Somebody else has your clients. But that doesn’t make them unavailable. Most of them are visiting someone in a different profession.

If you are a divorce or marriage coach, your potential clients might be consulting divorce lawyers. If your niche is weight loss or fitness, then personal trainers, weight-loss centers or bariatric physicians might have your clients.

When I opened my coaching practice, I found that psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and neurologists already had my clients – people with AD/HD. Fortunately, I also found that at least some psychiatrists and neurologists did not see me as a threat but were actually thrilled to have another resource to whom they could refer patients.

Building strategic alliances

I forged with those doctors strategic alliances– informal relationships between professionals who serve the same people. They refer clients to each other for the benefit of the client as well as each other’s practices.

The way to make a strategic alliance work is to be sure both parties fully benefit from the relationship. The relationship is ABSOLUTELY NOT about getting professionals to send you clients. Rather it is about you and another non-competing professional referring clients to each other. Thus both benefit from this respectful two-way relationship.

Here’s how I build relationships with medical professionals. I call a physician on the telephone to introduce myself. Personal contact works far better than mail. The conversation might go like this: “Hi Dr. Whoever, I’m Ken Zaretzky, I am an ADD coach. I specialize in working with kids (or adults, couples, whatever). I’m looking for a few more physicians to cross-refer with. I’d like to send you a brochure that explains my work with people who have AD/HD. I’ll call you next week to discuss how we might be of benefit to each others clients. Maybe we can do each other some good. Would that be okay?”

Then I do exactly what I said I was going to do. This action alone initially filled my practice. About one in three physicians I have talked to became strategic partners with me. You don’t need many, two or three will work wonders for your practice.

When I first entered the coaching field and decided to try this marketing plan, I contacted a psychiatrist with very large ADD clientele. This doctor wouldn’t take my telephone calls. Rather than losing hope or becoming angry, I started referring client after client to him telling each to make sure that they told him, “Ken Zaretzky sent me to you.”

After about the 20th referral, the doctor called me and said, “OK, who the heck are you?” Nothing gets an individual’s attention quite as fast as the understanding that what they get in the relationship is as valuable as what they give. Now this doctor and I have referred clients to each other for years.

How to handle a referral

When you receive a call from a doctor or a prospective client do not procrastinate. Return the call immediately. Follow up on slow communicators – doctors AND their patients. The last thing you ever want to have get back to Doctor Whoever is that the coach to whom he referred his patient was slow to respond or never called the client back.

Do a great job for the client. Don’t be late for appointments — even by a minute. That client will report back to his doctor about his experience with coaching. If you do your job, the doctor will continue to make referrals to you.

One last note: It never hurts to send a thank you note to a referring practitioner. This makes your strategic partners feel good about the relationship and reminds him that you’re still out there.


About the author:

This Article was adapted from Ken Zaretzky’s new book How It’s Done 101