Converting Referrals Into Customers or Clientsstring(46) "Converting Referrals Into Customers or Clients"

Getting referrals is great—however, until your prospect makes a purchase, you’re looking at only potential business. The number of referrals you convert into customers or clients actually measures the true success of your efforts.

Active, Not Passive

The only way to generate referrals is through other people. Although this method can work with new and developing relationships, I have designed it to be used primarily with strong relationships, people with whom you share a strong common interest over a long period.

The heart of the method is active, not passive, recruitment of referral sources. You can, of course, put the system in motion the moment someone tells you he or she knows someone who may need your products or services. But don’t wait around for referrals—go find them. The more high-quality referrals you can generate, the better your business will be.

You should recruit referral sources that meet the following six criteria:

  1. Those who want to, or can be inspired to, help you.
  2. Those who have time, or are willing to make the time, to help you.
  3. Those who have the ability, or can be trained to do, the things you want them to do to help you.
  4. Those who have the resources necessary to help you.
  5. Those who have relationships with the types of people you want to target.
  6. Those who would make good referrals for people you know.

It is crucial that your sources meet all, or most of the six criteria, in order to guarantee a long-term, sustainable referral relationship. Time and time again I have worked with frustrated business owners who can’t understand why they are not getting the referrals they should. On the surface, they seem to be doing all the right things. In many cases they discover that they have misdiagnosed the VCP Process® with their referral sources, or they are actively working with referral sources that don’t meet most of the six criteria above.

To strengthen your relationships with them, it is very important to do periodic one-to-one meetings to get better acquainted with them. This helps you to understand the specific kinds of help you’ll need from them. And although a strong relationship with them is by itself one of the best referral generators, you’ve decided to use other tactics as well. One of the best ways to motivate your sources is to offer them help in using this referral-generating system to get their own customers and business opportunities.

Initial Contact

After you’ve compiled your list of excellent prospective referral sources, your next action is to begin contacting them. What’s the best way to get your message to them? Should you send them a letter, email or text them, or arrange to meet them in person? Any of these formats could work; however, your first communication with a prospective source is best done by telephone. It’s more personal and friendly than a written message, but it is more convenient for both you and your source than a face-to-face meeting.

Before you call, plan your call carefully. Decide which topics you want to cover. Remember, the purpose of your call is to ask for support in generating referrals, to give a brief overview of your plans, and to schedule an appointment to discuss your plans in detail. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Begin with an appropriate greeting and small talk.
  • State the purpose of your call and the amount of time you need.
  • Ask whether this is a good time to talk.
  • Get into the heart of your conversation by offering the person you are calling something of value. For example, explain how the topics you want to cover will help them.
  • Tell your prospective source that you’d like to have their help in generating referrals for your business and ask for a meeting to discuss the details.
  • Schedule a face-to-face meeting, an online video meeting, or a telephone call.
  • Tell them you have some information for them to review.

Scripting Your Call

Although you shouldn’t expect to follow it mechanically, you may find it useful to prepare a script to anticipate how your first contact may go. To show you how to do this, we’ll invent a fictional character, Dr. Mark Star, whose goal is to recruit a referral source, Trudy Grossman, who might help him secure a radio talk show interview with her friend Ethel Clearchannel to promote his new book. Here is how a potential contact could play out:

Greeting: “Hi, Trudy.”

Small talk: “How are you doing? . . . How’s your family? . . . Did you go anywhere over the weekend?”

Purpose: “Trudy, the reason I’m calling is to see if you can help me get a radio talk show interview to promote my new book. And I’d also like to show you how I can help you generate referrals for your business. Right now, I’d like to give you a quick overview of some ideas I have and get your reaction to them. Is this a good time? If you’re interested, we can arrange to discuss them later in more detail.” (If yes, continue.)

Overview: “As I’m sure you know, getting referrals is one of the best ways to generate business. I’ve been reading about an approach for generating referrals and I’ve prepared a plan that will help me attract more customers and business opportunities. It’s practical, and I believe it covers everything. If you’re interested, I’d like to show you how to use the system for your business, too. Are you interested?” (If yes, continue.)

Scheduling the meeting:  “Great! I’d like to meet with you as soon as possible — say, within the next week or two — to tell you my ideas. It should take about an hour. When would be the best time for you?”

Close: “Okay, Trudy, I’ll send you an outline of what we need to discuss and some information that will help you understand how the system works. You should get it in a day or two. If you have any questions before we meet, please don’t hesitate to call. It was great talking with you. I look forward to our meeting on ____ at ____. (date and time)

Based on the guidelines and sample script, develop an outline that you can use for your initial contact with your prospective sources. After you’ve practiced this process, you can fine tune your script and begin making calls that can help lead you into closing referrals into business.

Building Authentic Business Relationship

Networking is About Stamina, Not Speedstring(38) "Networking is About Stamina, Not Speed"

In the world of professional relationships and business growth, networking plays a pivotal role. As the founder of BNI, an organization built on the foundation of referrals and networking, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power it holds. So, let’s take a look at what this marathon should look like – with a little humor added in.

Building Authentic Relationships:
It’s Not Like Speed Dating!

Networking is about building authentic relationships, not just accumulating contacts. It’s not a speed dating event where you collect as many business cards as possible and hope for the best. Nope, that won’t cut it. It’s essential to invest time and effort in getting to know others on a deeper level. Remember, it’s not about exchanging pleasantries and pretending to be interested while secretly plotting to make a sale. Building rapport, trust, and a genuine connection requires a commitment to building long-term relationships. Treat it like a slow-cooked meal; let the flavors develop over time!

Establishing Credibility and Trust:
Actions Speak Louder Than Words, and Bad Puns

A successful networker understands the significance of establishing credibility and trust within the business community. And what better way to establish credibility than through consistent effort and delivering on your promises? Show up, be reliable, and provide value to others. But wait, there’s more! How about sprinkling in some humor to lighten the mood? Just make sure your networking humor doesn’t fall flat like a pancake. Remember, a good joke can break the ice, but a bad joke might just make people feel as cold as an iceberg!

Imagine that you’re at a networking event, and you strike up a conversation with a potential client. You are both discussing your businesses when you drop a perfectly timed pun. They chuckle, and suddenly the tension eases. You’ve established a connection beyond the ordinary small talk. So go ahead, let your sense of humor shine through. Just be careful not to overdo it.

The Power of Referrals:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Referrals are the lifeblood of successful networking. However, they’re not something that magically appears with the snap of your fingers. Oh no, referrals are more like that delicious meal you wait hours for at a fantastic restaurant. They take time to cook. As connections grow stronger and trust deepens, individuals become more willing to recommend your services or products. So, don’t rush it. Patience is key, just like waiting for that dessert you’ve been eyeing on the menu. Trust me, the referral soufflé will rise beautifully when the time is right!

Now, let’s imagine a scenario. You meet someone at a networking event who expresses interest in your business. Instead of bombarding them with sales pitches, take a different approach. Build a genuine connection, show interest in their business, and find ways to support them. Remember, networking is a two-way street. If you provide value and support to others, they’ll be more inclined to refer you to potential clients or partners. And when those referrals come flowing in, it’ll feel like winning a delicious food-eating competition—except without the stomach ache and gained weight!

The Depth of Connection:
Skip the Small Talk and Embrace the Quirkiness

While a sprint may be a quick burst of energy, networking thrives on the depth of connections you develop. It’s not about how many people you can engage within a short period, but rather the quality and depth of those relationships. So, minimize the small talk and embrace the quirkiness! Find common interests, share your passions, and let your authentic self shine when you network with people. After all, it’s the quirks and unique qualities that make us memorable. Just be careful not to overshare; we’re aiming for memorable, not creepy!

Imagine attending a networking event where everyone is wearing the same professional mask. The conversations revolve around the weather, the latest industry trends, and the most boring aspects of business. Sounds dreadful, right? Break free from the mundane! Instead of blending in, embrace your quirkiness. Talk about your love for comic books, your passion for knitting tiny hats for your pet turtle, or your secret talent for juggling oranges (for me, it’s catching and releasing venomous snakes back into the wild – that’s always a conversation starter). Be memorable, be authentic, and watch as those connections deepen like a well-developed plotline in a gripping novel.

Patience and Long-Term Vision:
Marathon Training with Snacks and Dance Breaks

Networking is a journey that requires patience and a long-term vision. It’s like training for a marathon, but with more snacks and dance breaks. Sure, there will be times when progress seems slow, and the finish line feels distant. That’s when you break out the snacks and groove to your favorite tunes. Keep that networking stamina high! Embrace the ups and downs, celebrate the small victories, and keep your eye on the prize. Remember, it’s not just about reaching the finish line; it’s about enjoying the process and the connections you make along the way.

Let’s envision a networking event as a vibrant dance floor. You’re wearing your networking shoes, grooving to the beat, and mingling with other professionals. You may stumble a few times, but you pick yourself up and keep going. As you dance, you share stories, exchange ideas, and forge connections. And when the DJ plays your favorite song, you let loose and celebrate the joy of networking. So, don’t forget to pack your favorite snacks, keep those dance moves handy, and embrace the marathon with a smile on your face.

Networking truly is a marathon, not a sprint. It involves building authentic relationships, establishing credibility and trust, earning referrals, fostering deep connections, and embracing a long-term vision. By understanding and embracing the principles of networking, individuals can unlock its true power in creating opportunities, fostering collaborations, and achieving professional success.

So, lace up those networking shoes, grab a handful of networking-themed snacks, and let’s embark on this marathon together. Embrace the journey, cultivate authentic relationships with a sprinkle of humor, and forge lasting connections that will propel us forward on our path to success. And don’t forget to laugh along the way because, let’s face it, networking can be serious business, but a little humor makes the journey all the more enjoyable!

Avoid Premature Solicitationstring(28) "Avoid Premature Solicitation"

Have you ever been solicited for a referral or for business by someone you didn’t even know? Asking for a referral before there is a business relationship is premature.
Years ago, I heard a BNI member from the U.S. call this “Premature Solicitation,” and I completely agreed. When you give a referral, you give away a little bit of your reputation. You certainly don’t want to put your own reputation on the line for a stranger.

I’ve been a victim of “premature solicitation” many times. One time, I was speaking at a business networking event, and before my presentation, someone came up to me and actually said, “Hi, it is a real pleasure to meet you. I understand you know Richard Branson. I offer specialized marketing services and I am sure his Virgin Enterprises could benefit from what I provide. Could you please introduce me to him so that I can show him how this would assist his companies?”

So… this is what I was thinking:
Are you completely insane?  I’m going to introduce you, someone I don’t know and don’t  have any relationship with, to Sir Richard, whom I’ve only met a few times (here is the story of the first meeting), so that you can proceed to attempt to sell him a product or service that I don’t know anything about and haven’t used myself? Yeah, right. That’s NEVER going to happen!

However, I am pleased to report, that with much effort, I was able to keep that little monologue inside my own head, opting instead for a much more subtle response.

I replied… Hi, I’m Ivan, I’m sorry–I don’t think we’ve met before. What was your name again? My response surprised the man enough to make him realize that his “solicitation” might have been a bit “premature.” I explained to him that I regularly refer people to my contacts, but only after I’ve established a long-term strong relationship with the service provider first. He said thanks and moved on to his next victim. His approach was not networking, it was direct selling (and I would argue it was bad direct selling).

By the way, you are welcome to use my response if it happens to you, “Hi, I’m sorry – I don’t think we’ve met before. What was your name again?”

The way I look at it is that if it is somebody you know and they know you, and you have a relationship built with trust, and you’ve done business with them, I’m happy to put people together. That’s what my business is all about. That’s what much of my professional life has been about – connecting people I know and trust with someone who needs a product or service.

What I’m not okay with is connecting people I don’t know or trust; I’ve never used their product, I’ve never used their service, and I’m being asked to connect them with other people who I do know well. As I said above, when you give a referral, you give a little bit of your reputation away. If you give a good referral, it enhances your reputation. If you give a bad referral, it hurts your reputation, so you really don’t want to give those kinds of referrals away.

Remember, networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships with other business professionals. Avoid “premature solicitation.” You’ll be a better networker if you remember that.

Have you experienced this, too? I invite you to share your story in the comment section below.




Related Posts:

Networking Faux Pas: Premature Solicitation

In this second installment of the Networking Faux Pas Series…


Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting

Over the years, I have observed that most business…


How to Get to the Referral Stage with a New Contactstring(51) "How to Get to the Referral Stage with a New Contact"

I am often asked, “Ivan, how can I move a relationship with someone I just met to the point where that new contact feels comfortable passing referrals to me?” 

I always say that the best way to get to this next referral-passing stage depends in part on how you came into contact with a person in the first place.  For example, if you met while you were giving a brief presentation to a group of people who are in your target market, and assuming you did a good job, then you certainly have the possibility of receiving a referral, even though you just met. Why? Because the presentation moved you through the VCP Process® from visibility to credibility in the new contact’s mind, and now they may be willing to risk their reputation and recommend you to someone they know. 

The same thing is true when you are business networking. When you have a good conversation with someone you meet, and intentionally add value to the conversation, then moving from visibility to credibility can happen rather easily, and you’ll be in a good position for getting some referral-based business. What’s more, it’s not too important whether the person is someone you might do business with directly. Even if your businesses don’t match up, the other person might have information that’s useful to you, or they might know other people to whom you would like to be connected. It’s usually worthwhile to develop a networking relationship with people who have little in common with you because they can connect you with an entirely new network and help you broaden your business horizons. 

Keep in mind that even with a strong possibility that you’re going to do business with this new contact, it is unlikely to happen right there at the networking event, where conversations typically last anywhere from an eye-blink three minutes to a long-winded seven minutes. Instant business is not likely to be had. However, if you follow up with a quick note or message a few days later, you can set a time to meet with the new business contact one-to-one and come up with ways the two of you can help each other. That meeting is where you’ll have your best opportunity to begin receiving referrals. 

What is your experience with moving to the referral stage with new contacts? Do you have an effective tactic to share? I’d love to hear about it. 

Build Your Networking Skills to Get More Referralsstring(50) "Build Your Networking Skills to Get More Referrals"

There have been countless times over the years where I’ve heard of people who join a business networking group and then become disillusioned because the referrals don’t immediately start pouring in. The fact is, whatever you pay for membership when you join a networking group is only an admission price. It gets you into the room where opportunities may come your way, however, it does not entitle you to referrals. It is not enough to simply show up and participate in a meeting. You must make the most of these opportunities and the new contacts you meet.

Even with the built-in structure and focus on referrals in a strong-contact group, a member can fail to generate referrals or to receive referrals for themself. Why? Networking skills are the number one requirement for generating more referrals. The setting of a networking group simply makes it easier to use these skills. Being a member of a business networking group does not entitle you to expect or receive referrals. The following traits can help you build your networking skillset.

  1. Follow up on referrals. It is crucial to follow up quickly when you receive a referral, or even just a phone call, from a referral partner. If you don’t, you not only lose business, you also lose credibility. Likewise, it is important to follow up with your referral partners when you give them a referral to make sure they have contacted the person you referred to them.
  2. Have a positive attitude. A consistently negative attitude makes people dislike being around you and drives away referrals. A positive attitude makes people want to associate and cooperate with you. Positive business professionals are like magnets. Others want to be around them and will send their family, friends, and associates to them, too.
  3. Be enthusiastic and motivated. Think about the people you know. Who gets the most referrals? The people who show the most motivation, right? It’s been said that the best sales characteristic is enthusiasm. To be respected within our networks, we at least need to sell ourselves with enthusiasm. Once we’ve done an effective job of selling ourselves, we’ll be able to reap the reward of seeing our contacts sell us to others!
  4. Be Trustworthy. When you refer one person to another, you are putting your reputation on the line. You must have trust in your referral partner, and you must be trusted in return. Nobody will refer a contact to someone who can’t be trusted to handle it well.
  5. Be a good listener. Our success as networkers depends on how well we can listen and learn. The faster you and your networking partner learn what you need to know about each other, the faster you’ll establish a valuable relationship. Communicate well and listen well.
  6. Always be networking. Successful networkers are never off duty. Networking is so natural to them that they can be found networking in the grocery store line, at the doctor’s office, and while picking the kids up from school, as well as at the chamber of commerce mixers.
  7. Thank people. Gratitude is sorely lacking in today’s business world. Expressing gratitude to business associates and clients is an important building block in the cultivation of relationships that will lead to increased referrals. People like to refer others to business professionals that go above and beyond. Thanking referral partners at every opportunity will help you stand out from the crowd.
  8. Enjoy helping people. Helping others can be done in a variety of ways. It may be showing up to help with an office move or sending an interesting article to an associate or a client. Master networkers keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities to advance other people’s interests whenever they can.
  9. Be sincere. Most people can quickly spot insincerity. You can offer the help, the thanks, the listening ear, but if you are not sincerely interested in the other person, they’ll know it! Those who have developed successful networking skills convey their sincerity at every turn. One of the best ways to hone this skill is to give your give the person with whom you’re developing a referral relationship your undivided attention.
  10. Work your network. It’s not net-sit or net-eat, it’s net-work, and master networkers don’t let any opportunity to work their networks pass them by. They efficiently manage their contacts and have their referral partners’ contact information ready to share easily. They set up appointments to get better acquainted with new contacts to learn as much about them as possible so that they can truly become part of each other’s networks.

For years I’ve been teaching people that the networking process is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about cultivating deep, mutually beneficial relationships with other business professionals. Developing and consistently using your networking skills will help you get more referrals from your networking partners.

True or False – The More You Promote Yourself, the More Referrals You Getstring(79) "True or False – The More You Promote Yourself, the More Referrals You Get"

Some people believe that the best way to get referrals for their business is to promote themselves in the traditional sense – talking about what they do.
Guess what? It’s not a particularly effective way of generating referrals because just talking about yourself is not enough–you need to teach people how to refer you to others.

You would think that people would listen when you describe what you do, and then they could naturally put two and two together when they come across someone who needs your product or service. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t happen that way. People need to be led down the path to find referrals for you. You have to say, “This is what I do. Here is what you need to look for, and this is how you refer me.”

Referrals Are All Around Us

Every day, we all stand in the middle of a sea of referrals. They are all around us, they happen all the time. Yet unless we (and our potential referral sources) are trained to pick up on them or tune in to them, we remain oblivious to them. 

The secret is to train yourself and your sources to listen for the language of referrals. Tell them, “When someone says, ‘I can’t,’ ‘I need,’ ‘I want,’ or ‘I don’t know,’ whatever they say next is a possible referral for me.” 

Teach your referral partners to listen for words or phrases expressing a specific need related to your business, such as “I can’t get this lawnmower engine running right,” or “I’m not sure which tax form I need to use,” or “I want to remodel my living room, but I don’t know any good contractors.” One of these statements could translate into a referral for you or for someone you know.

Referral success arises from a system where information flows in both directions. The best approach is to first learn about other people’s business so you can find business for them instead of rushing to promote yourself. After you hear about their business, then you can explain to them what you do – that is, IF they are interested.

Talking About Yourself

When you do talk about yourself and what you do, be specific. Focus on only one or two parts of your business rather than naming everything you do as a long list.

Remember that you are the expert – there is nobody that knows your business as well as you do. Speak confidently about your expertise and your experience. And share your passion; you will be more memorable when people feel your connection with why you do what you do.

Professionals who focus on giving first and asking, “What can I do to help you?” rather than having an attitude of “What’s in it for me?” usually find more success in their business networking efforts. Maintaining a balance when promoting yourself, with an emphasis on the philosophy of Givers Gain®, is what will most effectively and efficiently bring you success in referral marketing.


Is there someone in your network whose business you are interested in knowing more about? Think about ways that you can get the ball rolling this week in to begin a discussion with them to learn about each other’s respective businesses.

Advanced Networking Skill: Edify Your Referral Sourcestring(54) "Advanced Networking Skill: Edify Your Referral Source"

I think this is a crucial concept in business networking that is rarely discussed. When you get a referral and you meet with the prospect, it is very important that you edify your referral source. This is a great technique to use because you begin the discussion with the potential customer by talking about an area of overlapping interest and knowledge – your mutual acquaintance

Before you start talking about your business, or even asking them some questions, it is important that you edify your referral source. Tell them how much you respect the person that referred you; talk a little bit about your relationship with that networking partner and why it is important to you that you provide great service to everyone that they refer to you. Spend some time talking about how you both know this individual. It is a fantastic way to warm up the referral and more importantly, it is a great opportunity to make your referral source look good for having made the referral.

Remember, the number one rule for referrals is to make your referral source look GREAT. You need to demonstrate that you know how to sell to the prospect in a way that doesn’t embarrass the source of your referral. Your networking partner must have confidence that you are going to consult with the prospective client, discover their needs, offer solutions based on those needs, give them some options, and not push for a sale if you know you can’t provide a good solution.

Alternatively, if your technique is to hold the prospect hostage at their kitchen table or office desk until they break down and buy something from you, your referral source will not be pleased that you’ve abused your relationship with them and damaged their own relationship with that client. You may get the deal, but you’ve shut yourself off from further deals with that client—and from any future referrals from your source.

Always edify your referral source and act in a way that would make that person want to refer more people to you.

How to Start

So, you might say, “Ivan, that sounds like a good idea, but how do I do that?”
Here’s an example.
If my networking partner, Tom, refers me to someone, the first thing I would do is ask Tom some questions about the potential customer.

  •  How do you know them? 
  •  How long have you known them?
  •  What is the situation that they need help with?
  •  How did it come about?
  •  Are they expecting my call?

These questions help me get background information about the person and why they were referred to me. I can do all of that in one to two minutes at the most.

Now that I am prepared with information, I am ready to call the referral. Unless Tom tells me to wait until a certain day, I am calling the same day that I received the referral. Don’t sit on it; don’t wait a few hours, or a few days to call.

When I call the prospect, the first thing I say is, “Hi, I understand that you have been a friend of Tom’s for a long time.”  Then I would edify Tom by saying that I have known him for years, he’s been my electrician for a long time, I admire how he always thinks about ways to help others, etc. 

Why? When you give me a referral, it’s important that the first thing I do with that referral is tell them how great it is working with you. The reason I do that is because a third-party testimonial is incredibly powerful. Tom is my third-party testimonial. Instead of me calling the referral and talking and bragging about myself, what I want to do is brag about Tom because the one thing that potential client has in common with me is him. If I am talking about Tom, that helps warm up the relationship a little bit before I start launching into how I can provide whatever services that I need to do.

The person who gave you the referral already has a relationship of trust with the prospect and is lending you their credibility by referring you to them. This is why it is important to make them look good by edifying them and effectively fulfilling that referral, so they get great feedback about working with you and want to refer to you again.

Have you experienced this with your networking partners? Share your comments below.

Legacy is About the Presentstring(27) "Legacy is About the Present"

As the founder of BNI®, I have spent years helping business owners build successful networks through referrals. But as I have grown older, I have come to realize that my true legacy is not in the success of my business, but in the impact that I have made on others. In order to leave a lasting legacy, it is essential to look forward and not backwards. Our windshield is larger than our rearview mirror for a reason. It’s important to recognize what is behind us; however, what is most important is what lies ahead of us.

When we look backward, we become trapped in our past successes and failures. We may be proud of what we have accomplished, but we may also be haunted by the mistakes we have made. We may be tempted to rest on our laurels and feel that we have already made our mark on the world. However, this kind of thinking can be misleading, as it can prevent us from moving forward and making even greater contributions.

Instead, we should focus on the present and the future. We should think about what we can do to make a positive impact on others right now and in the years to come. This means investing our time and resources in projects and initiatives that have the potential to change people’s lives for the better. We should seek out opportunities to mentor and inspire others, to give back to our communities, and to contribute to causes that we are passionate about.  We all have people who are in our story – people who have changed our lives. And yet, the most important thing in leaving a legacy in the world is – whose story are we in?  Whose life have we changed for the better?

When we take this approach, we can be confident that our legacy will be one of positive change and impact. We will be remembered not just for what we have accomplished, but for the lives we touched and the people we inspired. We will be remembered as leaders, visionaries, and advocates for change.

Of course, looking forward does not mean that we should forget about the past entirely. We can learn valuable lessons from our experiences, both good and bad, and use those lessons to guide our future actions. But we should not allow our past to define us or limit our potential. Instead, we should use it as a springboard to even greater achievements.

Legacy is not just about what we have done, but what we will do in the future. We should look forward with optimism and a commitment to making a positive impact on the world. By doing so, we can leave a lasting legacy that inspires others and makes the world a better place.

Build Your Credibility by Invitingstring(34) "Build Your Credibility by Inviting"

Here is an idea to enhance your contact with prospective referral sources and build your credibility with them:
Invite those potential referral partners to an event that you are attending, hosting or participating in, either as a featured guest, a panel speaker, award recipient, or as an exhibitor.

I think you are missing out on a great opportunity to keep prospective referral sources informed of the activities you’re involved in if you’re not inviting them to the events. Especially if it is an event where you will be sharing your expertise or where you are being recognized for an achievement, this strategy contributes to building your credibility and your image as a successful and knowledgeable professional. This is also a great way to connect possible referral partners with other people in your network, helping to transform strictly business relationships into friendships.

Why Credibility is Important

A key concept in referral marketing is mutually beneficial relationships, and those types of relationships don’t just happen overnight. They must be cultivated and nurtured. As they grow and develop, all relationships evolve through three phases: Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. This is the VCP Process®. It is a useful tool to assess the status of a business relationship and determine where that relationship is in the process of getting referrals. 

Visibility is the phase where people know who you are and what you do.
Credibility is the phase where people know who you are, what you do, AND they know you’re good at it.
Profitability is the phase where people know who you are and what you do. They know you’re good at it, AND they are willing to refer business to you on an ongoing, reciprocal basis.

As you can see, credibility is needed to be able to reach profitability in your business relationships.

Tips to Help You Get Started

If you want to begin inviting prospective referral sources to events and you’re unsure whom to invite or how to invite them, here are some tips to get started:

  • Make a list of the events you’ll be attending in the next two months.
  • Make a list of people you may want to invite to each of those events.
  • Consider what benefits your prospective guests will receive from attending – perhaps an opportunity to meet someone they admire, to be entertained, or to be recognized.
  • Call or write to each person with an invitation to the event.
      > Explain the reason for the invitation (you’re speaking or receiving an award).
      > Send the invitation with plenty of lead time, at least ten days before the date.
  • Follow up with a call a few days before the event to confirm if they are attending.
  • Pay your guest’s admission fee for the event if there is one.
  • When the event allows, encourage your guests to invite guests of their own.
  • It is okay to invite some people whom you do not expect to attend. Remember, this is a way to keep your referral sources informed of what you are doing.

Make it your goal to invite someone to each event that you plan to attend. It is a good way to strengthen relationships and build your credibility. You may even find that you enjoy the event more by having a guest there with you.

Room Full of Referrals®10th Anniversarystring(40) "Room Full of Referrals®10th Anniversary"

My book, Room Full of Referrals, co-authored with Dr. Tony Alessandra and Dawn Lyons, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The Room Full of Referrals method applies DiSC® profiles to business networking by mapping Drive, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance onto networking personalities.

Many professionals use referral marketing – personal recommendations through networking – to spread the word about their business. Yet when asked if they are getting all the referrals they want from their networking efforts, the answer is usually No. That’s because most people are unaware that their behavioral style is affecting their referability. 

Knowing and understanding your own behavior style helps you adapt to the context of the networking situation you are in. It also helps you recognize and understand the style of someone else so that you can network more effectively with them. A key point is that we are all a blend of each of the styles, with different intensity levels. In the book we’ve changed the names from the DiSC titles so they are more appropriate for people who are networking.

The Four Common Behavioral Styles

  • Go-Getter: Fast-paced, task-oriented, & doesn’t like to be wrong about anything.
                      Driven, Bold, Decisive, Strong Desire to Lead
  • Promoter: Fast-paced, people-oriented, gregarious, & likes to be in the spotlight.
                      Energetic, Outgoing, Fun-Loving, Positive, Talkative
  • Nurturer: Slower-paced, people-oriented, dislikes confrontation, & helps others.
                      Patient, Helpful, Understanding, Reserved
  • Examiner: Slower-paced, task-oriented, methodical, likes facts, & dislikes hype.
    Effective, Efficient, Thorough, Research-Oriented



Understanding the four different styles of behavior is an excellent way to gain knowledge about how to adjust your sales and marketing program to the style of communication most comfortable to the customer. It is also beneficial to determine how to best connect with your fellow networkers. All clients and all networkers prefer communication in a manner that is most familiar to them. Knowing their personal style  helps you customize a sales or networking approach for each unique individual.
My co-author Tony Alessandra calls this The Platinum Rule – the idea of treating people the way they want to be treated.

To be a successful networker, we must build strong relationships with our referral partners. When we build a relationship, we want it to have a strong foundation. The way we build the foundation changes when we have a better understanding of people and their personal behavioral style. As my co-author Dawn says, “If we’re going to teach people how to build referral partnerships, we better be teaching them about behavioral styles so that they can treat people accordingly within the relationship. Otherwise, relationships are going to keep fading out because people just aren’t being treated appropriately.”

As I reflect on ten years of Room Full of Referrals, I am proud of the reach it has had. This book has helped people with their business relationships and their referral relationships. It has also helped people in their personal relationships; the information can be applied across the span of your entire life. 

What about you? How has learning about networking behavioral styles helped you, either professionally or personally? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.




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Invest Your Time to Learn About Referral Partnersstring(49) "Invest Your Time to Learn About Referral Partners"

Successful business networkers know that if you want referral partners to learn about the value of your products or services, you must spend time learning about the value of theirs. I believe that the best way to do this is in a personal meeting. Master networkers meet with each other regularly to gain a better understanding of each other’s businesses.

It’s an easy invite that goes something like this: “Juan, I’d like to be able to refer more business to you, and to do that, I need a deeper understanding of what your company does and how you operate. Could we get together next week to talk about it?”

Although you don’t explicitly say so, Juan understands that he will be learning about your business at the same time. I realize that it is not always easy to know how confident your contacts are in referring you to the people they know. By having a personal meeting with them, you show interest in helping them grow their business. In the spirit of Givers Gain® which is based on the Law of Reciprocity, they will be interested in helping to grow your business, too.

Trust is a Major Factor

In business networking, trust is a major factor in giving and receiving referrals. As I often say, it’s not what you know or who you know, but how well you know each other that counts. In our digital, fast-paced world, having an actual conversation with another person can feel daunting sometimes, and we may even feel that we’ve forgotten how to do it.

Which is why we have the GAINS exchange in BNI®; it is a fantastic way to begin to earn trust with your fellow members and referral partners. When you have a one-to-one meeting with someone that you’ve networked with, it is important to begin building the foundation of the business relationship in an effective way. GAINS is the perfect way to do that. You learn about each other’s Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills – both personal and professional, which leads to deeper, stronger relationships and mutually beneficial referral partnerships.

Do YOU Invest Time for Learning About Others?

You may want to ask yourself this question: Am I being realistic about the amount of time it will take for me, based on my profes­sion, to gain the critical level of confidence?

These are some questions that may be helpful to determine your answer.

  • Do I make regular educational and stimulating presentations to my fellow networkers about the value I provide to my clients?
  • Am I doing business with members of my networking group so I am able to give them dynamic testimonials, which makes it likely that they will do the same for me?
  • Do I regularly meet with my networking colleagues to learn about their businesses so I can confidently refer my own contacts to them?

When you can endorse the quality of services or products that a networking partner offers, which increases other people’s confidence in them — your partner will most likely be disposed to return the favor. Testimonials from one or two of your networking partners may lead to a much larger and more valuable referral from another member of your group who was waiting for more evidence before taking a risk on you.

By following these simple suggestions and investing the time to learn about others, you will be well on your way to building trusted relationships and getting referrals from networking partners.


How has investing YOUR time to learn about others helped you in your business networking?




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A Positive Approach to Problem-Solving: Ask “Why So High?”string(62) "A Positive Approach to Problem-Solving: Ask “Why So High?”"

Years ago, I began using a technique in my business that I learned from my friend Dr. Mark McKergow, co-author of The Solutions Focus. It was a game-changer in dealing with the negative attitudes that tend to arise when a company is trying to problem-solve.

It is human nature to focus on the problems and not the solutions. In fact, many times people seem to fixate on the problems over and over and over again. They focus on them to the point that they become experts – on the problem. I’ve discovered that it is critical that we facilitate a “mindset – reset” with people like this in an organization to get them to focus on the solutions instead of the problems.

For example, when talking to a group of franchisees, employees, or even members of my organization, BNI®, I learned to ask a series of questions about the anxiety they had on any particular issue. For instance, I might ask a group, “What are some of the things that are a problem for you?” Sometimes, they might say something like, “Referrals. We’re not getting enough quality referrals.” Once I knew the problem, I was able to apply the process.

Know the Scale of the Problem

First, I would start by telling them that I think I can help them with the solution to this problem. I would then ask the person who posed the problem the following question: “On a scale from 1 – 10 with 1 meaning that you are getting no quality referrals at all and 10 meaning that you are getting more quality referrals than you ever imagined, what score would you give to the problem?”

Ironically, people to whom I’ve asked this type of question almost always say something close to a 4. So, in this example, let’s say the person says to me that the score they give the problem is a 4. My response to that statement is always… “Why so high?” When I say that, the person almost always looks totally perplexed and says something along the lines of, “no, I said a 4 – that’s low right?” I’ll respond by saying, “yes, I understand – you said a 4 out of 10. But my question is – why did you rank it a 4 instead of a 3 or a 2? Name just one thing that made you give it a score of a 4 instead of something lower.” They then offer one positive reason why they ranked the problem a 4 instead of a lower number.

Pinpoint What Is Working

Now, and this is important, I go to someone else – I don’t let the person with the complaint control the dialogue. I go to the rest of the room and say, “Someone else, give me just one factor for you, just one, that is working for you on this issue.” Then someone else inevitably gives me another. I repeat the procedure over and over again with different people. Each time I write down the answer (preferably on a flip chart where everyone can see the comments). Ironically, I almost always have someone who says something like this, “Actually, I wouldn’t give it a 4, I think it’s higher, I’d give it a 7 or an 8. Again, I say “great, why so high?” They then add their thought to the list which I write down on the flip chart.

Review Solution Options

Once I have a fair number of ideas (somewhere between eight and twelve), I slowly review the entire list with everyone stopping on the items that I think are particularly effective and explaining why I believe they are important. At this point I say something that surprises almost everyone. I say, “Actually, I don’t think you need my help. You already know what it takes to solve this problem. You have done a fantastic job of outlining almost everything that it takes to overcome your challenge and be successful with this list. If you do most of the things on this list that you gave me, you are going to create one of the most successful groups we have in the organization.” Then, I promise to meet with their leadership team after the meeting and help them triage the list to prioritize the topics in order of importance for the group.

All too often, when people are facing a problem, they tend to focus on the negatives. They continue to put their attention on what is not working instead of looking at what is working. The truth is, if we focus on the problems, we just find more problems. However, if we focus on the solutions, we find more solutions. Solutions are what the world needs. We have enough problems.

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