Episode 298: Following Up on Referrals

BNI Podcast Album Art 300 px


A BNI member named Gary asked Dr. Misner the following question:

I have passed a referral to someone on two occasions and they have not followed up on either. This happens to be someone in my own chapter. I am now wondering whether they actually want me to pass them more referrals or don’t want the work.

Following up on referrals is part of BNI’s Code of Ethics.

The first thing to do is talk to the member you gave the referral to. Clear, open, honest, communication is generally the best way to address a problem like this. It doesn’t have to be a confrontation.

Some of the possiblities are:

  • It wasn’t a good referral, even though you thought it was.
  • They lost the contact information or dialed the wrong number.
  • They’re disorganized and haven’t followed through.

If it’s not a good referral, find out why. If the person hasn’t gotten around to following through, explain that when you give a referral, you give away part of your reputation. If the member still doesn’t follow up, you can contact the membership committee.

Don’t complain about this member to anyone BUT the membership committee, and don’t talk to the membership committee UNTIL you talk to the other member. Gossip will destroy the morale of a BNI chapter. Remember: clear, open, honest communication.

Brought to you by Networking Now.

Podcast intro recorded by Tony Wolfe.

Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 298 –

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 doing?

I am doing great, Priscilla, and I am at my office this week, sort of catching my breath from all my travels.

That is nice.

I have an interesting topic this week. I had a BNI member some time ago, by the name of Gary, ask me a question which I am going to answer today on this podcast. I think it’s a question that’s really important and a lot of members run into this.

Okay. What is it?

His question was, “I have passed a referral to someone on two occasions and they have not followed up on the referral. It happens to be someone in my own chapter. I am now wondering do they actually want me to pass them more referrals or do they not want the work?” I left a comment and told him I would do a podcast because I think this is really important question for many members to hear.

You remember, Priscilla. Can you imagine getting a referral- you join an organization that is about referrals. Can you imagine being part of an organization that is all about referrals and then not following up on a referral?

It doesn’t make sense, does it? You are there to get the referrals. That is the whole point.

It doesn’t make sense. As a matter of fact, it is so obvious that members need to follow up on referrals- it is actually in our code of ethics. Number four of BNI’s Code of Ethics states, “I will take responsibility for following up on the referrals that I receive.” It is a core piece of the BNI program to follow up on referrals. So what if a member doesn’t? As Gary points out, he has a member in his group who has not responded to two referrals.

Here are my suggestions, and then, Priscilla, I would love to dialogue with you if you have any thoughts or questions. The first thing you should do, Gary, and for anybody who is listening to this and you get a referral and the person doesn’t follow up on it, the first thing to do is to talk to the person you gave the referral to. Clear, open, honest and direct communication is almost always the best way to address problems in a group- and this sounds like a problem when somebody doesn’t reply or doesn’t respond.

You’ve got to have a conversation. The conversation doesn’t have to be a confrontational conversation. It can be something like this: “John (or whatever the member’s name is), I gave you a referral a couple of weeks ago. They told me that you haven’t had a chance to respond. I am just following up with you. Is this a legitimate referral for you? Is it okay? And if it is okay, when do you plan to be getting back to them because they are asking me?”

There is nothing wrong with that type of questions. Oftentimes, you may find that it, in fact, wasn’t a good referral. You may have thought it was a good referral, but for whatever reason, that member may not feel it is a good referral, in which case, you need to know that. It could be that the person lost the contact info, which is unfortunate and not something that I would feel real good about if they lost the referral slip. But it could be something as innocent as that. Or it could be that they neglected to follow through and are disorganized, in which case you want to know that.

If that seems to be the case, and they say, “Oh yearh, I am sorry. I haven’t gotten back to them yet,” that is when you need to have a continued conversation with them of, “When I give a referral, I give a little bit of my reputation away. If somebody follows up, it actually helps my reputation, but if somebody doesn’t follow up, then it actually hurts my reputation. So I would really appreciate if you could follow up with them today because it doesn’t look good when I give a referral and somebody doesn’t follow up.” It doesn’t have to be confrontational,but you do want to be direct, open and honest.

If they do tell you it is not a good referral, you want to listen as to why it’s not.

Find out why he or she didn’t follow through. If they don’t have a good reason or you are not satisfied, that is when you ratchet it up a little and you have a conversation with the membership committee. But before you ever talk to the membership committee, have a conversation with the individual first. The conversation with the membership committee should go something like this: “I gave two referrals to John. He didn’t respond. I then had a meeting with John and I asked him to contact the referral and he gave me some reason, which is____________. That doesn’t feel legitimate, and it is part of our code of ethics for people to follow up. I am really concerned that we have a member in our chapter that is not following up, and I need to inform the membership committee, and ask that maybe you have a conversation with John.”

Then the membership committee has a conversation. If they feel it is necessary to put a member on probation for not following up legitimately on referrals, then they have the authority to do that.

That is really the mechanism. First, talk to the member. If you don’t talk to the member, it is your responsibility. The fact that the person didn’t follow through- you have some responsibility for not following through with them for not following through.

The worst thing that you could do is talk about John to anyone but the membership committee. If you want to undermine a chapter quickly, talk about each other, not to each other. If you want to have a healthy chapter, members, even when there is conflict, talk to each other and not about each other. The only time you should talk about a member is if you had the conversation with the member and then you feel it needs to go to the membership committee.

That’s my advice to Gary. What do you think, Priscilla? Anything that you would add to that?

I think that is great, what you said. I think that sums it up. People get the wrong phone numbers, but I can’t imagine that they would ignore the referral. I think talking to the person is definitely the first step.

You bring up a good point. Sometimes they have the wrong phone number. I have actually seen people get the wrong phone number and then say to someone else, “I got a referral from Ivan, but it didn’t even have the right number on it, so I couldn’t follow through.” But the they didn’t talk to him and say, “Hey, this is the wrong number.” So this idea of talking about each other can go both ways. It can be the person who gave the referral, or the person who received the referral if they didn’t follow up with the person who fave the referral.

My position remains the same. You have to talk to each other. If you got a referral that didn’t feel legit because the phone number was wrong, talk to the person who have it to you. If you gave a referral and they didn’t follow through, talk to the person you gave it to. Clear, open, honest, and direct communication is the best way to handle most of these kinds of issues.

Yes, I think that is true.

Well, that is my topic for today, Priscilla. If you are listening to this podcast, I think it would make a great discussion at a chapter. Education coordinators, in particular, should share this with the chapters because when members are talking with one another in a positive and supportive manner, many potential challenges can be worked through. So that is it for today, Priscilla. Thanks.

Okay, great, Dr. Misner. Alright. Well, 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. Karen Kersten says

    Thank you for the info! I’ve had that happen to me and the wrong phone number had been entered. Off by 1 number. She didn’t realize she had typed it in wrong until I asked her to double check for me

Solutions-focused comments are welcome