Our column dedicated to the orthodontist’s purchasing experience

This column offers a close-up look at orthodontic product purchasing and how it is evolving. Orthodontic Products teamed up with Jeff Biggs, DDS, MS—who is not only the owner of his own private practice in Indiana, but also the founder and CEO of Orthodontic Details Marketplace, an online marketplace built for orthodontists’ purchasing needs—to get his unique insight into the orthodontist-supplier relationship and purchasing trends, and, more importantly, answer your questions. 

The conference room was thick with tension. Two sales reps sat across from me and my practice partner. After months of wearing us down, they had finally convinced us to “hear them out.” But what we were hearing wasn’t good, especially after a full Monday of patients.

“Actually, our VP is coming to town for a big dinner with other local practices soon. But… I think that’s already full?” The lead rep looked at her partner in crime, face transformed into a question mark. 

“Yes, unfortunately that filled up right away,” the other rep responded. 

“Well, we need to make room for Dr Biggs!” she gasped, before turning back to us and assuring us, “We’ll make sure there’s room for you at the dinner, don’t worry.”

Now, I’m not an angry person. 

And I understand sales reps have a job to do, but the last thing I want, and rarely have time for is a sales rep in the office, nor such a performance. Or bugging our staff. Or helping us calculate inventory needs. Or offering us the chance to meet their VP. 

As orthodontists, we didn’t go to school for more than a decade just to have a sales rep tell us we need to build a relationship to understand their products or place orders. And our staff has enough on their plate without juggling dozens of sales reps trying to get their attention.

As with every industry, the purchasing preferences of customers will trump existing sales models. I mean, why do we order our groceries online, have parking spaces dedicated to online/curbside pickup orders only, etc? It’s no different in orthodontics. How do I know? Ask your suppliers if they have a new website project in the works. They (all) do, and while helpful, doesn’t actually reduce the number of purchasing channels we have to use to place orders. 

Not to mention, we still have sales reps trying to get our attention. 

And yet, even with technology and COVID accelerating the modernization of orthodontic purchasing, I’ve learned something: Sales reps aren’t the enemy. They’re doing the best they can in the ecosystem they’re in. And, as with every other industry, their role is changing—but perhaps the best reps won’t have to change much at all.

Recently, we worked with a sales rep from G&H Orthodontics named A’yesha Freeman on something related to the Orthodontic Details Marketplace we’ll be announcing soon. A’yesha was in a situation where she could have felt threatened since an online marketplace makes it possible for the practice to bypass the salesperson and order direct. Instead, she went above and beyond to be helpful, resulting in a positive impact for a customer.

We wanted to better understand her mentality about the relationship between the salesperson and the customer, so we asked, and this is what she said: 

Even though my job relies on sales, my primary purpose is to be a support person, not a salesperson. Sales will come, in time, if you’re genuinely helpful for a practice. I love helping people find solutions to how things could be better, and those are the moments where you can be the most helpful to a practice—when they have a genuine need you can help them with. If they want to purchase from us in a new way, it’s my job to find ways to help them achieve that goal.

This is a winning mentality in an evolving industry. For our practice, if I see a sales rep keeping distance when we don’t need them, it makes me far more likely to reach out when we do. 

Change is necessary. Sales reps are necessary. Neither are the enemy.

I’m curious if my colleagues feel the same: Do you want a sales rep around? If not, why? If so, when? We’d love your input! OP

Send us your thoughts and questions at pulseofpurchasing@orthodonticdetails.com and we will answer them in a future column.

jeff biggs

Jeff Biggs, DDS, MS, is an ABO certified orthodontist with more than 20 years of experience. In addition to actively practicing in Indianapolis, Biggs is the CEO of Orthodontic Details Marketplace, and a sought-after advisor for other practices.