Home » What is the difference between a lead and a referral at BNI?

What is the difference between a lead and a referral at BNI?

by Richard Foulkes

Everybody joins BNI to receive qualified referrals. The more qualified they are, the less work the receiver of the referral has to do to turn it into a sale. What most members don’t want is a lead.

So, what is a lead?

A lead is where only two people are required to actively participate, the person giving the lead and the person receiving it. If there is a third party (the potential customer of the member receiving the referral), they are not privy to the lead being passed. It is critical that the person passing the lead makes sure the recipient knows that the third party is unaware of the lead to avoid embarrassment and potentially losing credibility.

What is a referral?

In contrast, a referral at its basic level, means that all three parties are involved, so no one is surprised or embarrassed when the referral is followed up.

Have you ever received a lead that was supposed to be a referral? How did that affect your credibility when you made the call? What about the credibility of the member that gave the lead to you? How did you feel about them afterwards?

When is it OK to pass a lead as a referral?

If a member asks for a lead during their sales pitch or gives permission during a one-to-one then a lead can be passed.

29-6-2018 5-34-46 PM

Referral Levels

Although the physical and online referral slips have 5 levels of “heat”, how they are used, may differ from member to member. For instance, sometimes, the levels might be used to indicate the need of the referral for the service or product offered by the member. However, the levels should be used to show the amount of effort the referrer has gone to, to help make the referral easier for you to convert into business. These referral levels are, as follow:

Level 1 – The referrer recommends someone and shares their contact details. Potentially, a lot of work is required by the member to turn these referrals into sales.

Level 2 – Is where the referrer also passes on complimentary literature with the recommendation, perhaps an email, a flyer, website address or at least the members business card to qualify their skills and experience. 

Level 3 – Where the referrer is making an introduction, for example a two-way email. The referrer is giving a verbal or written recommendation or testimonial which begins to qualify the need for the members service or product. 

Level 4 – In addition to level 3, the referrer makes an appointment for the member to meet with their contact.

Level 5 – In addition to level 4, the referrer attends the meeting to personally introduce the member to their contact. 

BNI Members should be aiming for level 3 or higher to pass really qualified referrals that will most likely result in closed business.

Note, external referral slips cannot be passed during a meeting in response to a specific referral request as they cannot be qualified according to the 5 levels of a referral. Only leads can be passed within the meeting. Once qualified, a referral can be passed in a subsequent meeting or through the BNI Connect App during the week.

When you pass your referrals this week, I recommend that you stop and think about what level they are. Perhaps you can even qualify them further, before passing them on to the member.

You may also like