DR. ACE GOERIG
OWNER & CO-FOUNDER
A young endodontist just starting out will need to establish a network of GP referrers, almost all of whom will be older. Similarly, an older endodontist will need to build relationships with younger GP referrers in order to keep their referral base strong, especially when their older referrers start retiring.
In both situations, age-related perceptions can influence how easily these referral relationships can be established. Age bias is cultural, and in western cultures like the United States, a younger doctor may be subconsciously perceived as lacking practical real-world experience. Likewise, an older doctor may be perceived as long in the tooth and out of touch.
Finding Professional Common Ground
Typically in social friendships, common ground is quickly established by having similar values, interests and goals, by doing activities together, and by going through the same challenges together. Many of these factors are governed by general life stages, which is why most of your social friendships are probably close in age to you, and have similar educational, cultural or economic backgrounds.
However, keep in mind that a referral relationship is not a social friendship; it is a professional friendship. Common social factors may make initial doctor-to-doctor conversations easier, but in the long run there are different factors that are more important professionally.
The most important of these factors is clinical trust. So, a younger or older endodontist is well served by putting themselves in an environment where potential referring GPs can interact with them on clinical matters. This could include:
The next most important factor is likeability. Likeability is most often tied to qualities such as openness, warmth, honesty, generosity, kindness, humor and happiness … which are timeless. These qualities are driven by your personality and outlook, and amplifying these traits in a genuine way in your interactions with GPs creates a positive impression and reputation.
The third factor worth mentioning is attention. The fastest way to become “friends” with anyone is to make them feel special. Learn their name, use their name, and remember their name the next time you meet them. In between, put your marketing coordinator to work on connecting with the practice, sharing some kind of gift and keeping you at the top of their mind.
Finally, you need to ensure you are a leader for your GPs in how referral relationships should work. Remember that your success in any referral relationship is going to depend on how you manage the referred cases entrusted to you. With a new referrer, especially intergenerational ones, they might send you one or two cases to “try you out”. You have to be ready to impress. If you have great communication, treat patients efficiently and send them back to GPs raving about you, your referral relationships will grow.