Just the other week, I witnessed a member of BNI Achievers deliver an excellent Education Slot to his Chapter. Doug Phillips is a five-year member of BNI, and he shared some of his knowledge on finding referrals versus seeking them. More specifically, Doug spoke on the commitment we all make when joining a Chapter, and what we expect of our fellow Chapter members and ourselves.
He started by asking the Chapter…”Who thinks we’re all in BNI to keep our eyes and ears open for referrals for our fellow Chapter members?” Fair to say it was a pretty loaded question. But after many of the members agreed to the sentiment, it enabled Doug to clarify.
With the follow-up question of…”Who thinks we’re all part of BNI to actively seek out referral opportunities and great business introductions for our fellow members?“, the distinction became clear.
Finding referrals for our fellow Chapter members is definitely something we should all be doing. But just “finding” referrals is not actually part of our BNI commitment. Rather than “finding referrals” as they appear in front of us, we should be deliberately and actively seeking out referrals where they might not be obviously seen. Asking questions of the people in our lives that we know and meet, based around the weekly presentations we’ve heard our fellow members deliver.
It’s not about being aware that referral opportunities might arise, it’s about actively seeking, searching, finding, and even creating referral opportunities.
Andy Shanley, also from BNI Achievers, is an expert at this.
Andy is a Master Painter and Wallpaper Hanger. When he’s on a customer’s premises and he notices something such as a gate that doesn’t close properly, he doesn’t wait for the customer to say “Oh that gate’s a pain in the neck. I wish I knew someone who could fix it for me”. He brings it up first by saying something like “I noticed your gate isn’t closing properly. “Do you need someone to fix it up for you? I know just the guy.”
Consequently, Andy’s referral numbers are excellent, and he is a well-respected and appreciated member of his Chapter. But it gets even better, and this bit I really love…
When initially attending a customer’s house to quote, Andy wears plastic shoe covers over his painting shoes. The kind you see medical staff wearing in hospitals. He doesn’t need them. His shoes are clean and have no wet paint on them at this stage. But by wearing these when the potential customer opens the door, it often prompts the customer to say “Oh, you don’t need them, my carpets are already dirty.” Or “My carpets are due for a clean.” It then becomes the most natural thing in the world for Andy to say “Oh, I know a great carpet cleaner.”
Once inside their house, he asks them to turn their lights on. Sure, Andy needs to be able to clearly see the condition of the walls, but if they have halogen globes or other older light units, this again opens the door for Andy to start a conversation about our Electrician.
And don’t for a second think that this is some form of subterfuge or covert way of steering the customer where he wants them. These customers are potentially in need of the services Andy has in mind, and if Andy can recommend someone from his Chapter that he knows and trusts, then he is doing the customer a favour.
So how do we go about emulating this stellar practice of Andy’s?
Well, it all starts in the meeting room.
Every week on the back of the meeting agenda handout, we’re given a trade list of the members of our Chapter. This is for us to write down their referral requests next to their names. But how many of us only write down the names we hear if we happen to know the person being requested? Or if we think there might be a connection?
When we receive the sheet, it’s blank. When we’re finished with it, it should be completely filled in. If it isn’t, the commitment you made to your fellow Chapter members when you joined means that you need to be asking yourself if you’re holding up your end of the bargain.
We’ve all paid good money to have a community of advocates noting down our referral requests and actively trying to find a way to connect us. If you’re not noting down every actionable referral request that every other member is seeking, then how are you then using this outside the meeting room to seek that specific referral for them? Unless you have an incredible memory, you don’t have the tool you need to live up to your end of the bargain, which is looking for those people that were requested.
An experienced BNI Director from overseas recently told me that they call the “trade list” the “referral activator sheet” instead. They’ve found that simply changing the name of this tool helped remind members that actively taking notes during the weekly presentations creates many more referrals for each other.
And if you think that all sounds like too much work, well then can I ask you to ask yourselves two questions…
- How do you think your business would improve if everyone in your Chapter made this extra effort approach to finding referrals for you?
- If you’d like them to do that for you, surely you need to be doing that for them?
One of BNI’s core values is “Givers Gain®”. It’s a simple, two-word slogan that is easy to understand. But because it’s simple and easy, sometimes we forget that in order to gain from the efforts of our fellow Chapter members, we need to ensure the level of effort we’re putting into giving is more than just the bare minimum.
Many other networking organisations are structured around members doing the bare minimum for each other. Accordingly, their results (if they even track them) tend to be poor when compared to BNI, because, in BNI, we all agree that the bare minimum is not enough. We all agree to go that extra mile and pro-actively seek ways to help each other grow our businesses.