Why don’t dentists network?

Friday and Saturday I’ll be attending my second major dental conference and exhibition of the year – The British Dental Association at GMEX in Manchester. A welcome change from long-distance travel.

I have one official meeting – at 08:30 this morning as a Corporate Friend to Bridge2Aid, I’ll be listening to Mark, Paul and Shaenna update us on the progress of the charity and, no doubt, thinking about ways we can help going forward.

After which I have no further “official engagements” but 2 days of networking.

Networking – what is that?

I’ll give you a CB definition and then I’m going to ask why it is that so few dentists network in their own communities?

Networking is what happens when you walk the floor at a watering hole for PLU (people like us), meet, listen, advise and wait and see what happens.

There is no immediate Return on Investment but a belief that, over time, you will develop relationships that will result in new business, either because PLU will hire you or introduce you to other PLU’s.

My first dental networking was 1996 at the (then) BDTA Dental Showcase in the NEC.

I wandered around for a full day (as a wannabe dental business coach) and met one person that I knew – Jeff Caddick from Castle Ceramics in Tamworth, who was already a former financial services client. Jeff took the time to show me some of the ropes and introduce me to some of the PLU’s.

Now I walk into a trade show and 3 days pass by in a whirl. I have to keep notes of who I saw and what we said, or else it is all just a daze. At the BDA I already have 8 conversations booked with PLU’s who want to tell me their story and ask for some free advice – no problem.

Every networking event brings me business, whether speaking or coaching.

It has taken 20 years (remember I said yesterday that things take time?).

So – dentists?

The people who open private squats are easy to convince when it comes to networking – go figure.

So I ask them to connect with their local Chamber of Commerce, Business Link, business breakfast and luncheon clubs (BNI, BRE et al), Women in Business groups – and also to keep an eye out for other networking events in the post code at http://www.findnetworkingevents.com

They can either join the groups as a member (no bad idea) and/or put together a 30-minute presentation on “How to improve your confidence by improving your smile”:

  • 10 minutes on Golden Proportion in Nature
  • 10 minutes on the latest advances in cosmetic dentistry
  • 10 mintes on real patient stories

and a simple CTA (call to action) offering, perhaps, a free assessment with a TCO.

PLU in business have two characteristics that are very important in the business of dentistry:

  • a desire for a confident smile
  • a wallet

So why is it that when I talk to existing practice owners about this, they look at me as if I have landed in a spaceship and asked to meet their leader Jeremy Kyle?

It seems that, no matter how stagnant the growth of an existing dental practice, the prospect of getting off your backside and prospecting out in your community is last on the list of marketing activities.

Far better to throw more money at a marketing agency in the hope that they will find more dubious strangers to test your pricing policy.

Oh – and if the Principal has a charisma bypass and cannot face other people in public – fair enough – find a member of your team WITH a personality and sent them instead – it works.

Networking is relatively cost free and time expensive – you might have to give up some early mornings or evenings to make it work but in these days of squeezed profit margins it makes huge sense.

Learning how to work a room at a networking event is a skill – ask me how and I’ll happily explain.

Dentists who don’t network tell me that they haven’t the time or energy and that it probably won’t work in their post code.

Dentists who do network tell me about the occasional £30,000 treatment plan and all the referrals that they enjoy.

If you are in Manchester over the next 2 days, it would be lovely to say hello and catch up – there is no sales pitch when networking.


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.