Ethical selling

The word ‘selling’ can make some dental professionals feel a little uncomfortable as it’s often perceived as a one-way process, where the seller pesters the buyer with reasons to buy. But selling a service need not be a manipulative process. What you’re really trying to do is help the customer see what you have to offer, and why it meets their needs.

Professional ethics is something that all members of the healthcare profession are well aware of. However, being able to sell services ‘ethically’ is also very important in dental practices. Ethical selling is about offering high quality services, which are right for the patients’ needs, in exchange for money. Conversely, you could say that failing to offer solutions and listening properly to patients’ needs is unethical. 

A question of confidence

We all know how much trust has to do with the relationship you have with your patient, and in order to trust you they must first value the treatment they receive. Once they do, they are far more likely to follow your recommendations and respect your professional opinion. The most important way to improve your practice team’s selling skills is to boost their confidence. Most of the team will already know the benefits of your products and services. However, over a period of time, they can become reluctant to ask patients for money, particularly in this current climate, and confidence in selling a service can drop. 

One way to get out of this way of thinking is to ask your team: ‘Is it ethical to not offer a service to somebody that needs it?’ Once they understand that the products and services the practice offer are of real value to their patients, they will have far more faith in what they’re selling and this will then be conveyed to the patient.

While dental professionals recommend specific products, selling those very products is often seen as a giant step. Yet, from the patients’ point of view, purchasing products while they’re in the surgery is advantageous because they know they’re buying exactly what has been recommended. How often have we all come out of a consultation with any professional and immediately drawn a blank over what was advised? Having products in the surgery ensures patients use the right product for them so that they can implement the oral hygiene regimen you’ve suggested.

The cost of dentistry

With more people keeping a firmer grasp on their purse-strings during tough economic times, you may have noticed the effect on your practice’s profitability. Interestingly, payment plan patients are by far more likely to see the dentist at least every six months and are therefore far more likely to have a preventive approach to their oral health. In fact, 57% strongly agree that looking after their oral health now can prevent problems in the future (Denplan and Yougov, 2013), but as we all continue to guard the purse-strings tightly, private practices cannot afford to be complacent and your selling abilities are more important now than ever. 

The cost of dentistry itself can, quite rightly, be high.  If a patient has spent several hundred pounds then it can feel a little uncomfortable to ask for more money for, say, an electric toothbrush.  However, many patients are happy to buy oral hygiene products while at the surgery and regard this as an integral aspect of their customer service. If the practice can be a ‘one stop shop’ for purchasing oral hygiene products at the same time as the regular check-up then this will be seen as a huge advantage.  

Ethical training in practise

The Singleton Practice in Ashford, Kent, is one Denplan practice that has already seen significant benefits to their business after the whole practice team completed a Denplan Ethical Selling training module. ‘Dental practices can sometimes be shy in pushing their services’, says Judy Peirson-Webber, a dentist at the practice. 

‘We’re now talking all our services up, whereas before the training we were a bit low-key. Now we’re more clued-up in being able to sell effectively to people while they’re in ‘buying mode’. The excellent training helped us to consolidate the skills we already had – Ethical Selling is a great module and the trainer explained techniques clearly.

‘With customers now watching their pennies in the current economic climate, payment plans play a key role in helping them to budget for their dental treatments. We’re always proud to be associated with Denplan – and we’re never concerned or embarrassed about selling our private services to people.’ 


Denplan/Yougov, January 2013. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Yougov Plc. Total sample size was 4,116 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14 and 23 January 2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Jo Banks is a Denplan trainer adviser at Denplan. Call Denplan on 01962 827 931.

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