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a blog by Chris Barrow

Human nature (why odd people can’t ask for referrals and what to do about it)

294 regards

Day #3 of thoughts about Word of Mouth marketing in 2016.

I’m often asked:

“How do I get my team to ask for referrals?”

Many is the time that I’ve observed the associates whose business cards are gathering dust in a surgery draw, the hygienist who rarely refers work back to the clinical team (even though the patient has mentioned an upcoming trigger event) or the patient who reaches the end of treatment and is waved goodbye with no “end of treatment conversation” (see yesterday’s post).

“Should I incentivise the team to ask, to internally refer and to open sales conversations?”


That type of carrot has never worked in the long term.

People soon return to their old habits – which include not asking.

Here’s the reality:


You know who I mean:

  1. the chatty receptionist who lights up the room

  2. the therapist who is the life and soul of the party

  3. the trainee nurse who has no problem communicating with patients of all ages

  4. the naturally gifted empathetic listener

  5. the people person

They exist at all points in the patient experience and can be clinical or non-clinical, customer focused or admin and back up.

Human nature is to be tribal, to be gregarious (latin root – herd) and to be genuinely interested in the other person’s back-story (even taxi drivers).

People who are not so inclined are:

  1. in the majority in dentistry

  2. odd

(yeah – most people in dentistry are odd)

There is absolutely NO POINT in sending odd people on training courses to give them scripts with which to become gregarious, or for that matter, financially incentivising them to stop being odd.

Better to identify the “people people” in your team (irrespective of their current role) and give them the responsibility for:

  1. getting to know new patients

  2. handing out referral business cards

  3. asking for selfies, likes, comments and shares

  4. requesting written or video testimonials

  5. encouraging digital reviews

  6. becoming brand ambassadors

Here’s a plan for you:

  1. Let the odd people stay safely odd.

  2. Identify those whose nature it is to be gregarious (go on – write their names down – now!)

  3. Train them (ask me if you need help).

  4. Monitor, measure and mentor them.

  5. Celebrate your victories with them.

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