Is this your first time?

I just read a recent blog post from one of my favorite gurus — Seth Godin.  Seth wrote about how it is rare that we ever buy anything for the first time.  Usually we buy things because we are replacing something or because it is a product or brand our mothers used to buy. He noted that buying something for the first time  is a rare and often scary experience.

Think about the last time you bought something for the first time .  Think of the research you did searching for just the right thing; remember the anxiety or fear you felt about making the choice or decision to “buy”.

I thought about this in terms of starting a private practice.  There you are — the new kid on the block.  You’re out trying to “sell” your services, and potential referral sources are either doing what they’ve always been doing (out of habit, or perhaps they are in a rut), or they are referring to people that have been recommended by people they trust.

You’re doing all the right things to market your practice,… getting your name out to the right people… providing a valuable service — and still the new clients are just trickling in (or maybe your waiting for your first referral!) .

If you think about what Seth said, many people are probably anxious or afraid to jump on your band wagon.  Remember, it might have been a long time since they bought anything for the first time too!

If that’s the case (and if you can turn your frustration into a strategy of how to get beyond your potential referral sources’ reluctance), perhaps you can make things better for them (and for you) in the process.

Here are a few ideas of how to bring in reluctant referral sources…

  • Remember that folks who are reluctant often just don’t have enough information to make the decision.
    • Acknowledge their reluctance; determine the concerns that they have and don’t be afraid to talk about it with them — ‘I realize you don’t know me and that trusting your patients with a new referral source might feel risky to you.  What can I do to put your mind at ease?”  “
  • Remember that many people don’t have a high tolerance for ambiguity.
    •  Be sure to clearly state what they can expect — “When you send me a referral, I will let you know when the client has scheduled her first appointment.  After that, I will send you a copy of my initial assessment for your chart, and from time to time I will send you an update so we can continue to collaborate in our client’s care.”
  • Remember that (whether or not you are the new kid in town) you are the unknown entity.
    • Be willing to pay your dues to establish the relationship — “As a way for you to get to know more about me and my work, I’d be happy to provide your office with a newsletter (a fact sheet, a 1 hour information session in your waiting room, etc) to help you provide mental health awareness for your patients”

You see, addressing the reluctance is far more productive than stewing about not getting those referrals.  If you are not getting them, find out why, and do something productive about it.

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2 Comments

  1. Mark /Reply

    Good morning Dr. Legge,

    I am enjoying your emails but have a question. You stated above:

    “Remember that many people don’t have a high tolerance for ambiguity. Be sure to clearly state what they can expect — “When you send me a referral, I will let you know when the client has scheduled her first appointment. After that, I will send you a copy of my initial assessment for your chart, and from time to time I will send you an update so we can continue to collaborate in our client’s care.”

    Wouldn’t it be unethical for you to mention to another person others who have scheduled appointments with you and especially to provide the referer with the initial assessment of the person whom they have referred?

    1. Deborah Legge PhD CRC LMHC /Reply

      Hi Mark. This is a case in point where you have to consider ethical and legal issues first. This is something I might say to a physician group. I never want to be “on the hook” alone with a client. You never know when things might go south (quickly) and you might need medical assistance to help your client. Therefore, I always ask my clients to sign a release for the referring physician, I’d say 99.9% of the time, clients are grateful that I will be collaborating in their care so they sign the release. If you feel more comfortable, you can add the caveat (“as long as the client signs a release”) to what you are telling the physician. Good point. I hope this helped to clarify!

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