Unlock the Secrets to Building Strong Referral Partnerships for Your OT Private Pay Practice

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Learn how to rock the meeting you have with potential referrals sources for your OT Private Pay Practice to move the relationship from unknown entity to trusted partner.


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There is no doubt that building strong referral relationships with doctors and other healthcare providers is crucial to your ongoing success as an OT Private Pay Practice owner. But, how exactly do you prepare for these meetings, how do you conduct them, and what do you do afterwards that is critical to actually developing a strong relationship with these referral parties?

In this video, Doug Vestal, Ph.D., shares 5 best practices to overcoming fear with meeting with referral sources, showing up like no one else, and how to do authentic follow up to move the relationship forward.

This video is not intended as professional or legal advice. Be sure to seek the services of a professional and understand the risks you are undertaking.


Transcript of Video:

Meeting with potential referral sources for your OT private pay practice is crucial to expanding your network and increasing the number of evaluations you have coming in.

And having a successful meeting is crucial to gently move the relationship forward from where they just have heard about you to you becoming a trusted part of their network that they refer to you regularly.


But many OTs can feel nervous meeting with doctors or other referral parties and don’t know how to gain the confidence to meet with them, what to say during it that will improve the odds of them referring to them, and what to do after the meeting to really deepen the relationship.


So today I am going to share with you how to prepare for these meetings, how to approach them, and what to do afterward so you feel confident approaching these meetings and getting the most out of them.

Hi – I’m Doug Vestal and I help OTs just like you start and grow thriving private pay practices.  My wife and I founded our own successful OT private pay practice in NYC in 2014.  And I make these videos to help you achieve success even quicker.

Let’s jump right into how to have a productive meeting with potential referral sources.

And I have 5 different things I want you to think about.

The first thing is: be selective and have a criteria for how you should be approaching.

Not every doctor or other healthcare provider is a good potential referral source.  And, you have a limited amount of time and energy to pour into setting up meetings.

So – number 1 is have a criteria set for who is most likely going to be a good referral source from the beginning.

And the way to do this is the following.  Write down all the people that will have seen your client before they saw you.  Who did they see before they came to your practice?  Next, write down all the people who would see your client after you.  

This collective group of people and providers are the most likely to be good referring parties because you are either a natural next step for their client or you yourself are a potential source of referrals for their business.

Next, once you have this list, filter out by people who are already private pay.  You want to prioritize within this list those providers who already practice in the same manner as you.

And this is because other private pay providers will more easily refer to other private pay providers.  And, their clients who come to you themselves are already used to seeing a private pay provider so that makes your conversations with the potential client much easier.

Only after you go through the list of private pay providers would I then focus on those that are non-private pay.

Making sure you are in the room with the right providers will exponentially increase your chances of success.

Okay, so we’ve established you are meeting with people who have a high likelihood of success.

The next step for a successful meeting is to prepare mentally.

I work with a lot of OTs who feel very intimidated by meeting with a doctor or other healthcare providers.  They start to get really nervous, they start to doubt their skills and they can feel like there is this power hierarchy of meeting with them.

So, what I want you to do is reframe this meeting. 

This meeting is a meeting of equals.

You are there to interview them as much as they are there to interview you.

For you to attain the best outcomes possible for your client, you need other practitioners on your team.  And you are there to make sure that this doctor or healthcare practitioner would be a good fit for YOUR clients such that you want them on your team.

We know already that just because everyone is in the healthcare field that you aren’t necessarily going to see eye to eye on everything.  Different practitioners have different personalities, different perspectives, different priorities and different practice ethos.

And you want to make sure there is an alignment with the values in your practice and the values in their practice.

They are not doing you a favor by meeting with you.  You are not there to beg for referrals.

This is simply a meeting with two professionals who care deeply about their clients to see if there is an alignment in how you approach things.

That’s it.  When you reframe it this way, and believe me, you’ll have to do this self-talk more than once, it evens up the stakes for the meeting.

And  the last thing I’d say from preparing mentally with this meeting is put it into perspective.  We can put so much unfair weight on ourselves for just one meeting.


We are so good at building things up in our own mind, especially when its important to us and before we know it we are catastrophizing what will happen if it doesn’t go well.


But, this is just one meeting in one afternoon of one day in one year of your life.  Don’t overstress about it.  You will not be ruined if the meeting doesn’t go well.

You should absolutely prepare and show up professionally, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself that it prevents you from performing.

After you have prepared mentally for the meeting you want to prepare physically.  And by this I mean you want to have physical things you bring to the meeting.

And these physical things should take the form of rackcards, educational brochures, checklists, handouts, etc.

These items should be items that they find of value that they can start handing out immediately to their clients.

So, let me give you an example from our OT pelvic health practice in NYC.  We had a very nice 16 page guidebook called “Caring for your core, back and pelvic floor: A quick guide for new moms: your first few weeks postpartum.”

And in this 16 page guidebook was a ton of valuable free education to new moms and the issues they were dealing with postpartum.  We covered leaking, checking for DR, the role of fiber with toileting, postural considerations for caring for their baby and a lot more.

So, when we met with our potential referral parties we brought really nice color copies of this to the meeting and it was something that they could immediately start handing out to their clients that day.

And this was so much better than just giving them a business card.

This was more powerful for 2 reasons:

  • The valuable education made them look good to their clients and typically provided them with a much needed resource they didn’t already have. It filled a hole in their own practice they were appreciative of.
  • The information was valuable to their clients. So their clients were happy and would look to the back of it for our contact information.

And one of the keys to moving the relationship forward is providing them something valuable before they ever do something for you.

So – think about your ideal client.  What problems are they struggling with that you can help them with in an educational manner?  Create a tri-fold brochure, a one pager or a guidebook helping them exactly with that.  And bring copies of this to your meetings for the practitioner to use.

The fourth important thing for a successful meeting is of course what you do in the actual meeting itself.

You want to walk into this meeting with some intentions that you set previously.

Remember this meeting is about a meeting of equals.

So, in the meeting you should be asking them about their practice:

  • Who are the clients they really enjoy working with?
  • Don’t shy away from asking them technical questions so you two can geek out on things
  • What should you be looking for with your own clients to know when and who you should refer to them?

Next, they should come away from the meeting really knowing who your ideal client is, what makes you unique and who they should refer to you.

The last piece of advice is that the first meeting is just the first step.  When you are building a referral relationship the emphasis is on the word “relationship.”

And relationships take time and they take nurturing.  I like to think about it in terms of dating.  Your first meeting with them is like a blind date.  You don’t jump from a blind date to marriage.  There are steps in between as you two get to know one another.

So you need to plan on ongoing nurturing of this relationship so that not only are you on their radar more frequently but they really get to know you over time, see your passion and expertise, and how much you care.

This is where most OTs falter unfortunately.  I’ve heard many stories where someone says to me “yeah I meet them once 3 months ago and I never heard anything.”

Don’t fall into that trap.  Approach this how you would other relationships in your life.  Nurture it, give to it, care for it, and step into the leadership position of being the one who goes first, rather than waiting for someone else to contact you.

And there are a few best practices.  Firstly, right after the meeting you should debrief and write down your observations from the meeting.

Second, plan for an immediate follow-up.  This should be a handwritten thank you note that you mail to them thanking them for the meeting, referencing something you two connected on and letting them know that you will take good care of their clients.

Third, you want to plan for organic ways to stay in touch with them and put together a little calendar to keep you organized.  Focus on the first 2- 3 months after meeting them and plan to reach out every  2 – 3 weeks.

Now, it is important that in this outreach you aren’t actually asking them for referrals.  Instead, you are again providing them value. 

Send them an invitation to a community workshop you are giving with a discount for their clients to attend.   Send them more physical copies of your handouts.

If you will be at a community event send them a handwritten note letting them know and asking them to stop by your table.

If you are organizing a local networking group invite them to come be a guest speaker.  If you have your own podcast invite them to be interviewed.

If you see a research article that’s at the intersection of what they do then print it out and mail it to them.

If you write a blog article that would be helpful to their clients then send it to them.

You are literally limited by your imagination here. 

But the principle here is you are staying in touch in a frequency that isn’t pesky, the type of outreach you are doing isn’t one-sided in that you aren’t asking for referrals but instead creating a relationship around the intersection of your two practices.

Do this every 2 – 3 weeks for 2 – 3 months and then take stock of where the relationship has blossomed to and at that point you can decide where to pivot and where to invest your energy.

But you have to give it time and you have to step into nurturing the relationship for you to see your efforts pay off in the long run.

If you do this, then you can get 3 – 6 robust referral relationships established overtime which will provide you with a steady stream of referrals.