There’s just something about going to a doctor’s office and introducing yourself to the doctors and staff that work there. Making that face-to-face introduction says you care enough to take the time out of your schedule to stop by, you are interested in learning more about their practice, and you want to engage with them. And while it seems like a small gesture, it can make a real impact in your relationships with other physicians, and sometimes have a nice side effect, referrals.

Doing research about the practice before you visit is as crucial as the actual visit. Yes, first impressions are important, but if you don’t know enough about the practice, you might make assumptions that could be off target, showing you think you know what they need and not what they actually need. Taking just a few minutes to learn more about them can make a real difference in your visit.

To learn more, check out a practice’s website and reviews for just 5-10 minutes. This should give a glimpse into the practice’s purpose, philosophy, and patients. Next, give the office a call to schedule a visit. During that call, introduce yourself, get the name of the person you speak with and ask any questions that aren’t answered with your online research.

The most successful visits I’ve witnessed are when the visiting doctor makes a personal connection with the doctor and staff at the practice. When you arrive at the office, introduce yourself and mention that you scheduled an appointment with “Jane” or “John”. The perfect scenario is the person you scheduled with is the first person you speak with when you walk in. If that is the case, take the opportunity to connect with that person in a short conversation. This shows you remember and value them. And they may just happen to help with processing office referrals or have a desk within earshot of the person who does.

When the doctor becomes available, introduce yourself and what you do, and then ask them about their practice, staff, and patients. And sometimes, it’s not about what you say, it’s about how you do it. Your nonverbal language can be a deal maker or breaker. Smile. Make eye contact. Ask questions. Use their same choice of words when you speak. That doesn’t mean regurgitate what they say verbatim, but if they call their patients “clients” or “family” or “friends”, use the same terminology.

You may also cross paths with their patients while visiting. If you do, smile and make brief eye contact with them. Show those in the practice that you are interested in their patients by nonverbally acknowledging them, but don’t talk to or approach them.

And while you’re there, ask for their business card or office brochure. You’ll be able to use these to update your own database of doctors and referral system. This will be a good way to confirm that the information you have about their office is accurate.

A visiting doctor who is personable and not overbearing, friendly and not too bubbly, interested and not nosey, patient and respectful of everyone’s time will have a successful visit. You want to show the doctor and staff that you are genuinely interested in them and their patients. If you do it well, your visit and actions will express your interest in partnering with them in the care of their patients. You want to meet the practice where they are, not where you are or where you are coming from. And if you do it successfully, your referrals will grow along with your network of colleagues.