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How hot is HOT?

by Richard Foulkes

A referral is an opportunity to do business with someone in the market to buy your product or service. Referrals are central to the value BNI brings to members. They are, however, not all equal in value.

We’ve all seen the “hotness” rating in the BNI Connect App. Do we all use it the same way?

Who thinks it’s there to indicate how likely the referral is to turn into business?

Who thinks it’s there to indicate the effort you’ve made to position the other member as someone that would be the right person to do business with?

It is the latter, although the harder we work to position the other member as someone to do business with, the more likely it is the referral will turn into business. 

Let’s look at what the different levels mean.

Level 1

Level one is basically name, rank and serial number. You recommend someone. You are the referral source, you recommend someone, and you share their contact information, and they know that you have shared it. Level one is not a lead.

This is an example of a lead: Here is somebody’s name and telephone number. They don’t know that you are calling but you know they need your service.

We shouldn’t be giving out or recording any leads as referrals unless that member is accepting a lead and says so publicly. It is contact information, and the person knows that you have been given that information. That is a level one.

Level 2

A level 2 referral is in addition to level 1 in that you referred them and maybe provided some literature or a website, information, and certainly your business card. That is so easy in BNI.

You know, just a little bit of additional information that can positively influence the prospect giving them a little bit more information on you, generally in the form of material.

This is often done as an email introduction.

Level 3

In addition to the previous levels’ requirements, a level three referral is where someone gives a testimonial and a verbal recommendation to you about the prospect and takes time to talk to the prospect.

You have spent some time talking to the prospect and you are giving information about the person that you are referring.

This is the first level of a referral that truly involves a modicum of effort on your part. It usually includes giving some background information, a description of what you know about the person, to me.

Who would agree that this level would at least be where most referrals should be rated?

Level 4

Now, here is a level four referral. You are the referral source. You can make a personal phone call or email and arrange a phone or in-person meeting between the two parties.

You know this person well. Are you interested? Yeah, let me get them on the phone.

You arrange a meeting or contact between the two parties, and you now have moved beyond just being a promoter and you are now in the role of a connector or facilitator.

So, level four is the basic connector facilitator role. It takes more effort and is a sign that you are a committed referral partner to the other person.

Level 5

Level five is a hot prospect and more likely to be a valuable or dream referral.  Level five is about your effort. Level five is an in-person introduction. At this level, you are making a serious commitment of time and energy to support the person you are giving a referral to. You don’t just arrange a meeting, but you participate in it.

At this level, you address the need: What are you looking for, because I know this individual well. What are you looking for? I will see if he can do it. Then you talk to the person, you talk to your client or prospect and say they can do that. I will be in the neighbourhood with them next week. Would you like to meet? I can introduce you.

Who wants that kind of level of referral? It’s likely to be a good one!


Levels of referral are about the level of effort we have made with the referral, not the likelihood of it turning into business. One will follow the other.

A referral indicates there is a business opportunity, the member still needs to follow it up and close it but the better the introduction and recommendation the more likely it is to close.

For more information listen to BNI Podcast 548: The 5 Levels of a Referral.

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