THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

The rough with the smooth

A few days ago I may have been presenting to 100 attendees at the BACD conference (and getting rave reviews) – on Friday I may present to over 400 people at a Scottish FGDP meeting but last night I drove 3 hours to speak to 4 people. I like to remind up and coming consultants and coaches, who suggest that “it’s OK for Chris – he has a mature business”, that sometimes you do have to take a rough night on the chin – and just keep on “gigging”. No disrespect to the organisers of the event, my good friends at Isoplan (with whom I shared a great stage in Belfast last week). They had done their level best to fill this room and poor response, together with some last minute cancellations, created the unusual sight in Bristol last night. That’s the absurdity of 4 delegates (two partners in one dental practice and a man and wife team from another) surrounded by me, by 3 representatives from Isoplan, 1 from St James Place (financial planners) and 1 from Chrysalis (dental finance packages). That’s 6 sales people versus 4 prospects. It would have been no surprise if the delegates had circled their wagons and prepared to defend themselves but we quickly reassured them that we don’t do “pushy” and everyone settled down to an intensive session. In the event – I decided to ignore my PowerPoint slides and just engage the 4 in a conversation about financial management and some of the measurement systems we use with our clients. It was an impromptu fireside chat, rather than a formal show – I didn’t even get past my first slide. Sometimes you just have to ditch the slides and speak from your commercial heart. I believe that the two business partners really appreciated that. They are Chris Barrow junkies and have attended many of the guest “gigs” in the Bristol area over the years – but have never taken the plunge with The Dental Business School. I’m hopeful that last night may change that – and if I journeyed to Bristol to convince one client to join our programme then the time will have been well spent. In fact – the other “win” was to agree to call in to Isoplan’s Glasgow offices on Thursday morning to organise dates for our 2007 joint marketing. Sadly, the other couple who attended, whilst extremely nice people, seem to have arrived with the intention of confirming their decision not to use the services on show. Their behaviour was exemplary – no complaints there – but it was clear that no business was going to happen. They sat quietly through my presentation and seemed to nod in agreement at the right places – but when Martin Booth started to present Isoplan the fun started – with an increasing stream of negative comments, not about his company but about the whole concept of the type of service provided – a centralised administration membership scheme that allows patients to spread the cost of their treatment. I sat at the back of the room and waited for a good half hour as Martin did a valiant job of responding politely to the various perceived concerns aimed at this type of scheme – until the penny dropped that this couple ran their own “in-house” scheme and may have been along to assess their competition. After biting my tongue I eventually rejoined Martin at the front of the room and attempted to explain to said couple (in response to their question “how do we double our membership?”) that the best way to grow their practice would be to join forces with people like Isoplan and The Dental Business School to develop better marketing systems, including business cards, Welcome Packs, Smile Checks and a robust Patient Journey system. Mentioning web sites as part of 21st Century marketing I was challenged to review their web site for them. Before clicking through to their site, I carefully asked for permission to give them direct feedback. “Bring it on.” They said and explained to the assembled (and by now somewhat irritated) room that they were ready for whatever harsh feedback I could give them. So take a look at their site “designed by a 23-year old IT graduate from Bristol University” and ask yourself what you would have done faced with 9 staring faces before you and this going on behind. Click here Needless to say, my feedback was very direct – and not well received.

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