5 Step Process For Handling Referrals in BNI
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5 Step Process For Handling Referrals in BNI


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Posted by Carole Mahoney on 2/25/19 9:08 AM

How do you handle referrals?


  • Referrals will cost you less,
  • Referrals will close at a higher value,
  • Referrals will close faster than any other means of generating customers.

Because of this amazing phenomenon, we often ask

"How do I get more referrals?"


Have you ever thought that

Maybe the way that you're handling referrals is the reason you're not getting more of them?




There's a simple five step process that you can use, that I recently shared with a group of sales leaders,  to get more referrals.


If it's taking you a day, or even two days to respond to someone when they send you a referral, the message you are sending is;

  • I'm too busy to handle any introductions you might make.
  • Or,
  • This is just your standard operating procedure and that's how you're going to handle a paying client. (THATS NOT GOOD!)

When BNI Referral Partners send your a referral.  Your promise to them should be to contact the referred prospect within 5 minutes or at least that day. 24 Hours at the most.

You need to acknowledge the referrer and say THANK YOU and let them know how you are going to follow up their referral.

If an introduction is done by email, respond and then get in touch with the referred partner.

At all stages you should let the person who referred you know what is happening.  You want to make the person who referred you feel good.


Thanks John, thanks so much for the referral.  I've rung Mary and I'm catching up with her next Friday. She is exactly the kind of client I can help. Thank you so much. I'll let you know how I get on.



Not only is my aim to make this referral a stark raving fan,

but I also want them to go back to the person who referred them and tell them how happy they are, and how much value they got from the conversation.

And I let them know that.

Sometimes when you have to push back on buyers, I'll say things like,

"Because so and so referred you to me they are trusting me to do what is in your best interests. I know that if I don't, you won't be happy, and they will hear about it."

And that opens the door for me to be able to ask some tougher questions. 

Alright, so number one, remember, quick response. Number two, the royal treatment.

But number three is where things typically start to fall apart for most people who get referrals, and that's reporting back what happened, or closing the loop.



Now, as someone who gives referrals I'm often left wondering, "What happened? Did they connect? Was it a good match? Are they working together? How's it going? Are they happy with each other?"

That's why I  report back to the person who referred me throughout the process. It may say something like, "Thanks again for the introduction. They seem like really smart people that are struggling with how to motivate their teams and coach them. We talked about X, Y, and Z on Wednesday, and next we're going to do A, B, and C."

If those people end up working with me I let the referrer know what we're doing. As the engagement continues, I continue to update them on the milestones and how thing are progressing.

Why is this important? Closing a loop is important, not only to let the person who referred you know what happened, but it's also your opportunity to give them a better understanding of how you help, who you help, and therefore, what some additional referrals for you might look like. If it wasn't a good fit, then also letting them know, "You know what? I don't really help people with the career mapping side of things, but thanks for thinking of me. If you come up with anyone else who's looking for help to coach their teams, I'm your person."

So, referring and reporting back to that person allows you to further the referral relationship with them, and help them to know what a good fit for you is. Plus, the fact that you're going back and closing that loop makes them more comfortable with a consistent behavior in the future that you're going to do that, and they're not going to be left wondering. Alright, so that's number three, reporting back.


This is key if you want to build a referral network where you're referring work back and forth to each other.

I believe that if you want to get more referrals you have to give more referrals, and because

I personally focus on specific things in my coaching practice, I often am finding ancillary issues that are contributing causes to things that I encounter.

When that happens I default to mentioning the person who referred me as the go to for that particular issue, if that's the case.

I want to make them look good, and I want to give them work back, but I also want to encounter prospects, that maybe they don't need my help but they do need that person who's referred me their help.

So, referring back is a key way in order for you to get more referrals, called reciprocity, but I've also found that it helps to build trust, both with those that refer you and those that are referred.

If you turn down engagements where you're not a good fit, that helps the person who's referred you to know that you're not going to just say yes to everything.

I've actually had it happen to me, where I turned down a five figure engagement because I knew I wasn't the right fit and later on that person who I turned down said,

"Hey, I want to introduce you to so and so because this is where I know where you specialize." Sometimes by saying no you get to more yeses. So that's number four, always refer back.


Number five,

Reflecting gratitude. Now, some people may show reflecting gratitude privately by phoning, by sending handwritten notes, or small thankyou gifts.

But In BNI You can send gratitude by publicly thanking in the meeting the person who referred you and saying what a great referral it was. 

You are not expected to or encouraged to provide financial rewards in BNI. We refer because we want to and we want the best for the person we referred.

Gratitude is also shown by referring back. 

If you look after my contact, you make me look good. So that is the priority.

Thank the referrer privately, thank them publicly, look after the referred client, keep your referrer informed. 

All of these things are only going to work though if you do it consistently so treat every referral with this 5 step framework. 





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