Home » When to say NO to a One-to-One at BNI?

When to say NO to a One-to-One at BNI?

by Richard Foulkes

When is it okay to say NO to a One-to-One?

The answer is – it is NEVER okay to say NO to a One-to-One if you want to generate referrals from that member.

Any thoughts?

Why are One-to-Ones so Important?

Our goal is to build our relationships — to move from visibility to credibility and then to profitability by creating referral partnerships.

And if we say NO to a One-to-One, maybe because we are too busy, we’re stopping that. If we say NO to the One-to-One, the person may hear it as, “Oh, they don’t want to be in a business relationship with me.”

Or, they may think, “If you’re too busy for a One-to-One, how are you going to have time to take care of the referral I want to pass you?”

And, you never know what can come from a One-to-One, even if you don’t think that person has much to contribute to you. There are myriad stories of business being done because of a One-to-One.

Making Time for One-to-Ones

For most professionals, their diaries are full in the next day or so. And there are particularly busy periods, for instance, the end of financial of the financial year for accountants, around the 20th for Property Managers or pre-Christmas for promotional product suppliers. 

 The secret of being available for One-to-Ones is to BOOK them a long time ahead so other commitments can fit around them rather than the reverse. Asking for a One-to-One today or tomorrow is likely to get “Sorry I’m busy”. Asking for a One-to-One in 3-4 weeks’ times is likely to get, “Sure, when?”

 The next secret is always have a One-To-One booked every week, 4 weeks ahead. That way you will have a One-to-One scheduled every week, instead of having to scramble to find one this week and forcing another member to turn you down. You or the other member may need to reschedule this week’s One-to-One that was booked 4 weeks ago, but it’s still more likely to happen at another time than not at all. At this week’s meeting, you just need to book another One-to-One in for 5 weeks’ time.

 Lastly, when you ask a member for a One-to-One at the meeting and they say “Sure, email me” this is a near guarantee it won’t happen. Emailing or contacting each other later is an unnecessary step. Has anybody experienced this? If you are both there with your diaries or phone calendars, book it then and there.

Set an Intention

If a member says, “Do you want to have a One-to-One?” We say, “Yes, I want to.” But if we want to get value from the One-to-One, rather than it just being a general catch-up, or if we are limited for time then respectfully ask, “What is the intention or purpose of the One-to-One?” Or “What are we looking to accomplish?” or, “Would you please send me the agenda of what you want to cover?” This sets the scene for the One-to-One to be more than a catch-up.

If a member often reschedules One-to-Ones, doesn’t turn up or never initiates them, then it will affect their visibility and credibility. The other members think they are too important for BNI and unlikely to regard referrals, given or received, as a priority. We all get busy from time to time but it’s important not to be that member and to reach out for One-to-Ones as well.

Time-Saving Tips

While it is always valuable to have initial One-to-Ones at each other’s workplaces, there are numerous ways to minimise downtime around One-to-Ones. 

1. Online meetings. These are incredibly effective for One-to-Ones. They require no travel time or parking and are usually able to be freer from distractions.

2. Meet after or before your BNI Meeting. You are both already there and it saves parking and driving time.

3. Meet over lunch, we have to eat after all!

4. Have a stack One-to-One day. Set up at a Café and schedule meetings one after the other. The time saving here might be only yours but is still very time effective.

5. Catch up on the phone while driving – following the road code of course.

6. Get creative, and share a One-to-One while doing what you love. Golf, Bridge, Wine Tasting, Fishing, Sailing, Hiking.. what else can you think of?

One-to-Ones are also more effective with an agenda, minutes, and follow-up actions including setting a date for the next One-to-One.

And don’t forget to record it in the App. By the way, only one of you needs to record it to count for both of you.


If you don’t have your next 4 One-to-Ones scheduled in the coming 4 weeks, make it a priority in the break or after the meeting to get 4 booked in.  


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