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Referral Follow Up

by Richard Foulkes

This week are looking at BNI Code of Ethic #4, of only 6 items in our Code of Ethics, “I will follow up on the referrals I receive” So why is it in the Code of Ethics?

The primary reason that members join BNI is to receive referrals (it’s not necessarily the primary reason they stay but that’s another education topic for another time). For that reason, it seems to defy all logic that members wouldn’t follow up on referrals they receive so why does it have to be part of our code of ethics?

The fact is that failure to follow up on referrals (or following them up how and when the referrer or referee expects them to be followed up) happens frequently enough that we ask members to swear an oath that they will follow up!

Maybe you personally have given a referral that hasn’t been followed up on, to your satisfaction? How do you feel about that and how do you regard the member you gave the referral to? Why didn’t they follow up?

These are great questions and what would be great this week is to make this networking education piece interactive with your chapter and get them to share their thoughts and experiences. The piece will give you some guidance if their responses don’t cover all the salient points, but I think you will find there will be some passionate discussion.

BNI Podcast Episode 622: Don’t Be That Guy:

Why did most of you join BNI?

The answer you should get mostly will be “for referrals” or “to grow my business”

Has anyone ever given a referral to a member and it’s not been followed up on by that member?

Discuss this with your chapter members. Encourage honest answers, you should get at least a couple of members saying they have. Once you get some responses, question them further about how that made them feel about not having the referral followed up on.

•They might mention that they had been proud and excited to get the referral for the other member and that they were disappointed it hadn’t been followed up on.

•They might say that they felt embarrassed when the referee asked what happened to the person that they were going to be put in touch with.

•They might also say, if you ask them, they wouldn’t be comfortable referring that member again.

So why wouldn’t a member follow up on a referral?

The answers you get here might include, I didn’t have time, it wasn’t a referral that I was looking for or I didn’t get around to and felt it has been left too long.

These are obviously poor excuses. So, you need to lead the discussion as follows:

•Didn’t have time/too busy. That’s like advertising on TV and leaving the phone off the hook. They are wasting their own time and the other members time. But we don’t want to say that!

•The correct way to handle referrals when we are too busy is to communicate with the referrer and the referee to manage their expectations and if necessary, pass the referral to someone else.

•It wasn’t a referral I was looking for. The discussion needs to be around what the member is asking for in their weekly presentation/sales pitch/60 sec, is it specific enough, are they having enough one to ones and if they do get a referral they don’t want, they should discuss it with the member and also try to pass the referral to someone they trust and to let the referrer and the referral know.

•There was a disconnect between the expectation of when the referral was going to followed up on and when it was followed up on. It’s important when making a referral to establish the expectation of how and when it will be followed up on.


•Following up on referrals is so Important it is part of our code of ethics.

•Not following up on referrals harms our credibility and the referrers credibility and ultimately our “referrabilty”.

•If you can’t follow up on a referral or it’s not for what you do, communication is key with both the referrer and referral.

•When making a referral, be clear with the expectation on how and when it should be followed up on

•Once you have followed up on a referral, keep the referrer up to date with the progress of the referral.

•If you feel that a member is being lax about following up on referrals or not communicating about the lack of action, it is a breach of our code of ethics, so a written complaint to the membership committee is sometimes the appropriate action.

Don’t be that person that doesn’t follow up on referrals!

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