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Ethical sales techniques in the dental practice

11 February 2016

Ethical sales techniques in the dental practice

In many practices, dentistry has become a business, not only due to the limitations of NHS funding, but also as  practice owners strive to improve the services they provide to their patients and the business’s profitability. The concept of ‘selling’ services to patients can be difficult for those dental professionals who have only ever been trained as dentists, not salespeople. But dental professionals can learn to shift their perspective on this subject by implementing ethical techniques, which involves a better understanding of the individual patient and then offering services that could meet their requirements.

Unfortunately, sales skills often get a bad reputation in the UK: Del Boy and Rodney Trotter spring to mind! Inherently, British people tend to be less pushy than many of our European neighbours and can distrust those that push us to buy. You probably only ever notice unethical selling when it happens because the salesperson is trying to sell you something that you do not need or want.  However, when ‘sold’ to ethically, it can be enlightening. New opportunities are opened up and various options that may not have been visible at first sight are made clearer.  A good salesperson becomes someone you can trust, someone you can turn to for advice and someone with whom you can develop a collaborative relationship.

Fundamentals of Selling

There are numerous generic sales courses available, as well as an increasing , number of sales courses tailored specifically to the dental professional. The courses all vary to a certain degree, however all discuss the same fundamental concepts:

  1. Educate patients with new ideas and perspectives
  2. Discuss ‘investment’ and not ‘cost’: demonstrate the return on the investment (long term benefit, not the initial cost outlay)
  3. Listen carefully and understand; if you don’t understand, ask further ‘probing’ questions
  4. Present a compelling solution to meet their wants and needs
  5. Connect with the patient and build rapport for a successful long term selling relationship


Dental professionals should keep in mind that the majority of patients who come through their door have very little idea about the full extent of what is required to make their dental appointment happen. Next time you present a quote for dental treatment to a patient and quickly deduct 5 per cent off because the final bill seems a lot to ask of someone, remind yourself and the patient of the amount of time, materials and experience that go into delivering the procedure. To a patient, a new crown may appear to be a new tooth that gets “stuck on.” However, explain the complexity of the procedure in layman’s terms. A patient will probably not know that a laboratory has to also be involved, or that you have just invested in the very latest technology to be able to fit a crown immediately in the practice, unlike the other dental practice down the street.

Enlighten the Patient

Also, the patient will more than likely not have a complete view of the extent of services that the practice has to offer. Ethical selling embraces opportunities to provide the patient with a service that they could invest in to fulfil their requirements. This means relevant questions need to be asked and answers should be listened to carefully. The true skill lies in uncovering underlying needs through probing questions and then presenting a solution in a simple and logical way. Perhaps a patient has invested in extensive orthodontic work, yet they still have discoloured teeth. They may not have mentioned that they would like to change this, as they may not know there are options available to them. As their trusted advisor, you are in the perfect position to offer your teeth whitening service to ensure your patient is fully satisfied with the final result. 

Before these selling strategies can be implemented, a busy practice full of patients is required. There are many marketing opportunities available these days, from traditional approaches to online social media channels. Other innovative strategies include joining a dental plan group that initiates a lot of the marketing on your behalf. Munroe Sutton, the healthcare plan provider, is exceptional in that they promote your practice to their patients for free. They work with some of the world’s largest financial, healthcare and insurance institutions, as well as local groups, so their reach is vast but targeted.

Ethical selling is paramount in the dental setting. The dentist-patient relationship is important, and ethical selling sits perfectly here.  It is about building and maintaining trust and providing the patient with choices. Do not shy away from selling more services to your patients. If implemented in the correct way, they will be thanking you for it.

About the author

Jeremy Hedrick is Vice President of Network Development and has been an integral part of the Careington and Munroe Sutton teams for over 14 years. As Vice President, Jeremy is responsible for the strategic leadership of network development for both Careington and Munroe Sutton, overseeing business development, licensing and regulation, recruiting, credentialing and quality assurance. Jeremy’s primary focus is on the continued growth and expansion of the Careington and Munroe Sutton dental networks, which are currently among some of the largest dental networks in the US and the UK. In addition to his current role, Jeremy has served in various senior leadership roles throughout Careington and Munroe Sutton including customer support, compliance, claims as well as operations of Careington’s affiliate TPA, Careington Benefit Solutions.


For more information please call 0808 234 3558 or visit

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