How to shake off the stigma of salesmanship

Can you learn and develop sales skills? Louise Beddow explains how you’re already ‘selling’ to your patients.

According to some business commentators, a salesperson is born and not made. Those who excel at it possess an inherent talent that is a prerequisite to any successful transaction – whatever the industry.

Others argue we all have an ability to learn and develop skills in a bid to get others to buy into whatever it is we wish to provide.

This act of supplying another person with something they need or desire of course forms a key part of any sales transaction – and, arguably, people don’t just do business with people they like, but who they trust, which is a concept that lies at the very heart of dental care provision.

Attracting new patients to a practice and retaining those who are loyal is obviously dependent on an innate ability to communicate the benefits of dental care as well as ‘sell’ other related services such as toothbrushes, complementary aesthetic treatments, dental plans and so on.

What is it about selling that makes people uncomfortable?

Arguably, there is an inevitable crossover between patient education, motivation and sales. Any dentist who claims not to enjoy the salesmanship side of dentistry needs to reassess what it is about selling that makes him or her uncomfortable.

After all, what is generally acknowledged is that the results of any clinical care will succeed or fail based on the ability to communicate clearly the benefits of treatment (versus the risks), the treatment involved and the expected outcomes as well as the all-essential costs and payment plan options. This, in itself, is a basic form of salesmanship.

The promotion of treatments and products are a reality of modern-day healthcare and a sales strategy that gives patients the opportunity to learn and benefit from them is more than just a method of maximising profits. It is a professional duty. Ethical selling is an everyday part of healthcare; it is a simple act of meeting a patient’s needs with tailored advice and, by failing to offer such information, a dentist might risk an accusation of wilful neglect.

Trust lies at the heart of the clinician-patient relationship and, if nurtured over time, good salesmanship will reap benefits for them as well as your business. Your recommendations and advice are important to those who value your experience and knowledge. If you’re not embracing the art of sales, you can be sure your competitor is.

Six ways you can make salesmanship easier

1. Trust lies at the heart of dentistry – ensure the whole practice team builds relationships with patients using good communication skills. Remember, this is a key part of the regulatory expectations placed upon the profession

2. Ditch the dental jargon – clarify what the patient has or has not understood, and record what is said at every consultation. Discuss products and treatments that are relevant to specific patients in a genuine and positive way

3. Be proactive – demonstrate the products you stock in the practice as well as talking about them. The key to salesmanship is allowing the potential purchaser to ‘feel’ the product as well as understand instruction

4. Engage the patient so they invest in the health of their mouth – use the tools they can take home – whether it is a new toothbrush, interdental brush or flosser. This will spark interest and they are more likely to be compliant, having experienced and seen the benefits in practice

5. Thanks to social media and celebrity makeovers – patients increasingly understand the importance of a smile – at work as well as at play. Whilst the primary focus for them may be on whiter or newly aligned teeth, they also need to buy into the health of that smile, ensuring longevity in the investment of any cosmetic work. Selling them relevant oral hygiene products, such as implant-specific tools, for example, is an essential part of good practice

6. Be honest, open and ethical – in a patient survey by the GDC in 2010 (GDC Public Attitudes to Standards for Dental Professionals), those who were positive about their dentist’s ability to communicate effectively with them as adults also appeared more trusting of the profession as a whole.

DPAS is a specialist provider of practice-branded dental plans for your practice and patients, offering everything the team needs to implement and promote plans effectively. For further information, visit, email [email protected] or call 01747 870 910.

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