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Activate your referral system

June 1, 2011
If I could show you how to put an extra $100,000 in your pocket, would you read the rest of my column? I hope so, because that's what the creation and implementation of an active referral system will do for you.

Nate Booth, DDS

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: referral system, passive, active, scripts, training program, patients, Dr. Nate Booth.

If I could show you how to put an extra $100,000 in your pocket, would you read the rest of my column? I hope so, because that’s what the creation and implementation of an active referral system will do for you.

Referrals are the No. 1 method most dental practices use to attract new patients, and it can be the most cost effective too. I have noticed that dental referral systems tend to fall into one of two categories:

1. Passive – waiting for referrals to occur

2. Active – consistently asking at the right times in the right way

I recently did a training program for the people of Midwest-Mountain Dental. They have 80 offices in six states — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Colorado, and New Mexico. They are a team of hometown dentists who are committed to the families and communities that they serve. In addition to excellent systems in all areas, they have the best referral process I have seen.

Dr. Jeff Moos, CEO of Midwest and Mountain Dental, with Dr. Nate Booth, right.

Here are their three referral steps:

• Identify two patients each day from whom you will ask for referrals.

• Generate compliments from the patients by saying, “How was your visit today?” or “What do you think of the crowns/fillings/periodontal care we did today?” After they mention how wonderful you are:

• Ask for referrals. Here are three real-world examples:

> Clinical assistant after restorative visit – “Susie, Dr. Jones does great work and really cares about her patients. Let me give you one of her cards. I’m going to put my name on the back. If you have any trouble with the crown we did for you today, please give me a call so I can help you. I’m also going to give you a couple of extra cards. We know that many people have friends or family who may be looking for a new dentist and it would mean a lot to us if you’d share Dr. Jones' cards. We’re always happy to see more new patients like you.”

> Doctor after treatment plan is completed – “Joe, we’ve done a lot of dentistry for you in the last couple of months, and you’ve expressed how happy you are with the care, which is excellent.

“If it’s okay with you, I’d like to give you a few of my business cards to share with your friends and family. We’re always glad to see more new patients like you. You can be sure we’ll treat them just like we’ve taken care of you.”

> Hygienist after recare appointment – “Maria, we always enjoy seeing you at your regular visits and know that you’ve been happy with the care and treatment we’ve provided. If you have friends or family looking for a dentist, we would love to have them as patients. Here are a couple of the doctor’s business cards for them. We promise to provide them the same high quality of care that you’ve received.”

Your team can also ask for referrals outside the office. Here’s how that conversation might go:

Team member: “Tracy, I’ve been coming to you for a long time to get my hair done. There are so many things I enjoy about my time with you that keeps me coming back. I know you’ve heard me talk about the doctor I work with. I’m wondering, who is your dentist?”

Tracy: “You know, I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t been to the dentist in a while. I really should get an appointment scheduled.”

Team member: “I hear that quite a bit from my friends and family. The doctor I work for would be happy to take care of you and your family. Here is one of his cards so you have the information to contact our office. We’d love to take care of you and your family.”

Birds of a feather flock together. Hold a team meeting to discuss the creation of your active referral system. Then role play your referral scripts until they become automatic. This will enable you to attract more of the best birds that will make your office nest more enjoyable and profitable.

Dr. Nate Booth is a speaker, consultant, and author who provides dentists with the information and systems they need to thrive in their dental practices. He is the creator of the in-office, DVD based program, The “Yes” System. For more information, go to, or call (702) 444-1362.

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