This week we have another Ask Ivan question. Post your questions in the comments or on Dr. Misner’s Facebook Page.
Jenny in Malaysia asks how to handle a bad referral.
- Talk to the person who gave you the bad referral.You will never get to the heart of the situation unless you have a conversation. You never know what might come of that conversation–including a good referral.
- If that doesn’t work, go to the membership committee. Don’t talk to other people in the group. Talk to the membership committee. They may have received other complaints.
- Always speak up when you get a bad referral. Don’t accept mediocrity when excellence is an option.
Brought to you by Networking Now.
Complete Transcript of Episode 439 –
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, California. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and the Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello, Ivan. How are you and where are you?
Hi Priscilla. I am kind of in your neck of the woods. I am in northern California and I am doing some presentations. It is always fun to be in northern California.
We have a beautiful place here.
Today I have, I think, a really interesting topic. I have been doing a lot of Ask Ivan questions and I have decided there are several questions I am going to try to do this month. I did it last week, and I have another one this week.
You can do the Ask Ivan by going to my Facebook page and from time to time, we will put it out there: do you have a question for Ivan? You can also post your questions here on BNIpodcast. I promise to try to cover as many questions as I can.
This week, I am going to tackle a question from Jenny in Malaysia. Jenny asks- she would really like to know more about how to handle a bad referral. You have never seen those, have you, Priscilla?
No, and hopefully, I have never given one.
Absolutely. I think most of us hope that we don’t get one. I think it is really important to answer this question. There are three points that I really want to make when you get a bad referral.
Here is the first one. I am going to take a lot of time with this first one. You have to talk to the person who gave you the bad referral. You chuckle because people are always nervous about that. But you have to talk to them. You cannot get to the heart of the issue if you don’t have a conversation with them.
My experience is that clear, open, honest, direct communication- professional and polite is the only way to solve the problem. And you never know what might come of that conversation.
Let me tell you a true story. It happened reasonably early in BNI. It was in the late 80’s. The first thing you have to do is talk to the person who gave you the bad referral. I have been saying that for some time. When I started BNI, I was basically the Director and visiting chapters and a woman came up to me after the meeting and said, “Ivan, you have always said talk to the person if you get a bad referral.”
I said, “Yes. That’s right.”
She said, “I got a really bad referral.”
I said, “Well, tell me.”
She said, “Okay. Tell me if you think this is bad. I called this gentleman and introduced myself and told him who referred me. He said to me, ‘Lady, not only do I not know who you are, I don’t know who the [bleep] you said referred me to you.'” And he hung up. “I don’t know about you, Ivan, but that doesn’t feel like a good referral.”
“That doesn’t feel like a good referral, either, ” I said. “Look, you have to go talk to her.”
She said, “Yeah, I know that, but would you come with me?”
“Yeah, sure. This should be interesting. Let’s do it together.”
So we sat down with the woman after the meeting, and she repeated her referral said, “Lady, not only do I not know who you are, I don’t know the [bleep] you said referred you.”
The woman who gave the referral, the member who gave the referral was just dumbfounded. She said, “I am so sorry. I swear to you, I promise you he asked for your card. What happened was, look, I am not getting all my business from referrals yet, so I am going out and doing some cold calling. I cold called this company and I got in to see the owner. I was talking to the owner and he wasn’t interested in my products. But I saw some of your specialty advertising stuff on his desk, so it was obvious he was looking for some specialty advertising. I said, ‘Hey, I know a very good specialty advertising person. It is not my business, but I know a real good one. Would you like?’ He said, ‘Yeah. Give me her card. I will talk to her.’ I swear to you. Look, don’t believe me. Let’s go call him right now.”
This was in the late ’80’s Priscilla. There weren’t too many mobile phones around and the ones that existed were these walkie talkies that people called the brick. They were huge, right? We couldn’t just call on a mobile phone, so we all had to go to a pay phone.
There are millennials listening to this, going, “What is a pay phone?” They probably know what they are, but they were in restaurants. Priscilla, where were almost all of the pay phones located?
Near the bathrooms, of course,
Yeah. Between the mens room and the ladies room. There was the pay phone. There, imagine, I want you to imagine- breakfast, it was a pretty busy place. There were these two ladies and I standing around a pay phone with our ears all glues to this telephone. Three people all leaning in as one woman makes this phone call. Of course, people are walking by going, what are these three people doing?
So she called the guy and she said, “Hi. I don’t know if you remember me. I came into your office.” We were listening to this conversation. “I came into your office. I referred a friend of mine to you who does a great job. She does specialty advertising stuff. She is really, really good.”
He stopped her and he said, “Oh my goodness. Yes. It was a really tough day. You came in. I didn’t know you. Yes, you did give me that card and oh my. I think she called me and I may not have been really friendly. I may not have been very polite.”
The woman who got the referral was really upset. She was shaking her head up and down. You could see her lipping it- she wasn’t even saying it- “Yeah, he was not very polite at all!” We were just kind of laughing because we were all seeing this happen and we could see that it was a legitimate referral.
He said to her, to the woman who gave the referral, “Please apologize on my behalf and tell her to call me back. I promise I will take her call. I really am interested, but she just blindsided me and I apologize.”
Guess what. She did make the call and he did buy product from her. It was probably partially out of guilt from how he treated her. But here is the deal. It was a legitimate referral. What happens many times, even if it is not the majority of the time- but what does happen sometimes is that people give a referral, maybe they don’t know the person real well. It doesn’t come together real well. And it is a legitimate referral, but it fell through in the process some way. You will never know that unless you have the conversation with the person and give them the chance to make it right.
Here is a case where it wasn’t wrong at all. It was a mix up, just a miscommunication. It was a completely legitimate referral. What tends to happen, though, is that one member will pull another member aside and say, “Hey, you know so-and-so gave me a bad referral that she gives because she does not give good referrals.” And then they start talking about each other rather than talking to each other.
Right. Right. Right.
It drives me nuts when people talk about each other and not to each other first. That is a long piece of the three points that I want to make. The next two will be a lot shorter. But the first one is you have to talk to the person who gave you the referral. Do it real professionally. Don’t be real aggressive or assertive with the person. Just say, “This is what happened. I wanted to come to you before I just assumed it was a bad referral.” And see what they have to say.
Here is the second point. If that doesn’t work then, and only then, go to the membership committee. Do not talk about the person to other people in the group. Talk to the membership committee because the membership committee may have had other complaints filed against this member about giving bad referrals. And if they haven’t, they have one now. When they hear that second one or that third one, those are big flags.
You know, with the one bad referral you got, they may go to that person and have a conversation about it as well. But certainly after two or three, those are huge flags. A good membership committee of a chapter will act on that.
First, talk to the person. Second, talk to the membership committee. Never talk to other members without doing those first two things.
My third point is really about that. It is extremely important that you speak up when you get a bad referral. Be polite. Be professional. And be firm. Why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option? We can make sure that referrals are legitimate in BNI, but we have to have clear communication with each other in order to do it.
So I hope that answers Jenny’s question. Great question, Jenny. Priscilla, any thoughts before we wrap up?
No, I think that is really good information.
What I love about it is it is a totally true story. I really stood there and listened to this whole thing transpire. It was just so amazing how well it works to actually talk to somebody rather than making assumptions about that person.
You are so right about that.
That is all I have for this topic.
Okay, perfect. Well, I think that’s it for this week. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, 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.