Letters from a perfect imperfectionist: Can I trust you?

It’s easy to get frustrated sometimes by the fact that the people you are trying to help are suspicious and assume that you are trying to line your pockets by preying on their ignorance.

I amused myself last weekend by watching a pilot episode of a Netflix TV series called Klondike.

Set in the late 19th Century (and based on a true story) it tells the adventures of 2 young New York graduates who throw away a promising but predictable legal career to “go west” and seek their fortunes as gold prospectors in the Canadian Rockies.

Ripping yarn it is – serious television drama it ain’t – but a great way to fill the time whilst I indulge in my Sunday afternoon hobby of ironing (and one has to do something between seasons of The Walking Dead).

As our intrepid heroes venture further from home, the vast lawless territory swallows them and they become victims of tricksters at every twist and turn.

To cross a river, they buy a leaky boat.

To climb a mountain range, they buy boots that wear out and clothes that fail to protect.

To stake a claim, they buy land on a forged deed.

The dangers abound and nobody can be trusted, not even the luscious barmaid who hides a heart of ice behind her petticoats and frills.

Cracking good telly for a wet afternoon.

An interesting metaphor for the challenge we all face in sales (and we are all in sales).

The public have been trained to be wary, to read the small print, to dilute grandiose claims.

Honesty makes for dull television and so our diet is dictated by the race for ratings – and the bad guys win. A villain is so colourful.

This then manifests itself in our everyday lives.

I’ve experienced 2 conversations recently where I’ve given my best to potential new clients who have responded with words to the effect of how do I know that what you are telling me is true?

At first, I can feel the outrage welling up inside me – and have to internally count to 10 and keep breathing.

How could they say that about me – I’m such a nice bloke?

After a while, I’m only 5% angry but still probably 75% confused.

In answer to one challenge I simply pointed out that after 22 years and around 2,000 clients I would probably have been busted by now if I was spoofing, because my clients don’t leave town.

In answer to the second person, I went through my calendar for the week and demonstrated that over half my meetings were free of charge, supporting existing clients, revisiting former clients and prospecting with new people.

I’m not sure that exactly answers the point other than to demonstrate that we take a long-term view on nurturing relationships. The snake oil salespeople tend to want to get in and out quickly.

I wonder if patients are similar – hearing bad press about dentists (and perhaps negative word of mouth) and starting from a base of suspicion – so that you have to build trust before you can sell treatment?

Three types of trust (vintage Chris Barrow):

1. Third party trust (my friend trusts you, I trust my friend, so I trust my friend’s judgement)
2. Instinctive trust (we just met and I feel OK next to you)
3. Long term trust (you have looked after me for years)

The first being the most important if you are building a service-based business like dentistry.

I guess it must be so.

Therefore, when questions about our integrity come up, we must only assume that not enough effort has been invested BY US in establishing that trust at the outset.

Learn from that and adapt our style and systems.

Don’t get angry, get trustworthy.

To avoid the risk of being treated like a gold-rush hustler:

Step 1 – establish trust.

“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”


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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.