Episode 291: The Value of Evaluating

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Today’s podcast is a response to a new member’s concern that the current reporting system pressures BNI members into valuing the quantity of referrals they pass over the quality of those referrals.

“I believe I understand what a good referral is and is not, but the temptation to stick a fellow BNI member with an anemic referral increases with each PALMS Report. Perhaps a solution to this dilemma–at least in part–would be to replace the stuffing-of-the-big-envelope-with-referral-slips with a brief reminder of what constitutes a good referral and how to avoid bad referrals.”

So why can’t BNI adopt this suggestion? In business, you achieve what you measure. Goals without measurement are just wishful thinking. That does NOT mean you should give out bad referrals. What we should be measuring are legitimate referrals.

Here are 5 places you can go to learn more about what constitutes a good referral.

  1. The orientation CD that every member gets in the New Member Packet.
  2. The Member Orientation Guide, also in the New Member Packet.
  3. The Member Success Program Training.
  4. The book Givers Gain.
  5. Dr. Misner’s article, “What Is the Definition of a Referral” in SuccessNet Online.

Brought to you by Networking Now.



Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 291 –

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, CA. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan. How are you?

I am doing great, Priscilla, thank you very much. Today we have a great topic, the value of evaluating. It is based on an email I received from a BNI member. I am going to read part of the email to you that he sent so you understand where he was coming from and then you will get what I responded to him because I think this is of value to all members.

The member’s email said, “If I am not generating referrals, will it make me look like I am not a team player?” He said this is a flaw in the system because of the way we report stuff. He went on to say, “I am a new member and already a believer in the philosophy of givers gain, but my concern is that I have to hustle the referrals so I am not counted as a slacker. In my mind, this is reinforced by the weekly issuing of reports that publicly display the number of referrals.”

You can find that in the reports. You can find it in the thank you for closed business, which we did a podcast on with John Meyer just a few weeks ago. He says it’s being reinforced by the weekly issuing of reports. He went on to say that if he didn’t fill out a referral slip and he isn’t generating referrals, it would make him look like he is not a team player. He said there is a temptation to stick a fellow BNI member with anemic referral. That’s an interesting one, just to increase the palms report.

He was basically suggesting that we don’t do those reports. It’s not necessary because referrals are the lifeblood. We shouldn’t do reports because it makes people feel on the spot. So here is my response. I truly believe that you achieve in business what you measure. So goals without measurement is just wishful thinking.

So you have to have a way of measuring performance. Does that mean then that you should be giving out bad referrals? Absolutely not. I think that any interpretation of giving out bad referrals because of the report is a misinterpretation of the intention when I incorporated the report process into BNI. The truth is you do what to measure what is being generated, but you also want to make sure that it is legitimate referrals.

Saying we are not going to measure because it reinforces bad referrals is a bad idea. Giving inappropriate referrals so that you look good is a bad idea. A good idea is to measure referrals and to make sure that the referrals that are actually given are good. Not every act of giving can immediately be rewarded by the recipient.

One of the things that he said was I want to be a team player. He mentioned he was a new member. If you want relationship networking to work, you have to understand that the idea driving the philosophy is really the idea of giving without the expectation of an immediate return. In networking, it is called the law of reciprocity. The law of reciprocity differs from the standard notion of reciprocity in that the giver should not and does not expect an immediate return on his or her investment for another person’s gain. The only thing to be sure of is that over time with enough effort, the generosity is returned by others within the group.

I think sometimes new members get really worried that they have to give a referral because there are all these referrals being passed around. They might give a referral that is not completely legitimate. My suggestion would be to take a deep breath, get to know everybody better. The referrals will come. It’s easy to give referrals when you get to know and trust people.

And let’s say that you don’t bring as many referrals as someone else. So what? It’s not a contest. What you need to do is bring good referrals. If you can’t bring good referrals, if you don’t have that opportunity, that’s okay. We certainly want you to bring referrals. There are other ways that you can support the chapter. Bringing in legitimate qualified visitors is another way to really support a chapter.

We are just looking for support of the chapter. Visitors are one way. Referrals are another way. The last thing that you want to give is what you call an anemic referral. Bad idea. Never give those out.

He mentioned in there, and I don’t know if I read that part, is that we don’t talk about what is a good referral in BNI. We do. We talk about it a lot, so I am going to give you 5 or 6 places that people listening to this podcast can go to where we talk about what is a good referral. The orientation CD that every member gets in the orientation packet talks about what a referral is, the definition of a referral.

The member orientation guide begins with the phrase, “If you read nothing else, read this.” Then it gives the definition of a good referral. Member success program training that is done worldwide. IF you haven’t attended it you need to attend. If you have and it has been a while, go back. When you go back, ask the director to talk about what is a quality referral. What do you do when you get a bad referral.

I talk about bad referrals throughout the book, Givers Gain, the BNI Story. There are numerous podcasts on it. That’s in there. I have also done an article or several, one in particular, in our online newsletter, BNISuccessNet.com. I’ll make sure there is a link to that newsletter. That article was “What is the Definition of a Referral?”

To the member who asked the question and the others who are curious about the definition of a referral, things like palms report and thank you for closed business helps with accountability. One of the strengths of a group like BNI is that most of the members are friends. One of the weaknesses of a group like BNI is that most of the members are friends. Friends don’t like to hold friends accountable.

But this isn’t a friendship organization. This is a referral organization. In order to have success at referrals, it is really important that there be accountability. So the accountability comes through the measurement. Again, goals without measurement is just wishful thinking. You achieve what you measure in business. That is why we do it.

That doesn’t mean that you give bad referrals just because we measure it. To the contrary. You have to give good referrals but you want to measure good referrals. Anything that comes to mind on this, Priscilla? Or was that pretty straightforward?

Yeah, I am thinking that it’s just a little bit of competition that is going on and really it’s not necessary because new members are going to have a little bit harder of a time coming up with referrals. Especially in the beginning. Then it will get easier, like you said, as you get to know people and what they have to offer because you don’t want to refer somebody with a service that you have never experienced or that you didn’t know that much about. It just takes time.

You are absolutely right. I think that sometimes particularly new members feel like they should be like this guy who has given five referrals today. He should be doing it. There is this natural inclination to give a referral even if it is not legitimate. That, in the long run, is a huge mistake. You may feel good, but I am telling you it will come back to bite you.

You want to give legitimate referrals. It is not a contest. It really isn’t. You want to give quality, not just quantity. Quantity is good, but quality is better. Focus on the quality of the referrals, and there are lots of places that talk about the definition of referrals. I have listed them here. Take a look at the definition on SuccessNet. Give legitimate referrals and engage and embrace the reporting process.

It will do nothing but improve the quality of your chapter as long as you are also focusing on making sure that the referrals being passed are quality referrals. That’s it for today, Priscilla.

Okay, great. Thank you so much, Dr. Misner. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by networkingnow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. Thank you so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.


  1. says

    Caring that you are passing referrals is the first step in developing those referrals. If that individual did not care, then it would be certain they didn’t believe in GIVERS GAIN.
    The more one- to-ones a new member does to learn about their fellow members, the sooner you will have the knowledge and know- how to develop and pass referrals.
    And guess what, you will get referrals, too.!

  2. says

    This is a great reminder that quality is king!
    Sometimes the best quality referrals may not even be recognized by members, new and old.
    How high is the referral quality when we introduce a BNI partner to a potential referral source and we make the introduction during open networking at our BNI meeting?

  3. says

    This is a welcome podcast! BNI has great systems in place to help members like this – we have Mentorship to help members succeed, and we have a Membership Committee to keep members accountable. We also have Ivan’s books!

    As my chapter prepares for MEV, I sent out an email point out to chapter members that this is an especially good way to participate in the chapter when you haven’t been able to generate good referrals – you can go out and network, which will open up referral and visitor opportunities.

Solutions-focused comments are welcome