The Way You Tell 'em

Frank Carson was a popular star of the 1970’s and beyond, who hailed from Belfast and, after a career as a stand up comic, became a famous TV comedian.
His punchline “it’s the way you tell ’em” referred to his often laconic style of delivery – dry and with that twang of N’orn I’rn – that would sometimes leave audiences on the mainland struggling to catch up or appreciate his very dry wit and speed of delivery.
We’ve been developing our thoughts on treatment plans here at BKH this year – observing examples from clients, partners and others – and reflecting ourselves on just how often they fall short of the mark as ‘sales documents’.
Now I can immediately hear the voices of those who comment that a treatment plan is a legal evidence of the fact that a proper job has been done. That it is there to prove the diagnostic skill of the clinician, that the patient made decisions based on informed consent, that the dentist or his/her employer will avoid getting sued or struck off.
All true.
But can I make a plea for some readability on behalf of the layman please?
I’ve noticed that your treatment plans seem to fall into two general categories:

  1. The Hieroglyphics: all science and data, the unintelligible computer print out of strange letters, numbers and symbols – a gateway to future happiness that must be deciphered or accepted by the uninitiated as the wisdom of high priests
  2. The Gothic Novel: page after page of closely packed paragraphs, not one less than 12 lines in depth – no sentences less than 25 words long – rambling epic references, a complex plot, frequent reference to imprisonment and torture

Both genres clearly fulfil many of the criteria that I set out above in terms of clinical due diligence but neither make my heart warm, feel personal, engage me, romance me – make me feel as if I’ve made the right decision on the treatment, the clinician, the practice and the price.
Have you ever taken a text book on algebra or Moby Dick as a holiday read?
So I’m wondering if, perhaps, we need to separate two components of the treatment plan.
The Small Print – we all need small print.
You can package the small print however you like – although a little less Ancient Egyptian would be nice – and you can have me sign all sorts of disclaimers to say that I’ve read the small print.
Some folks thrive on the small print – others skim the small print – but everyone signs – something I learned in my financial planning days (a long time ago, in a galaxy far away).
But it’s The Story that will sell it to me…
The Story.
The Story actually has a slightly longer title.
It’s called….
The Story of Me
(because its all about me.)
My teeth, my gums, my wallet and my life.
And The Story has just a few chapters:
Chapter 1 – the problem I arrived with
Chapter 2 – the way the problem is making me feel
Chapter 3 – the solution you propose
Chapter 4 – the way the solution will make me feel
Chapter 5 – the answers to common concerns
Chapter 6 – the investment I will make in the way the solution will make me feel
Appendix 1 – the reasons why I should ask you to deliver to me the solution
You can tell me The Story in whatever format you choose or I opt for:

  • letter
  • email
  • video
  • USB stick
  • link to a web site and download
  • streaming video
  • Powerpoint
  • Camtasia show
  • Prezi
  • iBook

But think, for a moment, about the moment when The Story is going to arrive in my life.
The postman brings junk, bills and bad news.
When I hear him arrive I drag my feet over to the front door, shoulders down, wondering “what next?”
On the other hand, the UPS guy brings presents, gifts and surprises!
When he hits the doorbell, I skip daintily to answer, adrenalised with anticipation.
Who do you want to deliver The Story to your patients?
The Postman or The UPS guy?
It’s not just “the way you tell ’em” – it’s the environment you create as well.
Most of all – it’s the way you make me feel.
Frank Carson helped make The Comedians one of the most successful TV shows of its era. We stayed in to stay happy.
Michael Mcintyre isn’t filling stadiums because he tells the funniest jokes in the world. It’s because he makes people feel good for an evening.
We all carry that responsibility – and treatment plans are no exception.
Make me feel good when I read mine.
It’s The Story of Me!


Published by

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.