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How to Ask a Patient for Referrals

It can be awkward.

I hear many practice management speakers tell their audiences to be bold and ask their patients to refer them more patients.  “It’s easy.  Just tell them that you’re still accepting new patients and that you want them to mention you to their family and friends.

Uh... send me everyone you know. Please?

I’m sorry, but I just don’t know how to interject anything like that into a conversation and have it sound natural.  I think it risks making the patient feel uncomfortable; or worse, you may sound desperate.

But I agree that one of the best sources of new patients is referrals made by existing patients.  Why?  Here are the reasons:

(1) It costs nothing.

(2) A new patient who finds you because you were recommended by a friend or family member will have a higher initial level of trust with you than someone who just stumbled upon your office.

(3) If you have  a system in place to help existing patients get you more patients, your office can grow exponentially.

There are a few ways to get patients to refer people to your office, such as running promotions and supporting their businesses.  I’ve written several posts with ideas on how to do this.  Check out this post here which links to all of those articles.

But now I’d like to focus on the simplest way to get a patient to refer someone: just asking.

As previously stated, I found the common approach to be awkward.  It’s like walking into a networking meeting and handing out your business card as you introduce yourself.  No one asked for your card and it’s probably going to be thrown away by the end of the day.

I found two ways to ask for referrals that made me comfortable.  More importantly… they work.

(1) Ask after giving a compliment

By paying someone a compliment, you gain some leeway to make a suggestion that would otherwise seem out of place.

“It is such a pleasure working with people that are as kind as you are.  If you know anyone else that as nice as you, we’d love to welcome them into the office!”

(2) Ask after receiving a compliment

Think of the times when a patient is thrilled about how their teeth look after you’ve finished some cosmetic work.  The times they express their appreciation for you when you got them out of pain.  The times they are relieved when you help them overcome dental anxiety.

You have a great opportunity to ask for a referral whenever a patient pays you a compliment.  I still lead in by returning the compliment before I ask.

“Thank you for saying that.  That really made my day!  You know, it was easy getting a great result because you were such a pleasure to have in the chair.  If you know anyone else who is as fun as you are, we’d love to welcome them into the office!”


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