Welcome the reps!


It is an accepted rule in many dental practices to eject dental reps without as much as a “how are you?”.

I was a dental rep for a short time back in 1991, and I still cringe when reflecting how the welcoming faces of the receptionists would switch to irritation once they realised who I was.

However dental reps have the same challenges as dental personnel do with patients. They are battling increasing competition, need to find out how to more effectively engage their clients and they battle against the resistance their clients have towards them.

The purpose of the dental rep is to, a) save the practice money, and b) educate the practice on current trends in treatment, and new materials that will achieve better results. Given the service they provide, it doesn’t make sense why dental rep visits are not welcomed.

Some reasons that may explain this accepted rule for treating dental reps are:

  1. Dental practices are usually busy and hectic, with the receptionist juggling many balls in the air. A visit by a rep is seen as an unwelcome interruption.
  2. Some reps have only a couple of brief items to cover, where others have more complex matters to discuss. If a receptionist is time-poor, it is a risk to engage, as she may end up having to commit more time than she has.
  3. When there is no system for meeting with reps, it is now or never. If there isn’t sufficient time, never is the only option.
  4. The underlying perception is that the rep does not offer any value, so they are categorised as a ‘heckler’, and treated as such.

The perception that reps offer little value is simply untrue. Many of the reps that are calling out on practices these days have become more than product detailers. Due to increasing competition, they have discovered that to set themselves apart, they need to offer more. And the way they do that is to help your practice be more successful. They often have good advice on how to make daily processes more efficient.

Imagine if you walked in to different dental practices every day and spoke with dental personnel about their challenges and their successes. You would develop an extraordinary awareness of what a dental practice needs to do to be successful. This is what your dental reps can offer you. If you ask and listen with with ears wide open! (In fact, who better to help your team perfect the experience people have when entering your practice?)

Reps are aware of the importance of building a strong relationship with your team. They are waiting for you to come to the same realisation.

The answer is to develop a system. Here’s some steps to get you on your way.

  • Discuss with your team the benefits of dental rep visits, to shift any unhelpful beliefs.
  • Determine how reps will be welcomed into the practice. Be aware that patients in the waiting room are witness to how visitors are treated, and this leave patients with an impression.
  • Set aside two 20 minute times a month (more if needed) for rep meetings with staff. At the end of lunch is a good time, so there is no risk of running late. The receptionist can then use these times and is no longer trapped, short of time, at the desk.
  • When the receptionist makes the meeting time with the rep, tell the rep exactly how much time they have. They can properly prepare and ensure best value for the time is delivered.
  • If you have a rep that comes every week, they do so because nothing else has been specified. Gauge your needs from each company and clarify on what basis you wold like a visit.

The advantage of establishing a system is that you gain control and can manage the situation for greatest results. It becomes win-win arrangement, with little time cost to the practice.

Dental practice spend time and money on discovering how to be better, but they all have talented, skilled people come to their practice wanting to give good advise for free. Welcome the reps and take advantage of it!