Home » Leads vs Referrals

Leads vs Referrals

by Richard Foulkes

Hands up, who has ever had a referral that;

1. Wasn’t what you were looking for?
2. Was for someone you had difficulty contacting?
3. Was to someone that wasn’t expecting a call?

Are these are examples of “bad” referrals? Or is there something else happening that we may not be aware of?

Let’s have a look at each of them and discuss why they might happen.

I have received an unsuitable referral …

Let us say you didn’t want the referral because it was for a service you don’t provide.

Assuming the referrer isn’t being deliberately obtuse, this means that the referrer doesn’t understand what your business offering is. Therefore, you need to look at what you are saying in your sales pitch or weekly presentation and how you are saying it. Are you being specific enough? Are you doing enough one to ones and are you advising the members of the type of referral you are looking for? Do you need to review your feature presentation?

If you do receive a referral you can’t help with, try and help the referred party by referring them onto someone that can help them. Then thank the referrer and talk to them about the kinds of referrals you do want. Remember, feedback is the breakfast of champions.

I have received a referral for someone, but I am having difficulty contacting them ….

This likely means the referral was a level 1. The referrer hasn’t introduced the opportunity between you other than putting it in the app, perhaps with incomplete or incorrect contact details.

If you do receive this type of referral, reach out to the member who sent the referral for more or better details.

I received a referral for someone, but they were not expecting my call

Would everyone agree that this can be one of the most embarrassing calls to make? This is a lead and not a referral and shouldn’t be considered a referral.

In BNI a referral means a member of your chapter has provided you with the opportunity to present your business to someone who is in the market to buy your product or service, where that presentation will be looked forward to with anticipation. It’s not a guaranteed sale, but an open door to discuss your business. So, a referral in the true sense means three people know about it, the referrer, the referred party, and the and the recipient of the referral.

However, if a member has specifically asked for leads, they can be recorded in the app, be sure to check in from time to time to make sure that the member is still keen to receive leads.


The 1-5 levels of a referral don’t indicate how keen a referral is for your service, they relate to the difference in effort the referrer has made to make it easy to turn the referral into a sale. Making sure you understand what service members offer, introducing the member properly, and giving correct contact details make referrals easier to follow up on and convert.

NB: If you’d like to refresh your memory on the different levels you may like to revisit your BNI Referral Generation training lesson within the online Member Success Program training course.

You may also like