Many people ask me what the most important “skill” is if you own your own business. While there are MANY different skills that are important, there’s one I believe is more important than any other out there. If you want to increase referrals from other professionals, you need to be networking as a non-diet dietitian with the community that serves your client population.
Networking as a non-diet dietitian is the BACKBONE of your practice and easily the most important business skill you will develop.
A smart mentor once told me “it’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know, and HOW you say it.”
You might think it’s important to try to network with everyone. However, in this case, quality is more important than quantity. Pick your community wisely and nourish those relationships. It really only takes a few good connections to see a return on that investment and get quite a few clients.
Building relationships is vital in private practice AND in online business too. Not only do these relationships often turn into referrals, but they can also turn into connections that support you in your journey to your long-term goals. That’s why it’s imperative you be authentic and genuine with the relationships you build!
If you’re in the right niche, chances are that you’re passionate about the work that you do, and will gravitate toward others who feel the same way.
Where do these like-minded professionals with a similar client base work? Do they belong to organizations or are they involved in committees? Where do these professionals go for continuing education? Where do they network? Where are they online? Are they on social media? Are they on listservs?
All things to ask yourself to find your people!
Once you have your community, pick a few people and nurture those relationships with these 5 tips for networking:
- Take a professional out for coffee or lunch (yes, a “virtual” date works great!). Rotate through your connections. Spend as much time on this as it makes sense to you. Consider these meetings a part of your job. Make it affordable as you should be paying as it was you who extended the invitation.
- Send business cards in the mail and ask for cards back. Sending a short note with your business cards is just a friendly reminder that you’re here for their clients if they need to refer. By providing cards to referral sources, they’ll have something they can hand out to potential clients. Ask for their cards back so that you can refer to them, as well.
- Write an email (and/or a written thank you) after meeting with someone. This gesture will not go unnoticed! It’s so rare to get actual mail anymore, let alone anything handwritten!
- Communicate through their preferred communication medium. Does someone prefer talking on the phone, using email, or texting? Especially if you have a shared client, keep a note about which method this person prefers, and follow up using that method! The easier it is to communicate to say “hi”, the more likely your relationship will grow.
- Give out holiday gifts to professionals that have referred you clients. It’s a nice gesture to say happy holidays once a year. A bottle of wine or a box of chocolates is always appreciated. If you’d rather stay away from material gestures, you could always donate to a charity in someone else’s name. If you can’t afford to spend a lot of money, an annual holiday card is also a great idea.
Networking as a non-diet dietitian with my own community has brought me so many referrals for eating disorders and intuitive eating into my group practice. I sought out therapists, doctors, personal trainers, and psychiatrists and have created a network here that was been wonderful for clients.
AND… networking has been invaluable for me to grow Pursuing Private Practice as well. I had to put in the work to seek out connections that have helped me grow my business. However, I do think that networking “online” is sometimes harder. It’s a bigger undertaking because you’re not limited by the local community.
Just remember… start somewhere! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and meet more providers! I still stand by networking (even virtually!) as the MOST effective way to grow your business.