Physicians are not known to be slick networkers. We worked hard studying and playing by the rules to get our medical degrees and didn’t have to rely on schmoozing and building connections to start earning a paycheck. But, there are some doctors making 2 million dollars a year, and there are other doctors making $165,000 a year. How do you account for such a huge discrepancy? One key factor that separates two doctors with radically different incomes—despite very similar educational backgrounds—is that the most successful doctors understand the power of networking.
But having to strike up a conversation with someone you have no interest in talking to….isn’t that torture? Having to get dressed up and navigate a room full of complete strangers and come up with something interesting to say….isn’t that nerve wracking? Feeling rejected by groups of people who leave as soon as you join the group….isn’t that disheartening? Leaving your family or your significant other to engage in trite chatter….isn’t that a waste of time?
Well….having organized networking events for medical professionals for over twenty years, I have discovered the power, magic, and beauty of these events. Networking does not have to be dull and intimidating, and despite common perceptions, can actually be remarkably productive, energizing, and fun. One of the greatest joys for me is to watch hundreds of talented people make new connections and find ways to benefit each other in business.
I have made many networking mistakes along the way, and have had many opportunities to observe others in action. I am constantly learning new strategies for what works, and for what are huge deal breakers at events. For now, here is a list of the Top 10 WORST Networking Mistakes Doctors Make.
1. The Biggest Mistake: Avoiding Networking Events
You must show up! As intimidating as you think these events may be, all it takes is just one new connection to make an enormous impact on your career. So many doctors feel they don’t need more referrals, or they don’t have time to socialize. Surprisingly, the doctors who consistently show up at DoctorCPR networking events are the ones who are the most ambitious and consistently bring in over 7 figures a year. These doctors are always motivated to get more referral streams (no matter how booked they already are) and are eager to learn about new income earning opportunities.
2. Valuing Quantity of Connections Made over Quality
One big mistake a lot of people make at events is becoming a “networking butterfly.” Don’t jump from person to person barely remembering names and just trying to give out your card. It is not a race. Take your time and really get to know people. Focus on meaningful conversations–not superficial hellos. The deep connections are the ones that will make a difference in your career, not the number of business cards. Doctors want to do business with doctors whom they trust, and you can’t establish trust from a 1 minute hello and card exchange.
3. Not Giving Out Your Cell Phone Number to Other Physicians
If you want to establish a long-term referral relationship with another doctor you absolutely must give out your cell phone number. You can be the first to offer it. Being readily accessible is more important than almost anything else when it comes to building referral sources. Are you afraid of being chain-called by doctors at all hours of the night? Don’t worry, it almost never happens. Doctors in general respect the time and privacy of other doctors and won’t bother you unless it is a pressing matter.
4. Forgetting to Discuss with Other Doctors What Procedures or Consultations You Want to Do
You strike up a conversation with a reputable and busy doctor and you realize you have so much in common. The conversation ends, but he has no idea what kind of patients you see. He doesn’t know what kind of cases to refer to you….do you love doing breast augmentation? Do you hate hospital consults? Are you an expert in hernia surgery? During every conversation with a new doctor, you must bring up what you love to do or you will get patients whom you really don’t want to see or are not trained to treat.
5. Badmouthing Doctors or Patients in Your Conversations
NEVER speak badly about other doctors or your patients in any conversation with another doctor. You may think that by badmouthing another doctor you are positioning yourself as being better than him. You may think that by criticizing a high maintenance patient, you are bonding with the new doctor you just met. In both cases, you are wrong. Putting down doctors and patients shows a lack of integrity and will absolutely hurt you in the end—even if the other doctor “seems” receptive to your criticisms.
6. Discussing Your Complications or Lawsuits
This is so obvious, but I can’t tell you how often doctors do this! You may think you are connecting on a deeper level when you share intimate details about your bad outcomes with other doctors you meet. Every doctor experiences complications and litigious patients. However, when you are making brand new connections, it is best to avoid this kind of discussion. Doctors don’t want to send their patients to specialists who have a history of poor outcomes…PERIOD.
7. Being Afraid to Join a Conversation
You can’t bond with everyone in the room. That’s impossible. You may join a conversation and find out you have absolutely no interest in what the group is talking about. But it’s okay to join in. You can listen intently and gracefully pivot the conversation to something you are comfortable talking about. If you try to join in but you are ignored, don’t worry….you don’t want to make long term connections with people who are unwelcoming anyway.
8. Not Knowing How to Exit a Conversation Appropriately
The exit is one of the toughest networking challenges. You start to get bored by someone you have met….how do you get out of the conversation even though you may still want to do business with him? The rudest exits are to fidget, look at your watch, check your cell phone, or avoid eye contact with him as he is talking. You can exit in a pleasant way. You can introduce him to someone new, you can offer him a drink, you can mention that you would like to grab some food, you can request his contact information, or you can let him know that you want to check out some of the exhibits at the event before it finishes.
9. Getting Drunk
Know your limits. Never go to a networking event and drink excessively. No one wants to refer patients or their loved ones to a neurosurgeon who is drooling, has slurred speech, can’t remember his own name, and can’t walk in a straight line.
10. Not Following Up
If you make some great connections with new doctors, remember to send cards, your biography, and/or referral pads to their offices or send them a follow up e-mail within the first week after the event. Immediately connect with them on Facebook or Linkedin so they remember you. Don’t forget the adage… “out of sight, out of mind.” If they don’t see your cards, your emails, your posts, or your name….they will forget to consider you when they have to refer the next patient or family member to a doctor in your field.
I reluctantly went to one networking event that led me to chat with a brilliant physician I had never met before. That one conversation changed my life and was the source of thousands of wonderful new patients. A networking event also led me to meet my husband. I am a true believer in the huge impact these events can have on your life. Hopefully, we can all avoid these 10 major networking mistakes and enjoy the process of making valuable connections with other doctors for the rest of our careers.
Dr. Hakim is the Founder + CEO of DoctorCPR.com and Director of DoctorCPR Physician Networking Events. Dr. Hakim practices ophthalmology in Los Angeles and is a graduate of Harvard University and the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. She has organized networking events for physicians in Boston, Montreal, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Los Angeles.