It’s Time to Grow your Clinic – Current Referral Sources

Doctors trusts you with the responsibility of treating their patients.  Those doctors are your customers – and if you ask, they may refer more patients to you.  But, how do you ask?  Here’s a straightforward approach to having that meeting and asking for more referrals.

Doctors trusts you with the responsibility of treating their patients.  Those doctors are your customers – and if you ask, they may refer more patients to you.  But, how do you ask?  Here’s a straightforward approach to having that meeting and asking for more referrals.

Just like your patients are your customers, the doctors who are currently referring patients to you are your customers as well.  While they are not directly paying for your services, the doctors who are referring to you now have “bought” the value you create by successfully treating their patients.  They are repeat customers in the sense that they keep on referring patients to you for care.  Do you know why they keep referring to you?  Do you know how much of their business you are getting?  Are you paying attention to this relationship and able to ask for more referrals?  It’s this last question you want to be able to answer in the affirmative.  Because getting more referrals from your current customers is the easiest way to grow your clinic.

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Let’s take each one of these questions in turn.

Why do you get the referrals that you get?  What are you doing that makes you and your clinic special and potentially unique?  What about how you do therapy makes you excellent?

If you want to grow your clinic, now is not the time to be self-effacing and demure.  This is the moment when you want to call out the things that you do for which you can be rightfully proud.  I invite you to take two looks at your clinic.  First, answer the above questions from your perspective.  Think about what you and your clinical team do and how they do it.  What are your strengths?  Brainstorm this list and don’t edit it.  Get as full a picture as you can of the ways in which you do therapy extraordinarily well and the experience you create for the patient in the process.  It’s not only about how you do therapy, it’s about how you make the patient feel while you are doing it.  Remember, you would not be getting referrals if you weren’t doing something very well.

Once you’ve created your picture of your clinic and how you embody excellence it’s time to look at the list from the perspective of the doctors who are referring to you.  Do your very best to step outside the four walls of your clinic and look at the list from your customer’s perspective.  Answer these questions by circling or highlighting items on the list.  Which of your strengths can they readily perceive and accept as your strengths?  What are they missing that would further cement your relationship if they perceived those strengths?  What do they tell their patients when they refer them to you?  Be honest in your assessment.  Push hard to get a clear picture of what you do well that matters to them to the point where they point patients in your direction.

At the end of this exercise, you want to be able to complete the following statement.

By referring your patients to my clinic, they will experience __________; __________; and __________; to the point where they will come back to you and thank you for referring them to me.

The blanks must be specific.  Excellent therapy is not acceptable.  Successful outcomes is not acceptable.  Specific is believable and genuine.  Strive to call out the specific ways in which you are excellent.  Push yourself on this.  Think of the statement as the promise that you will make and keep to your doctors.  Because it is and you will.

Set your promise aside for now and think about your referral sources.  Make a list of your top 5 or 10 referral sources.  Remember, it is likely that 80% of your referrals are coming from 20% of your referral sources (the Pareto Principle).  Once you have the list, estimate your patient share from each source.  That is, what percentage of all the referrals being made are you getting.  Now, look at that estimate and make your best guess as to why the percentage is what it is.  Again, it is important to be critically honest in your assessment.  Are you up against a tough competitor for patients from a particular practice?  Is the doctor failing to perceive and accept your promise and the value you create by keeping it?  Are the bulk of the patients seen in the practice in need of therapy that falls outside of your service offering?

Now, take a clear-eyed look at the list.  There should be two or three referral sources that stand out as opportunities for you to approach and expand your relationship.  These might be practices with whom you have a great relationship and are surprised by your assessment of your patient share with them.  They might be practices that readily would embrace the promise you are making and send you more.  Or, they might be practices in which your competitor is taking a significant number of patients that would be better served by you.  Regardless, the analysis and the list should yield doctors for you to pursue to increase the number of referrals you are getting from them.  Pursue means meet with and ask for. That’s right, increasing referrals from current sources means that you will have to go out and sell your services.

You can and must sell your clinic and its services.  There are passive ways to grow and they will be discussed in this series of blogs.  But, if growth is an imperative for you, that means selling.  Set aside your reservations, there is a very professional, honest, and forthright sales approach for you to take.  Here’s what I recommend.

Write a business letter to the doctors from whom you intend to ask for more business.  In the letter –

  • Thank them for the referrals that they have sent to you.
  • State your belief as to why they are referring their patients to you.
  • Ask for a meeting to confirm and correct this understanding, get feedback on what more you could be doing, and make a mutual determination on the value of them referring more patients to you.
  • Indicate when you will follow up to set up the meeting.

You will have to follow up a few times to set up the meeting.  However, if the practice knows you and is referring to you, it is likely that they will want to take this type of meeting to insure the care their patients are receiving is as integrated as they want it to be.

The final step is to hold the meeting and work through the “agenda” you presented in the letter.  Thank the doctor(s) again for their referrals.  Confirm and correct that they are referring to you for the reasons you think they are.  Ask for additional feedback on your service and commit to the necessary improvements.  State your promise and ask if it makes sense and it is in the best interest of their patients for them to increase the number of referrals they send your way.

Going to current customers is the fastest, easiest sale you can make (although it won’t seem easy).  That’s because they know you and are already “buying” from you.  This is the place to start when looking to grow your clinic.  It’s also good practice for the next step in growing your clinic, approaching new referral sources.

Author: Dave P. Briggs, Ph.D.
BTE Vice President of Domestic Sales