Hygienists often feel uncomfortable recommending products or services
because it makes
them feel “sales-y.”
Here’s how to rethink
For most people who don’t work in sales, the idea of having to “sell” is about as palatable as eating fish eyes. Yet the reality is, if the business you work for (or own) stops selling, you’re out of a job. This bears repeating: No sales means no job/business.
Here’s one easy way to achieve more sales without feeling like you need to take a bath afterward.
Removing the slick from sales
On a scale of 1–10, how much do you consider your current position to be a sales job? A three, a five … maybe even an eight?
Just about everyone wants to sell more, because we enjoy the association with success and growth. Many people are uncomfortable with selling, however, because they feel like they have to do something unethical to get that outcome; hence, I often find that dental staff give themselves a lower number on the “sales job out of 10” scale rating than perhaps they should.
While I now run a dental marketing agency, I previously ran a sales team servicing a range of health care professionals. This was a team that sold millions of dollars of products all over Australia, which gave me excellent insights into what worked and what didn’t.
It might surprise you that the most successful salespeople on my team were the least pushy. So how can you sell more without feeling “sales-y”?
How’s your association?
I’ve trained many dental and nondental teams in sales, and one of my favorite things to do is to play a word association game with participants. You know the one: Someone says a word, and you have to say the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word. (I say ball, you say bat.)
I’ve done this with hundreds of individuals, and when I say salesperson the most common reply is something negative, such as pushy or sleazy. Yet around 40 percent of people have a neutral or positive association with the same term, using words like targets, focused and friendly.
How can the word bring out such a polarized response? Before answering that question, consider this scenario:
- You walk into a store intending to buy a technical item that costs a few hundred dollars.
You have a basic idea of what you want, but haven’t finalized your decision.
The salesperson alerts you to something you hadn’t thought of, and you now realize this feature would be beneficial.
When you went in, you believed there was one product feature you had to have.
However, after talking to the salesperson, you now realize that you don’t need that feature.
At the end of the process, you buy a better product than you imagined for around the same price.
In this scenario, there’s nothing pushy or sleazy going on; in fact, the salesperson has been very helpful, and you’ve ended up getting a good result (and something better than you thought). Yet, against the above scenario are dozens of experiences with pushy or unhelpful salespeople who seem to want you to do something you don’t want to do.
I’ve come to this conclusion: A bad salesperson is pushing their agenda. A good salesperson is pushing your agenda.
So, what does this mean in dentistry? As long as you’re pushing the patient’s agenda, which I would describe as “optimum dental health,” then you’ve got nothing to worry about (and no reason to feel sleazy) if you’re selling a particular outcome.
Forget the tech—
focus on the result
Now that you understand you can have a positive association with sales—remember, you’re pushing their optimal dental health agenda, not yours—let’s get a bit tactical.
In an industry like dentistry, it’s easy to focus on the technical and scientific elements because—let’s face it—that’s what you do every day, and there are lots of them.
If a practice is strong in the technical or scientific aspects, you probably deliver great dentistry, but this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to sell more. Why not? Dentistry is complex, and your clients often don’t really understand what’s going on technically.
One of the biggest mistakes I regularly see in a sales context is people talking up the product or process, but not the result. But here’s a news flash: Your patients care most about the outcome, not the process.
When they come to you with a toothache, your patients almost don’t care how you fix it, as long as you get them out of pain. If you got them to hop on one leg for one minute while singing “Old MacDonald” and it fixed their toothache, they really wouldn’t care about the process because it’s the result that matters, not the process. A basic understanding of the process may be helpful, but what your patients really want is an outcome.
Fortunately, when you’re talking to patients about a potential treatment or product, there are two little words that are going to help your sales success enormously. These words are “this means.”
These two words seamlessly link the products’ features—the technical aspects—with the benefits for the client. For example: “We offer a take-home whitening kit with dentist-fitted trays and a higher-grade bleaching product. This means you get a beautiful, whiter, brighter smile in the comfort of your own home.”
Anytime you’re explaining something complex, use “this means” to bring it back to a result that directly benefits the client.
“But I’m still uncomfortable
Let me ask you two questions:
- Do you believe that you work for a business that provides good products or services?
Do you think that clients would benefit from the services you provide?
Hopefully, the answer to both of these questions is yes. (If not, you’d better find somewhere else to work—and fast!) If so, then I want to leave you with one other thought to focus on: Likely, you’ve heard of the Golden Rule—treat others as you’d like to be treated. In this context, consider:
If you were the consumer, wouldn’t you want a business you trust describing how it can help you?
Wouldn’t you be slightly miffed if you missed out on being offered something that you value, and would gladly pay for (FOMO), or at least like the opportunity to choose?
It may just be that your reticence to sell to your client is actually doing your client a disservice.
While we’ve all had negative experiences with salespeople, that doesn’t mean you should disregard sales. Remember to push your clients’ agenda, not yours, and emphasize the results for them, not just the process. You’ll sell more without feeling sales-y.