Referral marketing is the name of the game at BNI. We join our Chapter so that we can grow our businesses through the giving of referrals to our fellow Chapter members, which then leads to us receiving referrals in return. We’re all familiar with how conversion rates for referrals are higher than conversion rates for leads. There are plenty of businesses out there (many in BNI, not surprisingly) that rely on referrals for the majority of their business.
But what if I told you BNI could give you something even more valuable than referrals?
Referral partners are what we should all be striving for. If you’re receiving referrals in BNI, that’s great. But if you swapped every referral you’ve ever received for a referral partner instead, your business would be infinitely better off. So, what’s the difference?
In BNI, to qualify as a referral, the following criteria need to be met:
- The person you’ve been referred to must be expecting your call
- They must have a genuine need for your product or service, and
- You need to have received their correct contact details for follow up.
When these three boxes are ticked, maximum potential for business to result is achieved. However, even if there is potential for a lot of business to occur through this, there is a limit to just how much.
With referral partners, there is no such limit.
A referral partner is someone who can potentially introduce you to many people who need your products or service, in an ongoing manner.
The best way to define the two is with an example.
My favourite example is the Plumber. Any Plumber. It could be the Plumber from your Chapter.
For a Plumber who is asking for referrals to “people who have leaky taps”, they’re limiting what they’re asking for. For starters, everyone in the Chapter has previously assumed that the Plumber would like introductions to people who need their leaky taps fixed. So, saying it to the Chapter is a waste of an opportunity. If there is someone in the Chapter who knows someone with leaky taps, the Plumber might get that referral. But they probably would have gotten that referral anyway, even if they had never mentioned “leaky taps”.
If however, the Plumber had asked for an introduction to “Jane Smith from Smith Property Management”, there’s potential for so much more. If someone in the Chapter knows Jane Smith, then our Plumber friend could expect an introduction. This introduction to Jane could lead to hundreds of leaky taps that require repair over the course of a year. And even if no-one in the Chapter knows Jane Smith, they may know a different Property Manager, and they now know that introductions to Property Managers are something our Plumber is seeking.
How do we secure these Referral Partners?
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that the best way to secure referral partners is to ask for them by name. It’s a simple case of being very specific with your referral request. Once you’ve identified an occupation or profession that could be a good referral partner for you, it just takes a little bit of investigation. A Google search for companies where these occupations/professions would be employed can easily reveal the names of specific people in specific companies who could be very valuable introductions for you.
Remember to always drill down to the name of the decision maker, because often your fellow members will know this person on a social level, rather than professionally. While they might know their friend works for that specific company, their workplace isn’t front of mind, and the company name alone might not be sufficient to trigger a reaction to your request.