ACA Blog

Deb Legge
Sep 13, 2010

Developing A Strong Referral Base

Over the past 18 years I’ve been blessed to have developed a very strong referral base for my private practice and for those who share space in my office. When coaching clinicians new to private practice, one of the biggest concerns (and understandably so) is “How am I going to get clients?” One of the reasons many folks would rather be employed by others is a steady stream of clients, which equate to a steady paycheck.

The truth is, finding a good referral source really isn’t that difficult. If you look around almost every physician’s office, school, church, and business are potentially great referral sources. The challenge is, how can you get them to refer to YOU?

One of the first things I teach the folks I mentor is to always be thinking about THE BIG QUESTION, when it comes to finding referrals: “Why, if given all options that exist (including doing nothing at all), should I want to do business with you?”

When you can answer that question effectively, with confidence, you will be well on your way to a strong referral base. So, why should they want to do business with you?

VALUE. That is why they should want to do business with you. You’ve got “customers’ and you’ve got “clients”. Your customers are those who refer clients to you. The types of value you can provide your customers include: getting in their referrals within a reasonable amount of time; providing collaborative care (when appropriate); having the integrity to refer on a client who might be better served by someone else in the community (not just telling them no and letting them fend for themselves); knowing that you provide excellent care and that you are professional and competent.

The types of value you can provide your clients include: professionalism at all time; comprehensive care in collaboration with their other health providers; availability of appointments; reasonable access to you in case of emergency.

Value might come through in the helpful hints or web links you put up on your website. It may come through in the newsletters you write for your waiting room and your referral source’s waiting room. It may come through in the list of books you might recommend or the adjunct therapies you tell them about.
What extra (valuable) things have your favorite health care professionals done for you that you find meaningful – so meaningful, in fact, that you would recommend them without reservation? There you go…
So… if given all options that exist (including doing nothing at all), why should they want to do business with YOU?

Deborah Legge is a counselor, an assistant professor, specializes in coaching counselors in private practice, and is the founder of

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