Brownies and Tchotchkes: How Not to Nurture a New Referral Relationship



Making new friends is easy; it’s keeping them that takes work, particularly in the business world. A new business relationship requires attention and nurturing in order to grow, just like a personal relationship. In the home care industry, salespeople often receive comprehensive training on how to schmooze with potential referral partners, but not much training for what comes next.

If you’re active in home care sales, you’ve probably heard a lot about how to get past the gatekeeper, how to hone your elevator pitch, and how to discuss the benefits of working with your agency. But in home care sales, there’s often a lull between establishing a solid relationship with a potential referral source and actually receiving business from that referral source. Basically, you have made a new friend in the business; referrals have not really generated from the relationship as of yet, but you know you are top of mind (for the time being) for this friend. Now what?

This “awkward pause” often occurs after home care salespeople have established new referral relationships, and it’s important to find ways to break the ice and stay connected. However, as with all relationships, there are right ways and wrong ways to nurture new referral sources. Let’s take a look at some home care referral relationship dos and don’ts:


  • Continue to stay in communication with your target in meaningful and constructive ways that are mutually beneficial and not one-sided.
  • Email industry-related articles to the target with your comments and thoughts. It’s very important, however, to read these articles thoroughly before sending to ensure that you are not being controversial and that you understand how the topic might affect the referral source.
  • Email your company newsletters that are for a general audience and that demonstrate how your agency is an expert in the community and in the home care industry.
  • Organize an in-service and ask the referral source to speak to your employees on an important training topic that centers on his or her area of expertise. For example, have a local hospice provider speak to your staff about how hospice services can benefit home care clients and families or when hospice is an appropriate referral to make. This may take some careful planning, but it will keep you top of mind and the referral source will appreciate your efforts to be a good partner by engaging and educating your employees about their business.
  • Seek out the referral source at public meetings and networking events for friendly, agenda-free conversation.
  • Make appointments to discuss existing cases that are referred to you in order to update the referral source as necessary. Note: This approach is appropriate when both you and the referral source still serve the client, but may be less so if the referral source no longer serves the client.
  • Follow the referral source’s company social media pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and other platforms where they have a company page presence. Connect with the referral source personally on LinkedIn only after you’ve met in person first.
  • Take time to hand-write personal notes to acknowledge a work anniversary, birthday, a personal challenge that the target might be experiencing, etc. This demonstrates thoughtfulness on your part, and helps strengthen your relationship.
  • Organize community outreach and joint sales opportunities with your target, and attend all of the events hosted by the referral source.
  • Ask to be introduced to key employees within their business, especially when new employees come to their organization.
  • Be sure that all your engagements and top of mind activities do not lose the fact that you would like referrals. If that message is lost, the referrals will not come.


  • Don’t waste the referral target’s time just to get some face-to-face time. Salespeople often think that face time is the most important interaction, and they pursue face-to-face doggedly. However, making up excuses just to drop by and chat can become an annoyance. Making cold calls without an appointment might be necessary during the initial phase of opening the door, but once the door is open, you must be mindful of in-person interactions so that they don’t disrupt the work of the referral source.
  • Don’t just bring and drop off more brochures. If your only reason for visiting a referral target is to bring more literature, that’s not a good enough reason. It’s not new information, and it’s not helpful, unless they’ve asked for it.
  • Don’t shower your target with gifts, brownies, tchotchkes, and cleverly messaged marketing gimmicks. Save gifts of this nature for meaningful opportunities to thank the referral source when an exchange takes place, like a referral or when they take time to come and educate your team.
  • Don’t make face-to-face meetings only about personal chitchat. It is important to know about your targets and to genuinely engage with them on a personal level, but if all of your personal meetings revolve around the kids, vacations, and PTA meetings, the reason for your interaction disappears.

Regular engagement with new referral targets is an essential part of growing and nurturing your relationship, and eventually getting that all-important first referral. However, it’s important to remember that all good relationships are built on balance and open communication. And some relationships may not work out the way you expect. At some point in the process, you may decide that all of your efforts with a particular target are not resulting in referrals. When this happens, schedule a time to chat and ask why your agency is not receiving referrals. That discussion can help you to determine if you should move your energies in different directions.

Building and growing new sales relationships takes patience, persistence, and a clear strategy. Wondering how your agency measures up? Click here to download our free Sales Self-Assessment to help you gauge your level of sales knowledge, efficiency and effectiveness. If you’d like to take your home care sales strategy to the next level, contact corecubed and find out how our Home Care Sales & Operations Coach can help!