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You do not necessarily need dental school or a career as a dentist to promote oral health or attractive mouths.
The proof comes from the presence of dental sales representatives. These professionals contribute significantly to dentistry. From your efforts as a sales representative come the tools, supplies, equipment, and even advice that sustains the efforts of dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and those who support dental practices.
As with other industries, dental sales reps can work inside the company or outside.
Inside sales representatives primarily conduct business remotely — through telephones, emails, video conferences, or messaging within an office or other purchaser of dental supplies and equipment. Those in this group may work from an office or home.
Dental representatives require specialized knowledge to succeed since they deliver technical or scientific information to current and prospective buyers. The customer base consists of dental professionals.
If you take the outside route, you will travel to dental offices, clinics, and other places providing dental services. Depending on the manufacturer or wholesaler, your territory sales area may span multiple states. As an outside sales representative, expect to spend numerous days at a time away from home. According to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), an estimated four out of every “Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives, Technical and Scientific Products” spend at least part of every workday in a vehicle. Another one-fourth spend at least once a week (but not each day) in a car.
Dental product manufacturers and wholesalers for whom you may work produce and sell supplies and devices of various sizes and shapes. You may handle larger machines or very small tools and items used in dental treatments. These dental products include:
While the specifics may differ among employers or whether you work inside or out of the office, here are the essential functions of a dental sales rep:
With the duties in mind, job postings for dental sales reps may have different titles such as account manager, customer service representative, medical and dental sales representative, and marketing representative. You will see more titles when we discuss how you can find jobs as a representative.
Your role extends beyond the short-term goal of generating sales and taking orders. The customer service aspect of the dental sales representative job description involves affording advice to the dental practice. You observe the dentists, orthodontists, hygienists, assistants, staff, and the operations. Seeing outdated instruments and equipment allows you to tell the dental professionals that your offerings will upgrade their practice.
As a dental sales rep, you also bring knowledge of both tried and true and emerging dental practices and technology. The continuing education you provide dental practitioners cultivates relationships and potential sales of the equipment and supplies with the new technology.
Overwhelmingly, dental sales reps log at least full-time hours. In fact, O*NET’s survey of “Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products” reveals that 79 percent work more than 40 hours per week. For outside sales representatives, the work setting includes roads, highways, and airplanes. You may have to drive often to transport samples and literature to dentists’ offices and clinics.
Stress in the job comes from the reality that a significant portion of your compensation comes from commissions. Your company may set quotas, and the frequency by which you meet them may determine whether you keep your job. Time pressure, customer complaints, and competition by other dental sales representatives are all part of the job.
Sales representatives of technical and scientific products unanimously told O*NET that they communicate by email and phone daily. As such, you use laptops, smartphones, email, and messaging apps, tablets, and desktops.
Your tools include customer service management software, spreadsheets, calculators, and GPS or mapping apps (especially for outside sales reps who travel frequently).
A successful career in dental sales requires knowledge and skills in sales, health, dentistry, and technology.
Convincing dentists or their office managers of the need and benefits of the equipment, supplies, and tools is the basis of being a Dental Sales Representative. Being successful requires adequate knowledge and continuous reading on dental concepts, practices, and evidence of the benefits. Persuasion includes the ability to answer questions, many of which will involve subjects of a scientific or dental nature.
The dental sales rep job is a customer service role. They listen, patiently handle and respond to complaints and questions from customers. Problems with equipment or delayed deliveries can hamper dental practices, and dentists expect and need quick responses.
Persuasion requires strong communication skills. Conveying dental knowledge with brevity is very important, as dentists have relatively little time for in-person sales pitches. Communication also means listening attentively to dentists and their staff to relate their needs and concerns about their practices, supplies, and equipment.
Do not underestimate the importance of understanding the vocabulary of dentistry. Building rapport and credibility with dentists means knowing how dentists and their offices operate and the terms used by dentists. Competently and confidently speaking about root canals, dental appliances, crowns, bridges, oral diseases, alignment of teeth, and how dentists and hygienists use specific types of tools is essential.
You might not use the equipment, but it helps to know about the technology of imaging machines and instruments. Technical skills also include using social media, email, and messaging to help you explain developments in dentistry and new products or equipment.
To encourage efficiency overall in your work and to handle pandemic-related restrictions, you will need the ability to Zoom or employ other teleconferencing technology. Dental sales reps also use accounting and customer service management software. The latter type of applications allows you to respond to customer questions, send reminders, create knowledge bases on the products, and track requests for repairs or other services for problems with the products.
Generating sales and building relationships calls for you to notice even minor issues that hamper the success of a dental practice. The skill of observing includes noticing possibly outdated equipment and tools and what the pain points of hygienists and assistants in handling tools or imaging devices may be.
You might even notice whether patients need better chairs or tools. Being an astute observer can open doors to offer solutions to these and other issues.
Rejection often comes to those with sales representative jobs. Even so, you must communicate, persuade and interact with the expectation that a dental office will agree to buy from your company. Having self-confidence also comes in handy when you call dental practices that do not know you and are not expecting you to call.
Generally, dental sales representatives need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a business or sales-related field. Business administration and marketing represent common majors of sales reps. In these disciplines, you study concepts such as supply and demand, pricing, supply chains, profits and losses, economics, and finance.
Many holders of sales representatives jobs earn psychology and sociology degrees. As a psychology major, you learn about personalities and ways to influence individual behavior — and decisions to purchase products. You become equipped with tools to understand the mind, thought process, and pressures dentists might face. Psychological approaches in dental sales include appeals to the dentists’ desire to grow practices and serve patients more effectively.
Sociology also prepares you for a dental sales career focusing on behavior within organizations (such as dentists’ offices). As a sociology major, you learn about the factors that affect relationships, attitudes, and behaviors among people in a particular office, organization, or community.
Universities and colleges usually do not offer undergraduate dentistry degrees. Those four-year institutions with pre-dental programs gear their programs to aspiring dentists and those seeking admission to dental schools.
However, you may find bachelor’s degree programs in dental hygiene. While students with this degree typically become hygienists, the degree may equip you to become a sales representative. Later on, you’ll read why hygienists can make qualified dental sales representatives.
Should you aim for a bachelor’s degree in a sales or business discipline, bear in mind that dental representatives deal with technical and scientific products and subject matter. To that end, your college curriculum should include:
To hone communication skills, take courses in writing and speaking.
Prior experience in the dental field helps job seekers who might not have much sales experience. Certain employers may prefer that you have been a dental hygienist or dental assistant. Having these jobs demonstrates your familiarity with the operations and needs of a dental office.
Dental Hygienist Experience
A dental sales job may be easier if you have experience as a dental hygienist. After all, you used scalers, oral suction devices, and dental mirrors daily. You understand and can explain the design and other features of these tools.
For example, scalers come in various grades of flexibility for the shank (the end part). The hygienist selects the grade based on the amount of plaque or calculus removed from the patient’s teeth. Heavier amounts call for more rigid shanks. If your patient has less plaque, a more flexible shank will suffice.
As a hygienist, you appreciate the need for instruments to be ergonomically friendly since you spend countless hours engaged in often repetitive motions caring for oral health. Your use of instruments helps you tout how the features of instruments reduce discomfort and risk of injury since the type of grip on a dental scaler or mirror factors into the comfort of your fingers and hands.
Sales reps that come from the hygienist ranks also can describe the benefits of flip dental mirrors. If you cleaned teeth, you have encountered difficulties being able to see and reach certain teeth.
Dental Laboratory Experience
If you worked as a dental lab technician, you produced dental products that you will now be selling to dentists. You have acquired knowledge of the uses and benefits of bridges, crowns, dentures, ligatures, and other dental appliances. In your sales presentations, you can describe and distinguish between the materials used in implants and appliances.
Your employer may also train you. Such programs, which might last as much as a year, may place you in various areas of a dental laboratory or production facility. You likely will perform sales tasks under the supervision of an experienced sales rep or a senior-level sales professional such as a sales manager or territory manager. The person responsible for your training may take you to various dental offices.
Prior Experience in the Medical or Technology Fields
If you have sold equipment, supplies, tools, and devices for medical or pharmaceutical firms, you have likely acquainted yourself with the scientific and evidence-based methods of physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. Orthodontists and dentists take similar approaches in evaluating claims about the effectiveness of products offered to them.
Computer or electronic devices representatives can bring their knowledge of computer monitors, virtual reality devices, and imaging devices to dental sales. Dentists may use augmented reality and its overlay of computer-generated images over a patient’s teeth or mouth in surgical procedures or application of dental implants.
You won’t find dental sales representative salaries listed separately by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the Bureau, the national average for salaries of “Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products,” the category in which dental representatives would likely fall, stands at $92,980.
Other sources provide information on representative salaries specific to those in the dental industry. PayScale places the base salary range between $20,000 – $81,000 per year. Commissions run from $3,000 to $11,000. Considering profit sharing, bonuses, and commissions, the total annual representative salaries in the dental sector start at $25,000 and go as high as $92,000.
The Economic Research Institute reports that the national average for dental appliance representative salaries stands at $61,989, with these representatives’ salaries ranging from $36,135 to $78,071. Bonuses reach on a mean basis $9,783 per year. Predictions by the Economic Research Institute place average pay for these representatives at $68,407 (or a 10 percent rise) by 2025.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not publish employment numbers specifically for dental sales representatives. Its Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that the United States had 321,000 workers in “Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products” in 2019. According to the Bureau, this field should grow by 13,000 or 334,000 by 2019.
That said, you can find abundant opportunities for dental sales rep jobs as the demand for dentistry remains strong.
A few figures courtesy of the Ontario Academy of General Dentistry illustrate the presence of many underserved places concerning dental care:
An increasingly aging population may contribute to more demand for dental services. The U.S. Census Bureau says that, by 2034, Americans aged 65 years and older will outnumber those under age 65.
The patients that dentists serve will present with root caries and missing or decaying teeth, among other conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 20 percent of senior citizens (age 65 and older) do not have any teeth. One out of every five seniors experiences tooth decay that has not been treated. Many will need crowns, dentures, and bridges to fill gaps.
From the loss of healthy teeth come cosmetic insecurities and, more importantly, threats to nutrition from a lack of ability to chew healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Job seekers often register with online job posting sites. These services allow you to search for jobs by title and location. In your job hunting, you might enter the following titles in addition to dental sales representative:
For jobs that do not require travel, use search terms such as “inside sales,” “telecommute,” or “remote.” Many of these sites afford job alerts that come to your email or text message apps on your smartphone.
Dental laboratories or major brands of consumer or commercial products also post on their “careers” or “jobs” pages opportunities for dental sales representative positions.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of sales representatives in technical and scientific products for wholesalers and manufacturers should grow by four percent, or 13,000, through 2029. This rate matches the projected percentage of new jobs across all sectors of the U.S. economy.
As the Bureau notes, job prospects should rise among independent sales agencies. Representatives in these firms do not work as employees of the manufacturer or wholesaler of the dental equipment, supplies, and devices. As an independent agent, you work as an “independent contractor.” You set your hours, sales goals, and methods for obtaining new clients. The independent representative approach lets you sell for multiple manufacturers or suppliers.
Experience and performance can lead to promotion to larger sales territories (and potentially more significant commissions) and senior roles in sales. Representatives can lead a sales team as sales manager, marketing manager, district or regional manager, and even vice president of sales.
Americans seek dental care to maintain and improve appearances, functionality, and overall health. As a dental sales rep, you get to help the dentists and their support staff serve patients seeking these outcomes. Beyond promotion and selection of products, you have opportunities to share scientific, technical, and dental knowledge and shape the growth of dentists and their practices.
Ready to begin?