What Does a Dental Sales Representative Do? 

DentalPost takes a look at what are the duties and responsibilities of a Dental Sales Representative.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States had nearly 151,600 dentists in 2018. Dentists generated an estimated $138 billion in revenue in 2020.

To clean teeth, fill cavities, treat tooth or gum diseases and repair broken teeth, these professionals need tools, up-to-date equipment and supplies. As a dental sales representative, you get the chance to help dentists bring smiles and healthy teeth and mouths. You do this by bringing dental products (small and large), knowledge and relationship-building skills.

Job Duties

In a dental sales representative role, you have multiple hats. As you’ll read below, you serve as a customer service representative and engage in business development. The specific work duties and environment depend on whether you take an outside sales representative or inside sales representative role.

The Outside Sales Representative

As an outside sales representative, you travel to dental offices or trade shows to promote the supplies, instruments and equipment used by dental professionals to improve the oral health and appearance of their patients. Below is just a sample of these dental products:

  • Dental implants
  • Dentures
  • Air compressors
  • Instrument trays
  • Ultrasonic power scalers and hand scalers
  • Drills
  • Materials for cavity fillers
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss for dentists to give to patients

To attract new clients, you make calls and set appointments with the office manager or dentist. Once you have established contact, you take to the dental practice pamphlets, brochures, samples and demonstrations.

As in most sales representative jobs, you answer questions about the wares you’re promoting, negotiate the price, quantity and other terms of the order; place the order and follow up with the dentists or their staff on the performance of the dental products, questions or future needs of the dentist. So that the products will deliver the touted benefits, you likely will need to train the staff in using the tools or equipment.

Sales representatives for dental companies hold more than sales jobs. You bring to your customers knowledge and connections to help them improve their services to patients. The educational part of your job includes explaining advances in dental treatments and techniques — and how the equipment, materials and supplies help the dentists, hygienists, orthodontists and others in the dental profession deliver the treatments and services. You might even play part consultant by identifying ways for the practice to improve efficiency and service.

As a full-time representative in territory sales, you also become a resource for dentists to connect with other colleagues, dental hygienists and experts in the dental field. Dental offices might rely on your observations and analysis to improve operations or obtain items to improve their budgets and bottom lines.

You have territory sales as a representative, which means many clients in multiple locations. Depending on the size of your employer, your territory could encompass multiple regions of a state or even more than one state. Expect to travel frequently, including overnight.

The Inside Sales Representative

If you choose the inside job, you’ll work mostly in offices to attract customers and new clients. Thus, you hold full-time status, but you avoid the travel required of outside dental sales representatives. Job postings for the inside dental sales representative job title come from suppliers, tools and dental equipment companies and from dental practices themselves. Dentists employ inside sales reps to promote the practice and its services.

Your duties as an inside sales representative for a dental practice may entail explaining to patients procedures such as cavity fillings, root canals and placing dental crowns or bridges on gaps or damaged teeth. You may get the tag of account manager for patients, as you price, bill insurance and patients and set payment plans for the treatments and other services provided at your office.

Job Skills

Communication and Persuasion

Communication skills include the ability to listen to dentists, hygienists and other professionals as they explain their needs and preferences. To answer those questions and otherwise deliver reliable information, you must have a command of the frequent technical vocabulary used by dental professionals. If you deal with patients, effective communication requires that you forego the scientific and technical lingo in favor of layperson terms.

Interpersonal

In sales jobs, you don’t aim for a single order or short-term transactions. You build long-term relationships with professionals in dentistry that lead to continued business. This includes being responsive to questions and concerns posed by the dentist or the office manager. In many respects, you become part of the dental team.

Confidence and Persistence

The sales representative job description includes the requirement that you make “cold calls.” Calling on people you don’t know and, odds are, will reject you, takes significant self-confidence. You must reach out to these potential customers as if you expect them to place business with your company or office.

Education

Sales representatives typically hold a bachelor’s degree. The majors include sales, marketing or business administration. As a dental sales representative, you deal with scientific and technical tools, supplies and equipment. To that end, you should include at least chemistry, biology and anatomy in your college curriculum.

It may help you to minor, if not major, in a scientific discipline (such as biology or chemistry), engineering or computer science. A number of dental laboratories rely on computer aided manufacturing and computer aided design to create the models for dentures and implants.

If you attempt to enter a sales rep career through experience as a dental hygienist, you probably have taken classes in oral health, oral hygiene, oral anatomy and other dental-related subjects. 

Sales Experience

Job postings vary when it comes to experience requirements. Yes, you can find some entry-level sales rep jobs in the dental field. In these positions, you’ll undergo training and be paired with a more experienced representative to learn the functions. Having outside sales experience in other fields, especially those where you have sold to other businesses, may show your readiness to tackle territories or customer accounts.

Distinguish yourself from fellow job seekers and improve your chances for higher representative salaries through experience in the dental field. Prior work in a dental office as either a dental hygienist, office manager or receptionist proves very valuable. If you have worked in a dental laboratory, you have a working familiarity with crowns, bridges, dentures and other dental appliances that you might sell. Also, you know the materials you and fellow laboratory technicians employed in your creation of these appliances.

Representative Salaries

Your pay as a dental representative comes with potential bonuses and commissions to motivate you to cultivate relationships with customers and generate sales. PayScale reports in one of its salary surveys that dental sales representatives fetch between $1,000 and $45,000 in bonuses. The commissions range from $3,000 to $11,000.

According to PayScale, the national average for representative salaries sits at $40,695. When you account for the bonuses, commissions and profit sharing, the earnings run from $25,000 to $92,000.

If you’re interested in a representative position for dental appliance companies, the Economic Research Institute places the average salary for representatives in the United States at $61,944. Representative salaries among dental appliance representatives climb from $36,108 to as high as $78,015.

Career Path

With demonstrated experience as a sales representative, you can become one of the more senior and higher-paying sales professionals. The jobs that await you include sales specialist, sales manager, district manager, marketing director and vice president of the sales division. Many of these jobs involve responsibility for multiple sales representatives, customer service representatives and others on the sales team.

Finding a Sales Representative Job

Sign up for job alerts to find new jobs in the dental sales representative field. When you do, focus on dental supply companies, major manufacturers of equipment, tools and supplies; or dental laboratories. Include dental practices in your choices for job alerts.


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