Why Are Referrals Important?
Why do we get up in the middle of the night to visit BNI every week? Is it for a good breakfast, a cup of coffee and a chat or even to hook up with like-minded business people and talk about our worldly woes? The answer, of course, is no. We do it to generate business and make money.
That’s why referrals, or to be more precise, quality referrals are so important (as well as being a sign of a healthy and successful Chapter).
Quality referrals translate into good business, increased profits, happier members and, ultimately into a growing and prosperous Chapter.
In fact, in my opinion, good quality referrals are probably the most important part of any BNI Chapters success.
What Makes A Good Referral?
A good referral should be laser targeted. It helps, of course, if you actually know what the person you are giving the referral to does for a living so make sure that you have regular 1-2-1’s with them, get to understand their business and listen when they give their 60 seconds every week.
A good referral should be timely. Don’t pass a referral slip for a job that’s months away. You’re wasting your fellow member’s time, and your client won’t thank you for a call they aren’t expecting yet. Instead, give the referral at the appropriate time. It may be the day, the week or even several weeks before depending on the circumstances.
A good referral should be genuine. Let’s be honest we’ve all thought about passing ‘dodgy’ referrals at some time. But this is a very bad idea. Why? Well, random, un-targeted referrals, speculative referrals or ones based on casual conversations down the pub don’t convert. Your fellow members waste time chasing poor quality leads that end up going nowhere and your clients become upset fending off inquiries from BNI members they haven’t asked to speak to (or don’t know). Ultimately, everyone will lose faith in you and your business as well as your membership will suffer. Its better to pass one quality referral a week than 3 or 4 dodgy ones.
Giving and Receiving Good Referrals
Looking for good referrals? Well, you can help by being specific. One thing I like to do every week before the meeting is to spend a few minutes looking at fellow BNI members Linkedin profiles and identifying specific contacts that I want to put in touch with. Then, during the meeting ask the specific member for the specific contact – being specific works! (Are you getting the message here?). This has worked well for me in the past.
Listen to your clients. Look for opportunities to refer fellow BNI members if they arise and pick the appropriate time to broach the subject with your client.
Seek your client’s permission. This is so important. Ask them if its ok for Bob to phone them about their carpet cleaning and then let them know that you will be getting him to contact them in the next day or 2. When Bob does in touch, the client will recognise him and will immediately be more receptive to his call.
Why Referrals are Better than Leads
For starters a referral has trust built in. I spend most of my working life online so I understand the problems associated with trust and dealing with people or businesses that you have never dealt with, or met before. A referral is given because you trust your fellow member and you may even have used their services yourself. Most clients will choose a business that is recommended to them over one that approaches them cold.
A referral is highly qualified. The member giving the referral has identified a need, has done some groundwork to establish trust and has given the client an implicit recommendation of your quality and reliability. These things alone are normally enough to quickly turn a referral into actual business.
The Mechanics of a Good Referral
- Make sure you fill out the referral slip correctly. You would be amazed at how many referral slips are incomplete, have wrong information on them, are too vague or are writing in illegible scrawl. The least you can do is let the person you are giving the referral have the right details
- Indicate hot referrals. Getting a hot referral means that the receiver should be on the phone right after the meeting. Business is waiting for them – so they should act fast.
- Follow up. We have a referral reality check every week but, if you have given someone a referral ask them how it went. Did they call? Did they have a meeting? Did they get the work? If not, why not? Learn from the process so that you can give better referrals.
Now you know why good referrals are important, how to give them and how to follow them up, think about your performance. Are you passing the right kind of referrals? Do you know how to identify a good referral? Are you doing enough?
Remember the mantra – Givers Gain – give good referrals and you will receive good referrals in return.