Making new home care business connections is simple enough, but keeping in touch and nurturing a new relationship is often a much more difficult task, particularly in the world of business. For home care businesses, new referral relationships require attention and nurturing in order to grow, just like personal relationships. For those who are active in home care sales, much of your energy is probably spent on getting past the gatekeeper, but not as much focus is typically devoted to what comes next.
There’s often a lull between establishing a relationship with a potential referral source and actually receiving business from that referral source, aka the “Now what?” stage. During this “awkward pause,” it’s important to find ways to break the ice, stay connected, and continue wooing your referrals. However, as with all relationships, there are right ways and wrong ways to nurture new referral sources. Let’s take a look at some home care referral relationship dos and don’ts:
The Right Way:
Continue to stay in contact with your target in meaningful and constructive ways that are beneficial to both parties and not one-sided.
Email relevant, well-researched, industry-related articles to the referral source with your comments and thoughts about how the information affects your shared customers and your businesses.
Email your company newsletters as a demonstration of how your agency is an expert in the community and in the industry.
Organize an in-service and ask the referral source to speak to your employees on an important training topic that centers on his or her area of expertise. For example, have a local hospice provider speak to your staff about how hospice services can benefit home care clients and families or when hospice is an appropriate referral to make.
Seek out the referral contact at public meetings and networking events for friendly, agenda-free conversation.
Follow the referral source’s company social media pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and other platforms where they have a company page presence. Connect with the referral source personally on LinkedIn only after you’ve met in person first.
Take time to hand-write personal notes to acknowledge a work anniversary, birthday, a personal challenge that the target might be experiencing, etc. This demonstrates thoughtfulness on your part and helps strengthen your relationship.
Organize community outreach and joint sales opportunities with your target, and attend all of the events hosted by the referral source.
Ask to be introduced to key employees within their business, especially when new employees come to their organization.
Be sure that all your engagements and top of mind activities do not lose the fact that you would like referrals. If that message is lost, the referrals will not come.
Once a referral has been made to your agency, send a handwritten thank-you note and make appointments to update the referral source on the patient’s progress as necessary and appropriate.
The Wrong Way:
Avoid unproductive meetings just to get face-to-face time with the referral source. Salespeople often think that face time is the most important interaction, and they pursue it doggedly. However, making up excuses just to drop by and chat can become an annoyance. Be mindful of in-person interactions so that they don’t disrupt the work of the referral source.
Don’t just bring and drop off more brochures. If your only reason for visiting a referral target is to bring more literature, that’s not a good enough reason. It’s not new information, and it’s not helpful unless they’ve asked for it.
Don’t shower your target with gifts, brownies, tchotchkes, and cleverly messaged marketing gimmicks. Save gifts of this nature for meaningful opportunities to thank the referral source when an exchange takes place, like a referral or when they take time to come and educate your team.
Don’t make face-to-face meetings only about personal chitchat. It is important to know about your targets and engage with them on a personal level, but if all of your personal meetings revolve around the personal matters, you’re missing good sales opportunities.
Regular engagement with new referral targets is an essential part of growing and nurturing your relationship, and eventually getting that all-important first referral. However, it’s important to remember that all good relationships are built on balance and open communication. Remember, building and growing new sales relationships take patience, persistence, and a clear strategy.
Shelle Womble | Home Care Sales Coach at corecubed
Shelle Womble is a home care sales coach for corecubed, a home care sales, and marketing consulting firm serving the in-home care industry. With over 25 years of multi-state experience in home care, Shelle has held a variety of sales management positions, from District Regional Manager of a single unit agency to Director of Operations/General Manager for 50 branch locations in 11 states for a large home care franchise, and as National Sales Director. As corecubed‘s home care sales expert, Shelle provides online and in-person professional sales training, strategy, and consulting services to home care agencies across the country. To learn more about corecubed‘s aging care marketing and sales services, call 800-370-6580 or visit us at www.corecubed.com.