Sticky situations: How to ask for referrals without sounding like a salesperson

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Editor's Note: The following "Sticky Situation" was submitted by Amy Morgan, CEO of the Pride Institute. It is the latest in a string of "Sticky Situations" submitted by the experts at Pride Institute.

A doctor and team have recently embarked on an organic marketing campaign in which they are asking their current patients for referrals. However, many of the team members (and, quite frankly, the doctor) do not feel comfortable asking without sounding desperate or like a salesperson. They are asking for help and also wondering if they are the only ones who are struggling with this daunting task.

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The issue of finding comfort in the “asking” always reminds me of a Theatre 101 class I took years ago. The first rule of the stage is, before you utter one line of dialogue, you have to ask yourself, “What’s my motivation?” Your answer will color the tone, pace and delivery of that one line.

The same rule applies to asking for referrals. If your motives for asking are based on desperation and scarcity, your dialogue will personify that. If your motives are based on confidence and passion in your practice, that will also change your dialogue. So, before you and your teammates make any attempts at inspiring patients to refer, make sure you brainstorm your unified motives and purpose for wanting to invite new patients into your practice. Taking that one step will increase comfort with the process immediately.

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Now that you have a unified purpose for “asking,” here are some helpful hints.

Hint 1
Only ask patients who you like, and those who personify your vision and values of care. The saying goes, “Eagles refer eagles. Therefore if you ask a pigeon, he will refer another pigeon.”

Hint 2
Wait for a compliment, then ask! Studies have shown that if a patient has had an experience that has exceeded expectations, he or she is naturally going to tell 25 other people about the experience. Ride that positive wave!


Hint 3
Follow this model and you won’t sound like a salesperson.

Patient compliment: “I love your team. They are so warm and friendly!”

a. Acknowledge the compliment: “Thank you!”

b. Quality Statement: “It’s part of our vision to provide exceptional experiences to patients like you who appreciate the extra mile!”

c. Transition Statement: “You know, not all patients get to experience an ideal dental environment.”

d. Ask: “If you have any friends or family members who would appreciate the same warm experience, please recommend them to us. We would love to fill our practice with patients just like you.”

And you’re in!

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Have a Sticky Situation you need help with? Contact us at Pride Institute offers an array of consulting services, products, and seminars to enhance the lives of dentists, their teams and ultimately their patients. For more information about our services, speak with one of our client services specialists at (800) 925-2600 or visit