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The comment I couldn't believe I heard a sales rep say

Recently, I was invited to be a part of a very nice function here in PennWell's hometown of Tulsa, Okla. It was one of those events where dentists, team members, sales representatives, and invited guests milled together and exchanged pleasantries while tasting food and sipping beverages. Yes, it was your typical cocktail party scene.

Since I'm from Tulsa (and I've lived here my entire life), I knew several of the long-time Tulsa dentists who were in attendance at the function. They are some of the big names in the local dental world, and most had stopped by to wish the host well in his new venture. I chit-chatted with several of them and was honored to meet their team members who had joined them at the gathering.

While I was talking to one of the dentists and his team members, a sales representative entered our conversation and quickly introduced himself to the dentist. The dentist and sales rep shook hands and then the dentist proceeded to introduce his lead dental assistant who was standing next to him. The sales rep shook her hand and said, "Oh I knew you must be someone important since you were standing next to Dr. X."

Excuse me? What did he just say? I have to admit his comment floored me a bit ... and appeared to make the dental assistant a bit uncomfortable as well. I wanted to ask him, "So ... she wasn't really important unless she was standing next to the doctor?" In my opinion, it was a very backhanded compliment to a lady who is a huge part of a huge Tulsa practice.

As the editor of Proofs magazine, a publication which reaches dental sales reps across the country, it immediately made me think of starting an article on "the top 10 things you should never say to a team member." As the editor of Dental Assisting Digest, which goes out to 26,000 dental assistants each month, it made me think to remind dental assistants how valuable they are to the success of the practice. They are never "just a dental assistant" and they are definitely important enough to be acknowledged for who and what they are, no matter who they are next to at a social gathering.

I don't know if the sales rep truly grasped that he had offended people, but he met the dentist, said he'd like to talk to him about a product, and shook his hand as he left. Personally, I hope when he calls to make the appointment, it's the same dental assistant who gets to answer the phone. As he tries to set up a time to visit, maybe she'll subtly remind him just how important she is ... both to the practice and to that sales rep's ability to sell his product.

"Be careful of your thoughts. They may become words at any moment." -- Ira Gassen

"Keep your words soft and tender because tomorrow you may have to eat them." -- Unknown

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Comment by Madalyn Rosenbluth, RDH on July 20, 2010 at 9:02am
A bit green behind the ears, nervous around highly knowledgeable, sucessful, community leaders and professionals?

There could be any number of reasons behind the sales rep's faux pas in a large social event. Still no excuses accepted as all staff at the office is an essential part of a sucessful team lead by the dentist.

As a practicing RDH for 34 years and a sales rep for my own company for almost a decade, present day lack of social skills is overwhelming me. Is it just me who notices this trend of behavior? (and not just in our dental environment)

The whole staff is working hard to provide optimum patient care and deserves respect from each other and especially all who walk thru the door, patients, sales representatives and service providers.

Any evidence of disrespect should be addressed on the spot directly to the offender in a polite yet assured manner, communicating the insult of lack of respect.

This should always be under the guise of our boss, whom needs to always stand not only behind his or her staff but, right out in front of this essential team. When this occurs what a wonderful place to practice and visit is conveyed to all!

Madalyn Rosenbluth, RDH
Founder MadUltrasonics, LLC
Comment by Kevin Henry on June 28, 2010 at 8:24am
I've had quite a conversation with people about this on Facebook. Certainly I don't think the sales rep intended to offend the dental assistant, but he also certainly didn't understand the weight of the words he spoke. I absolutely agree with you Mary Jane ... assistants deserve so much more respect than they often get. Great quote, Sean. A simple "nice to meet you" would've been so much better than his quote.
Comment by Mary Jane RDH BS on June 28, 2010 at 8:19am
Hopefully the rep was new..he will learn..assistants should be treated with respect..they have a tremendous influence on what works and doesn't and what gets purchased and doesn't; they are the ones who keep the office flowing in the right direction.
Comment by Sean Thomas on June 27, 2010 at 5:03pm
Thanks Kevin, great article. So easy to make a verbal faux pas like that at "networking" events. Reminds me of the proverb "Even a fool is considered wise when he is silent." So often, a good question or silence is 100 times better than nervously trying to fill in the silence, or make a thoughtless joke.

Thanks Again.
Comment by Mary Jane RDH BS on June 25, 2010 at 8:38pm
That is right up there with remarks starting with justa...


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