Perhaps the one challenge BNI members find the most difficult to master is ‘how to become a prolific giver of referrals’.
So many people join BNI, attend meetings regularly and deliver good 60 second and ten minute presentations, but end up being frustrated because they’re not getting the number of referrals they expect.
They do give referrals, but many of these are ‘internal’ and ‘personal’ – in other words, they may hire the chapter’s plumber for their own home and they may engage the chapter’s insurance broker to take over their insurances. But if you look carefully, the number of ‘external’ referrals that they create between fellow members and a ‘third party’ are few and far between.
The reality is that if you want to receive lots of good quality referrals, you have to get good at giving them first. If everybody concentrated on giving referrals, everybody wins.
So, how do you get better at giving referrals?
In the book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, author Maria Konnikova talks about Sherlock Holme’s unique methods of “ever-present mindfulness”, “astute observation”, and “logical deduction”.
The most important skill to master – in my opinion – on your way to becoming a prolific giver of referrals, is ‘mindfulness’.
When in a meeting of any shape and form, we forget about referrals and BNI and our fellow members. Our focus is on what we’re doing, and as a result opportunities are lost.
One way to change this is what Konnikova calls ‘goal directed observation’. I understand this to be that you enter every encounter at the outset with the goal of actively looking for an opportunity to refer somebody in your chapter.
For example, in a meeting with a client recently I asked my client who did his videos. It turns out his videographer had moved on to other things. Result? Referral.
If you don’t look for opportunities, and if you don’t ask the questions, you are going to miss out on being able to pass good quality referrals, and that’s a lose/lose for everybody.