“How do you establish relationships with and get referrals from medical professionals?”

Aug 19, 2014

Tricks of the Trade

I am extremely lucky because I have a great referral network. However, it didn’t materialize overnight. Relationships, especially good ones, take time to develop.

My best advice is always to be eager to learn from every experience and to be professional. Health professionals will respect your dedication, enthusiasm, professionalism and knowledge.

I met one physical therapist through a client. My client made an appointment to discuss her recent diagnosis of osteoporosis. I asked my client if I could accompany her. I was excited to listen and learn. The physical therapist and I liked each other, so our relationship grew.

I have connected with other medical professionals when receiving treatment from them. We talked while they treated me. They liked what I said; I liked the treatment they offered; and we exchanged information.

Remember: Be patient and don’t get frustrated. Like most things in life, forging relationships is a process built on mutual respect.

Kathleen Trotter
Personal Trainer, Pilates Equipment Specialist and Fitness Writer
Toronto

I plan the YMCA Health and Resource Fairs in my area. Each time I plan a fair, we have a great opportunity to create new alliances and partnerships. Typically, 24 vendors participate; most target older adults. Our YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities has a Healthy Living Center that specifically caters to adults aged 55 and older. Our membership is approximately 55% seniors.

As a direct result of these fairs, we have created an alliance with the Parkinson’s Foundation, which has endorsed our YMCA as a training facility for people with Parkinson’s disease. Another alliance created through our health fairs is with health coaches; they like to work with us as a way of getting referrals.

We have also made a connection with Byerly’s supermarkets. Their dietitian has provided nutrition instruction to our trainers, and we have discussed the possibility of grocery tours for our members.

Heidi Weinberg, MA
ACE-Certified Personal Trainer, Ridgedale YMCA
Minnetonka, Minnesota

My clients are the best resource I have for connecting with medical professionals. When a client mentions a medical appointment, I ask questions about the doctor and the visit. “What do you like about your doctor?” “How did you find this doctor?” “Would you mind telling me about the visit?” “Does anyone else you know see this person?”

I will send the client to the medical professional with a few questions I have about the client’s workout or health. This builds my rapport with both the doctor and the client. If the medical professional seems to be a good fit with my fitness philosophy, I ask the client if he would be willing to connect us. Clients have different comfort levels and ideas about how to approach their doctors.

Here are five ways to deepen your connection with medical professionals:

  1. Offer a verbal suggestion and give your business card to the doctor.
  2. Send a flier with your client to her doctor with a short list of your services, and follow up a few days later by phone.
  3. Mail the doctor a formal letter about your business, and call to follow up.
  4. Offer a free workout to the doctor via phone, email or snail mail.
  5. Visit the doctor with your client when appropriate and if welcomed by both your client and the medical professional. Always have the client ask the doctor first before you visit. This is usually best with specialists such as orthopedists or chiropractors.

Be patient and gently persistent. Developing a relationship can take time but will pay off in the long run. It is better to connect with one or two doctors whose practices you like and whom you really admire than with 10 who forget who you are. Once you make a connection and find a “keeper,” send a free workout card monthly to the doctor to give to a patient; offer to give a free talk at the doctor’s office; or take the doctor out to lunch and ask questions that have come up in the gym. It is your job to keep this relationship growing and keep your services on the doctor’s mind. Medical professionals are busy; if you can form a relationship with one, both of you will be able to help your clients more effectively. Remind medical professionals that this is the common goal. You are sure to find someone to refer clients to if you just keep looking!

Beverly Hosford, MA
Personal Trainer and Fitness Business Coach
San Diego

A relationship is not transactional; it is connected, involved and united by a common purpose. In the quest for referrals from medical professionals, the last thing I do is develop a strategy around obtaining referrals. Instead, I focus on developing the relationship. Trying to get referrals before a true relationship is established is like eating seeds rather than planting them. You might get a meal, but then what? Think farmer not hunter.

So how do you establish authentic relationships with physicians? I recommend following three simple (but not easy) steps:

  1. Know yourself. Before we examine others, we must first understand ourselves. In the context of our task, this means really understanding your “brand.” What is your niche as a fitness professional? Are you trying to be all things to all people, or do you have (or can you have) a more specialized focus? Define yourself.
  2. Figure out what type of physician works with your niche. For example, my specialty is the morbidly obese, so I focus on building relationships with bariatric surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and internists. My wife and business partner, Beth, works with women, including postmenopausal women, so she builds relationships with ob-gyns. Determine what type of physicians your niche clients visit and why. These physicians are the ones that you share a purpose with, and a shared purpose is halfway to an authentic relationship.
  3. Use the power of your “story” to connect with physicians, and demonstrate that you have a shared purpose. Don’t lead by offering services; structure your story and conversations around solving problems that the physicians and their clients face. This is not a quid-pro-quo exercise; it is about revealing common ground and shared purpose in order to build a relationship.

Most of us are in the wellness business because we care about people. Many wellness professionals aren’t gifted in sales work and would rather do 500 burpees than make a sales “cold call.” If that’s you, then use my three-step process and play to your strength of caring for people by establishing authentic relationships with physicians. Then watch the referrals roll in.

Lee and Beth Jordan
ACE-Certified Personal Trainers and Health Coaches, Fullest Living Inc. and Beth’s Boot Camp
Jacksonville Beach, Florida

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