performance Coach – Enhanced Hygiene 

Most dental professionals do not (or do not want to) consider themselves to be in sales.  In fact, if you mention sales and dental in the same sentence…you may spark a nerve with them.

The truth is, healthcare professionals do sell something so they are in sales!  You many not have the title “salesman or saleswomen”, but you are still in sales.  Everyone sells something.  Husbands sell ideas to their wives; teachers sell the value of education.  What do dental professionals sell?  We sell the benefits of treating disease and promoting optimal oral health.  During the process of educating our patients, we are selling! 

Sales is a learned skill, not an innate talent.  Anyone can learn to sell.  Some people may have a more natural inclination, yet anyone can learn the basic principles of sales.

Sales is not a dirty word, and it is not slimy.  Some dental professionals may feel offended by describing part of their work as sales.  The word “sales tends to bring up very unpleasant words, such as sleazy and coercive”.  Rather than view sales in a negative term, think of sales as a set of useful tools to educate your patients. 

Sales is all about helping people see the features vs. benefits.  This is a common concept taught in all sales training, and yet it applies to dentistry, as well.

So, what does this look like in dentistry:

Features:  A physical or tangible element of your product, service or procedure.  Simply put, a feature is what your product, service, or procedure has or does. It is a characteristic that is a quantifiable, indisputable fact. Some examples include: a digital camera that shoots up to 10 megapixels; or a dry cleaning service that comes right to your door. While they may be factual and convey an advantage, they don’t communicate why they are important or how they will help your customer. Measurements, colors, weights and capabilities are all features and do not sell a product.

Benefit:  By definition, a benefit is something of value or usefulness. In marketing, a benefit explains what the features mean and why they are important. It can answer the question of “What concerns or worries your customer/patient the most?”  Customers and patients are looking for solutions and a benefit shows them how your features will solve their problems or ease their pain.

Let’s use one of the features above to illustrate what the benefit could be. What is the value to a customer of a digital camera that shoots up to 10 megapixels? It could mean a more professional photo that will be sharper and have true-to-life color. The benefit stated to a potential buyer could be that more megapixels will produce a better photo and a better way to capture important memories; this will mean more to the customer than a technical description.

A benefit can also bring to light solutions to problems that a customer didn’t even know she or he had. Perhaps this 10 megapixel camera also features a blur reduction component. The benefit is that pictures will look sharp, even when taking an action shot. Suddenly, blurry pictures of the past may begin to flash in the customer’s head. S/he wasn’t looking for a blur reduction feature, but after seeing its benefits, it might just be what compels her or him to make a purchase.

Remember, people buy based on emotional experiences and “what is in it for them”.

Here is an example of how this would relate into dentistry.

Feature:  “Scaling/Root Planing is a procedure where we go below the gumline to eliminate the bacterial that is causing the periodontal infection in your mouth.”

Benefit: “We will eliminate your tender gums, bleeding and the bad breath you have been experiencing.  Not only that, this will help you improve your general health.”

Often times, the dental team will focus only on the feature, and not on the benefit.  While in reality, the benefit is the one thing that will help move your patient to seek optimal oral health.  Right?! 

For every treatment or procedure that you provide your patients, make a list of all the benefits.  Always begin with the benefits and then follow up with the features when selling to your patients.

If you focus too much on features, you may run into compliance issues with patients due to the focus on the features only.  We need to switch the emphasis to benefits; switch to the emotional components of the suggested treatment or procedure.   If your patient thinks scaling/root planing is only about scaling below the gumline, they will not accept.  And, they will have no idea about the potential harmful affects it has on their overall health.  You MUST cite the benefits, in order for your patient to make an informed decision and say “yes”. 

Turn your focus to how you are communication and selling to your patients, and how you respond to someone selling to you.  You will soon find that everyone is selling, but the things we respond to best are the ones focused on benefits.

Remember, Sales is not slimy.  Sales is about leading your patients to optimal oral health.  Go ahead, be the #1 Salesperson in your practice.  Your patients, and your practice deserve it!