4 Steps You Must Take to Develop a Lasting Referral Relationship
Referral relationships can be one of the most sustainable and cost-effective ways to attain consistent client referrals. When a referral relationship is created, therapists will likely continue to receive ongoing referrals from the referral partner. However, for therapists, the most challenging part of developing a referral relationship is knowing where to start and the components required to develop a lasting and sustainable referral relationship. In this blog, I will share my 4-step process for developing a lasting referral relationship.
Step 1: Reach Out
The first step in developing a lasting referral relationship is to reach out to someone who you believe could be a sustainable referral partner. This may seem like an obvious step; however, this step tends to be the scariest for therapists, and in turn, some therapists may choose not to reach out. When considering reaching out to a prospective referral partner it is important to know that, like most people, they like to connect with people who are authentic and genuine in their communication with them. For this reason, I encourage you to be yourself when you reach out to referral partners. You do not have to pretend you are someone you’re not; you do not have to be overly formal, and you definitely do not have to be sales-y!
Think about a time you have received a message or phone call from someone you didn’t know, and they tried to pitch something to you.
- Were they authentic or inauthentic?
- How did their approach make you feel?
- What did you do after receiving the email or phone call?
- What did you like or dislike about their approach?
Typically, the most effective communication is when people are genuinely interested in you or your business and come from a place of authenticity.
A key consideration, before you reach out to prospective referral partners, is to determine if there is relevancy between who you serve and the person or agency you intend to reach out to. It can be tempting to reach out to every professional or agency in your community in hopes to create a referral relationship; however, this approach can become very time-consuming and it does not usually lead to quality referral relationships if relevancy doesn’t exist.
Step 2: Establish Rapport
The second step in developing a lasting relationship is to establish rapport with the prospective referral partner. After you reach out, there should be a stage where you both spend time to get to know one another, this may be through a phone call or a meeting with the person. Similar to friendships, referral relationships require each person to get to know one another and like each other. Prospective referral partners want to know, “Is this person someone I would feel comfortable referring my clients?” You want that answer to be yes.
Step 3: Identify Mutual Benefits
The third stage in developing a lasting referral relationship is identifying mutual benefits. A key difference between a referral relationship that is short-term and long-term is when there are mutual benefits. When developing a lasting referral relationship, prospective referral partners want to know “What’s in it for me?” or “How will this relationship help me and my business?” When the prospective referral partner sees ongoing value to them and/or their business they are much more likely to add effort into the relationship to ensure you receive the referrals you are seeking.
You may be wondering, “What if I don’t know what would be mutually beneficial to them?” That’s okay! You can simply ask them during the establishing rapport stage, “How can I help you and/or your agency?” Sometimes, having a mutual referral relationship for client overflow is enough; however, other times the prospective referral partner may request something else that they would feel would be beneficial to them.
Remember this step is about mutual benefits. So, if a prospective referral partner asks you for something that you know you cannot provide, you can always provide a counteroffer or you can be honest about why you cannot fulfill their request and ask if there is something else that they may find beneficial instead.
Step 4: Build Trust
The final step to creating a lasting referral relationship is to build trust. When trust is built a referral relationship is likely to be created. Referral partners want to know that when they refer clients, that their clients will be served just as well or better by you. When trust is built, the referral partner is confident that you are the best person to serve their clients and they will continue to refer clients to you.
If you take these 4 steps you are much more likely to attain a lasting referral relationship. But like all relationships, you may take all of the necessary steps and determine that a prospective referral partner may not be a good fit for you or your private practice and vice versa. Know that this is not a fault on you or them – it just wasn’t a fit. Don’t give up! Because when you find a referral partner, who is a good fit for you and your practice, you’ll have a referral relationship that will continue well into the future!
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