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Are you struggling to find ways to refer your BNI chapter members?

by Richard Foulkes

One of the responsibilities Member Mentors are privileged to have, is spending time with new members and helping them get settled into BNI.

A concern that many new members share is their fear of not being able to contribute as much as is expected of them. That they won’t be able to give many referrals because they’re just starting, or they don’t feel they have a large network (hence their desire to join a networking group).

I give new members four questions they can ask during their One-to-Ones that will help them improve their referral-giving rates, but these techniques will help any member find referrals for another member.

If you could clone any one of your existing or previous clients, who would that be?

You don’t have to name names but tell me a bit about them. This is another way of asking about their target audience, but we’re making them be specific by thinking about someone they love working with already.

Instead of the usual answer – I love working with tradies/SMEs/business owners who want to grow their business/get more revenue, etc. you’ll hear things like, “I work with this guy who runs a plumbing company, he’s in his fifties, is hands-on in his business, but loves to have his Fridays off to golf, is based in Papakura….”

Probe further by asking “WHY” multiple times to get to the core of why that type of client is their favourite and you’ll hear things like – “I like him because he has a few staff members but not a large corporate culture, he pays his invoices on time, he’s local and I don’t need to travel too far, etc.”

Already you’ve learned so much about who the member is targeting with one easy question. You can visualise their target audience and can look for people in your network who are similar. This is also referred to by marketing types as a “Customer Avatar”.

What complaints can I listen out for, so that I can help you?

An example response to this would be something like, our website is out of date. We’ve been meaning to update it, but we don’t have the time to do it. You can offer help; “hey, I know this amazing website company…can I introduce you?”

Or you might hear “I’ve got jobs to do around the house this weekend – so much painting, so little time”. Again, you can offer help, “Hey, I just met this down-to-earth house painter at a networking meeting, can I introduce you?”

You’re asking the question “How do you help, what problems do you solve” in a different way. You’re giving them specific complaints to listen out for next time they’re in a business meeting, at a social function or in line for coffee.

Do you have any blogs on your website or LinkedIn articles that I could share?

That would be a great way for me to tell my network/community more about your business without it being a hard sell. It will give them evidence of your expertise and demonstrate how you help.

A good way to do this is to send a follow-up email to someone you’ve recently met and include a link to the article, blog, etc. If you just tell them verbally about a great article you recently read that explains how to pose for a headshot, they won’t remember it. Email them the link, however, and you can even copy into the email the author (in this case, the photographer who is in your chapter). All of a sudden, you have passed a referral by way of an email introduction.

For example: “Hey Richard, you mentioned that you were going to update your headshots on your marketing materials, and I told you I know a great photographer. He’s written a great article on how to pose for business photos without looking stiff, so I wanted to share it with you here (link to the article on the photographer’s website or LinkedIn). I’m having coffee with him next week – why don’t you join us?”

What is your “EXIT “ Sign?

This seems like an obscure question, but it means, what can I physically look out for that could mean a referral for you?

If an EXIT sign is missing over a main door in a commercial building, which is legally required, it is an opportunity for a sign writer. “Hey, I notice you are missing an EXIT sign in your building, do you have a signage company that can sort that for you, or can I introduce one to you?” It is a question easily asked by an HR or Health & Safety adviser.

Other examples are websites that don’t load or load very slowly, dents on vehicles, untagged or out-of-date electrical tags, bad grammar or spelling in documentation, lack of a physical business card, and dirty bathrooms.


It’s all about listening out for opportunities and recognising them when they cross your path during your day.
So, if you’re finding it hard to refer business to your chapter members, book a One-to-One with them and ask them these four questions.

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