3 Small Steps that make a BIG Difference Selling to Dentists

For the past two decades in my work as a sales coach, I have witnessed hundreds of product presentations and attempts to influence dental consumers. Each year, we gather feedback from clinical professionals about their buying habits and the qualities they look for in the people and companies they buy from. The results indicate, there are several common ways representatives unknowingly hurt themselves when selling to dentists.

Dental professionals make buying decisions differently than typical consumers or fellow healthcare providers. And, when reps understand how their customer want to buy, their influence and value improves and sales increase. For your benefit, I have summarized three of the most common mistakes made selling to dentists and their staff.

PRESCRIPTION BEFORE DIAGNOSIS IS MALPRACTICE

Dental offices are busy with limited time for unexpected interruptions and unplanned meetings from salespeople. Reps know they need to get to the point and purpose of their call quickly. For most reps, that translates to jumping into a memorized product presentation of features and benefits. Salespeople rationalize this ‘short cut’ approach by getting to the ‘meat’ of their message thinking it demonstrates respect for the clinician’s time. Unfortunately, most dentists see it as an informative distraction.  In medical terms, most reps offer a prescription before a relevant diagnosis is ever made.

Salespeople would be much more effective in their results if they first asked a few ‘diagnostic’ or qualifying questions. Effective diagnostic questions strategically uncover key pain points by exposing limitations in the product being used now. They also reveal valuable insights about a prospect’s critical needs, wants and expectations for buying.  More importantly, well crafted questions will lead prospects to consider their reasons why they might switch to a new product. This simple approach seems ridiculously obvious why and how it positively improves sales, yet, so few representatives do it. We have coached hundreds of salespeople to adopt this technique (using our proprietary I.D.E.A. ApproachTM sales model) and their results improved significantly.

OVERLY FOCUSED ON PRICE & PROFIT

Most reps learn early on, “selling is a numbers game”. And, it makes sense when salespeople are hyper focused on numbers because their compensation and career depend on it. Another common mistake reps make, is to assume dentists share the same money motivation (price and profit) for buying. As a result, finance focused sales presentations are missing what matters most to clinical providers, lowering the likeliness of earning an order.
Healthcare consumers are interested at getting good value for their purchases but do not buy based primarily on money matters. The majority of dentists practicing today make buying decisions based on how it will advance their ability to improve patient outcomes. This includes a better cosmetic result, stronger restoration, provide safer treatment delivered faster with more comfort. This means, to attract interest and increase influence and ultimately win approval for an order, healthcare sales professionals must prioritize patient care over price or profit in their presentations.

To do this, seek to understand where the clinical challenges are in using their current product. Ask questions to uncover specific limitations in how a product is used, delivered, performs, lasts or impacts safety. Then use strong product knowledge to describe your product’s exact clinical advantages over what they are using now. Concisely describe how patient care is more comfortable, safer, faster, stronger or cosmetically better than any product they’ve seen.

As a dental hygienist, the best sales secret I can offer is that most healthcare professionals buy for the same reason they entered the industry and that is to help people. Salespeople who focus on and work to improve the quality of patient care their customers provide will be richly rewarded with higher credibility, faster trust and better sales.

POSITION PRODUCT AS A SOLUTION

When discussing their product or service, salespeople typically describe the same set of product features and benefits. As if, the prospect is expected to hear something to grab their interest and then buy. Unfortunately, this approach ends up sounding like a canned sales spiel. And, requires the prospect, not familiar with your product advantages, must figure out how their procedures, processes and patients will benefit. This is not exactly the customer focused service any buyer desires or deserves.

Every customer believes they and their situation is unique. Generically reciting features and benefits as a sales presentation undermines the very results reps are attempting to achieve. So, positioning your product or service to prescriptively address buyer needs, wants or desires will always be more effective than a generic sales spiel.

Offering a solid product recommendation that improves or resolves client challenges is the very essence of consultative selling. And, according to hundreds of healthcare buyers, an approach they are craving to receive. Most dental reps would become much more consultative if more focused on positioning their offer to improve a buyer’s current situation. Even if the doctor doesn’t yet know it can be improved. That’s where effective qualifying questions, good product knowledge and a powerful sales process make a big impact.

We have developed a template of ‘Diagnostic Questions’ for uncovering how any product or service can be beau-tifully positioned as a solution. This sales tool has been field tested and fine-tuned to work well with dental and healthcare consumers. You can have it for FREE by downloading it here. [Diagnostic Questions Template] 

Sampling Success Strategies

Double Your Sample Trial Rate Selling to Dentists

The idea Try It Before You Buy It has grown to become a common customer expectation. Most consumers expect to sample a product prior to purchasing to take the risk out of buying. Yet, sampling as a sales strategy in healthcare has all but vanished.Gone are the days where clinical providers strain to carry sacks full of trial products from trade shows or shuffle the samples that once stuffed their shelves. Where have all the freebies gone?

Considering fewer than half of all samples distributed are ever tried, they are an easy target to eliminate in an effort to reduce costs. But this approach may be costing you and your firm millions in potential sales. Sampling still remains the single best way to create brand experience and tee up sales like nothing else!

It’s about time healthcare reconsider their sampling policies and tap into what other industries already know.The advantages and benefits of letting prospects try before they buy considerably outweighs the effort and expense required. With a few changes in strategy and tactic, your sampling response rates will improve considerably while you advance your sales and marketing goals by following these ideas:

There is no brand more closely associated with sampling success than COSTCO. “When we compare it to other mediums … in-store product demonstration has the highest [sales] lift,” says Giovanni DeMeo of demo company Interactions, which handles Costco’s sampling program. “Giving out free samples has boosted sales in some cases by 2,000 percent.” To illustrate how sampling influences customer-purchasing behavior,Datalogix research revealed, sampled households were 4x more likely to purchase than the control group. That is,four times as many people purchased than those who did not receive a sample. Unit sales within the sample group also showed a 700% increase in purchases.Sampling programs work exceptionally well for healthcare if executed using the right approach.

Set Your Sample Strategy

Clarify Your Goals

The purpose of sampling is to create a positive brand experience resulting in a sale. Too often samples are distributed as part of a half-baked plan. Sales and customer service people are given a cursory supply of grip stock in hopes they will convert into sales.A trial offer can serve as both an effective marketing tactic and powerful sales tool. Consider a few ways sampling will advance your promotional objectives:

  • Reaches a new target segment
  • Expands lateral product use
  • Builds value and maintains price integrity
  • Demonstrates superior brand performance
  • Interrupts competitive brand loyalty
  • Exposescustomer insights
  • Drives traffic to new market platforms or promotional programs
  • Overcomes low consumer confidence or unfavorable brand image

 A productive sampling strategy requires clarity on expected outcomes, focus on a target audience and a straight forward execution plan. Our firm created sampling protocols for several dental companies aimed at selling to dentists and hygienists using this approach.Their results were impressive, considerably exceeding industry averages.

Monitor Metrics & Methods

A definitive sampling strategy can yield triple digit product trial rates increasing sales considerably. To realize the full potential of sampling, both sales and marketing objectives must be clearly defined. This includes Identifying specific metrics to track progress and verify if goals were met. Some ways to measure results include:

  • total sample requests
  • coupon redemption rate
  • surveys completed
  • clicks to view offer
  • user feedback received
  • sales conversion rate
  • total new customers acquired
  • total sales generated

Narrow Your Niche

Use your sampling strategy goals todefine yourtarget audience. If your goal is to expand customer reach, it isbetter to focus on specific market segmentsor demographics where your product has sold successfully. If you wish to appeal to new users, those who have never purchased your product before, identify subcategories by specialty, location or age. It is tempting to want to ‘expand your net’ but, sampling success is achieved by narrowing your scope.

Conditions that Qualify

There are specific conditions proven to set sampling up for greater success. For example, food samples have greater conversion rates around hungry prospects than those who are not. Consider when your target audience may be more receptive and more likely to buy.Then position your offer to capitalize on these opportunities.

Trial conversions are highest when sampled products are used immediately upon receipt. This is why educational events with hands on instruction are excellent sampling environments to promote sales.And, trade shows typically deliver lower conversion rates because of the long lapse between receipt and their use.

Sales reps will enjoy higher sales conversions by assisting buyers to identify a case where the sample can be used. This technique establishes a higher sense of urgency for use and allows sooner experience product advantages. Even more valuable, representatives now have an invaluable follow up opportunity to solicit user feedback and ask for an order.

Sampling is always the next best alternative to selling.Yet, medical and dental consumers are more receptive to trying new products at the following times:

  • When an order is placed, offer a complementary sample
  • When a prospect expresses or implies a performance need, want or expectation
  • When product praise or success story is shared
  • During an educational session
  • After an attempt at closing has been rejected

Timing is Everything

How effectively samples are positioned in selling scenarios significantly impacts how well they generate sales. One of the biggest mistakes representatives make is offering samples as an afterthought or ‘throw in’ after presenting another product. As if the sample will sell itself! Products or services sold or sampled in any sales scenario should always serve as a prescribed remedy to a buyers stated or implied need.Reps must be trained to position products as solutions in their sales process. This is done by skillful blending qualifying questions with solid product knowledge.

Words that Work

Representatives who ask for orders prior to offering samples make more sales. Therefore, the closing sequence used has a big impact on sales outcome. Ideally, a sample would only be offered after asking prospects to buy. Most companies have generous return policies providing the same no risk protection as sampling—but better. Asking for an order before sampling is a better option because buyers will gain experience using the product and enjoy its benefits sooner. And, customer’s who buy before they try gain greater product appreciation and enjoy its value sooner.

We have summarized the best sampling sequences when selling to dentists and healthcare consumers. Download the Sampling for Higher Sales Cheat Sheet to gain better sales sampling results HERE.

Fruitful Follow Up

  • 44% of salespeople give up after one follow up[1]
  • 80% of sales require five follow ups…or more[2]

These sobering stats expose huge sales opportunity for any rep on the planet.Big money is being left on the table every day. To help, we’ve created a sampling follow up protocol shown to boost sales to triple digits.Here’s how it works:

When a prospect agrees to try a sample, representatives would follow up to obtain an order at a later time. The problem is, most prospects are not typically available after the sample is tried. This causes sales from sampling to plummet. It is important to keep in mind, most clinical providers are accustomed to giving feedback in exchange for services received or access to product demos. Therefore, representatives who schedule follow up feedback meetings at the time a sample is provided enjoy an impressive 78% increase in sales made from samples. This compares to the current industry standard of only 4%. We’ve included some word tracks in a FREE Sampling for Higher Sales Cheat Sheet HERE.

Customers buy long before they pay.Sampling as a much bigger impact than simply selling a product. They provide a chance for buyers to experience your brand of service, tech support, product knowledge and customer care. So, don’t be so short-sighted and stingy when it comes to letting customers try before they buy.When positioned appropriately,sampling will boost sales to expand new users and deliver long-term loyal customers. To achieve true sales potential, sometimes a brand needs to lead by a sample. If your company’s sampling results could use a boost, call us, we can help. 800-471-2619

 

[1]SOURCE: Scripted

[2] SOURCE: The Marketing Donut

8 Ways to Boost Trade Show Sales

Trade shows in the dental industry have changed considerably over the past decade. Back in the day we enjoyed long lines at our trade show booths. Today, attendance has declined and expectations have changed considerably.

Yet… few venues offer a more powerful way to influence than the face-to-face interactions at tradeshows.

Exhibiting at dental conferences can still deliver valuable returns on sales and marketing efforts with a bit of pre-meeting planning. Consider the following eight tactics to improve your results at tradeshows:

1. Super Select Staffing: When team members feel chosen, not obligated, to attend at a trade show because of past performance or their overall sales prowess, they feel honored to be picked and perform better. When an “A Team” of high achievers exhibit on your behalf, everybody wins:

  • Visitors receive top-notch service and support
  • Sales staff will hyper-compete for recognition and incentives
  • Performance metrics reflect better results

2. Save Set-Up for Specialists: Sometimes managers mistake sales staff as ‘hired hands’ for booth set up and break down. This is a clear misuse of talent, time and energy. Let contractors do the heavy lifting of moving boxes and assembling exhibits. Preserve the talent and energy of your tradeshow team for interacting and influencing potential buyers – where they’ll shine brightest!

3. Perfect Practice Raises Results: Training and role-play exercises are the best tools for preparing your sales team. No matter how experienced your sales team is performance improves when skills are sharpened, messaging reinforced and expectations established.

4. Huddles Help: Pre-show huddles offer the same advantage as football pre-game and half time huddles—they drive better performance!When you assemble your team before an important event, you set expectations, unify messaging, share sales strategies, offer motivational incentives and inspiration for a strong start and more successful shows.

5. Pre-Show Promotions Elevate Performance: A study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research found that the conversion of booth visitors to qualified leads rose 50% when a pre-show promotion strategy was used. Don’t wait until opening day to get the buzz going!

  • Consider hosting a webinar to set up a product intro or sponsored scientific session.
  • Leverage social media to add value and build excitement with preview articles and info graphics.
  • Boost booth traffic during slow times by scheduling appointments prior and during exhibition hours.

6. Attract With an Alluring Hook: Train the sales team to offer an opening line that requires a response by attendees passing in the aisles.

    • Ask open-ended questions that expose the problem your product solves.
    • Double interest and attention with a simple model or demonstration.
    • Take a nod from Dr. Oz, who illustrates complex medical processes with felt, cardboard and ping pong balls!
    • An effective model will highlight a cool feature or show product impact in a concise and intriguing way ultimately prompting conversations with sales staff.

7. Ambitious Goals Make For Outstanding Achievements: Get clear on exactly the results you expect.

      • What priorities matter most: sales, leads, awareness, customer relationships or positive presence?
      • Establish stretch goals to support show objectives.
      • Morning meetings and post-show debriefs are a good way that keep everyone focused on daily milestones.
      • Be sure to recognized and reward peak performance—ideally, daily.

8. Fortune is in the Follow Up: Numerous studies show that it takes an average of five follow-ups to close sales. Only 2% of people buy something after they first talk or inquire about a product or service. Persistent and strategic sales follow-up are the key making the most of the powerful potential of exhibiting at trade shows. Therefore, be sure to develop and execute a follow up strategy to maximize your results at trade shows.

Leadership is not a Popularity Contest

Working toward goals gives our lives meaning and purpose

As a manager, it is more important to be respected than popular. Yet, bosses often relinquish their leadership responsibility to ensure their employees are answerable for their actions because they want to be liked.

There are significant consequences when employee accountability is low. The most important, individual and corporate productivity fails to reach its true potential. These organizations are easy to spot because plans never get off the ground, agreed upon actions are not completed or commitments are not fulfilled.  If people are not carrying their weight, others feel the burden of picking up the slack and begin to resent it. As a result, employee motivation and initiative is severely lacking, morale drops creating a culture that rewards mediocrity.

Human beings are teleologic—they are target seeking individuals. Working toward goals gives our lives meaning and purpose. Therefore, people (especially salespeople) inherently want to learn, grow and contribute to something meaningful. They even desire a healthy environment of discipline where they are held accountable reach their goals and those of their employer. When business professionals are not held to certain performance standards—effort relaxes, productivity declines and expectations are not met.

Managers are often unclear on how to hold people accountable—they tend to be too harsh or too soft. As a result, they tend to shy away from demanding their employees keep their commitments because they are afraid or want to avoid confrontation. They believe, if they press — people will quit or undermine their efforts. The most common reason managers fail to hold their people accountable is they value popularity over being effective.

Somewhere along the line, bosses adopted the misconception that good management means being “friends” with subordinates. They believe that if they can get their teams to like them enough—they will work harder for them. Yet, this could not be farther from the truth. The most effective leaders are trusted first then respected. How much would you trust and respect a supervisor for allowing you to get away with mediocrity when you were actually wired for greatness?!

Frankly, it is much easier to let employees off the hook. It takes a lot of time to monitor, follow up, guide, correct, advise and help people stay on track.

A Better Way to Reach Sales Goals

An Action Plan for Sales Managers…

The New Year is a season ‘fresh starts’ and renewed resolutions. It is also a good time for reps to review and renew their annual sales goals. Some may be quite adept at goal setting, but it’s rare to find salespeople who remain focused on their professional goals throughout the year without some managerial guidance. And, it’s even more rare to find reps that are good at implementing plans over an extended period of time. Salespeople get busy and are easily distracted while trying to work a plan throughout an entire year. Reps will be far more successful achieving their goals with the support, direction and guidance of their manager.

Promote the Power of Planning

Salespeople already know that goal setting is important, yet many tend to reject planning as busy work that gets in the way of their selling efforts. It is the necessary groundwork required to improve the attitudes, accuracy and accountability so many sales teams lack. Educate your team to view planning as critical step in obtaining the results they desire and the goals aspire to. Many sales managers make the mistake of including sales plans as just another report due at the end of the year. The better you are at getting your team to view this tool as a critical component in getting where they want to go, the less you will have to work at getting them to create and use it and more important—reaching your company’s objectives.

Success Follows Structure

One of the fundamental reasons people don’t achieve higher levels of performance in sales is the lack of a structured, organized way of achieving them. It is here that sales managers can offer invaluable support to their reps and results by teaching and coaching effective goal setting tactics.

Most sales people will embrace ideas that will help them achieve better results with less effort. Therefore, your challenge is to assist reps to recognize that goals are met faster and better when preceded preparation and planning. A Strategic Sales Plan is a written tool that outlines the specific tactics and strategies necessary to meet annual sales and key performance objectives. It paves the path with milestones and markers required to reach intended outcomes.

Every Strategic Sales Plan should be as unique as the territory and representative who creates it. A good plan will guide reps through important considerations needed by this territory, during this year, given the specific market conditions that exist at this time in this territory. The sales plan itself, as a deliverable document, isn’t the most important element. More beneficial to results, is the process required to research and analyze the elements and trends a Strategic Sales Plan exposes. Provide your reps with template or topic outline to guide their considerations that will lead them to spot bigger and better opportunities for growth. If you would like a copy of the SSP we routinely use with clients, click here for our Strategic Sales Plan Template.

Encourage reps to customize their Plans to meet sales goals and the needs of their territory. Ask them to take into account a distributor or customer requiring special attention or different strategies. Build the template to view each market or territory at a higher level than the ground zero view they have on a daily basis when their feet are on the street. This exercise will help to strengthen rep research, data analysis skills and strategic thinking while preparing these plans. The more reps put their unique thumbprints to the Sales Plans, the more they will commit to and own the results.