More 1-2-1s Equal More Referrals

When you give a referral to someone, you give a little bit of your reputation away.  When you give a good referral, it enhances your reputation. When you give a bad referral, it hurts your reputation.  The referral process works most effectively when you know, like, and trust someone. Trust is particularly important; therefore, referrals and trust go hand in hand.

So if trust is important to the referral process, how do you expedite it within the context of networking?  BNI can be an accelerator, reducing the time required to build trust between individuals. One of the best ways to accelerate trust is through regular 1-2-1s. Research involving hundreds of BNI members in Europe has concluded what we’ve believed in BNI for many years. 1-2-1s can have a direct impact on referrals passed within a chapter.

The co-author of this article, Beatrice Sparacino, found this to be the case in her recent thesis from the University of Bocconi in Milan, Italy.

The 1-2-1 process allows members to deepen mutual knowledge and develop better relationships with each other. It is building this personal connection that helps to expedite the referral process.

What’s key in conducting an effective 1-2-1 is that it be structured and social. It needs to be the right combination of both a social discussion along with enough business and professional information to allow both parties to get to know one another better. As they continue the process, they will naturally discover overlapping areas of professional and personal interests.

One of the BNI tools that we recommend to help achieve this goal is the GAINS Exchange. This instrument is a great tool to use in order to get to know people better and to help find overlapping areas of interest.

We know that the quality of the 1-2-1 is important. What’s interesting to see as a result of this research, is the quantity of 1-2-1s is also very important.  As you can tell in the graph below, there is a direct, linear correlation between the number of 1-2-1s conducted and the number of referrals given and received! Those who do three or four 1-2-1s per month both give and receive almost double the number of referrals as people who do only one (or less) 1-2-1 per month.

121 and referrals

The bottom line here is that if you do three or more 1-2-1s per month, you will be more likely to give twice as many referrals – and more importantly, you are more likely to receive twice as many referrals as people who do one (or less) 1-2-1 per month!

Once you know someone and begin to develop a level of trust, you are clearly more likely to refer this person. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to support these findings. For example, Episode 191 of includes a great story about a BNI member named Allen who was very concerned after the big recession of 2008 hit. Allen was in the commercial real estate industry which was decimated by the recession. After he joined BNI, he committed to doing as many 1-2-1s with members as possible. He did so many, that he actually won awards in his region for doing the most 1-2-1s and for having given the most referrals in the entire region that year. But what was most interesting, was that we discovered that by doing these 1-2-1s, he actually generated more business for himself than he had ever generated before (recession or not)!

The Milan study clearly shows hard evidence of what Allen’s story suggested: namely, there is a direct correlation between the number of 1-2-1s carried out and the number of referrals generated: the higher the number of 1-2-1s the higher the referrals.

BNI provides members with methods and instruments to activate this process. But as results show, BNI membership is a little like a gym membership: paying the subscription to get fit is not enough. You need to actually show up and work out in order to get results. BNI functions the same way: the more effort you put in, the better the results.  So – start setting up 1-2-1s with your fellow members today!

By Dr. Ivan Misner & Beatrice Sparacino


Tips for Successful 121’s

Before (Information/Preparation)

1.     Read the Dance Card (or Personal/Business Overview)

·       Personal and business background

·       Personal ambitions and measures of success

·       GAINs (Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, Skills)

·       Their Network – who they work with

·       Last 10 Customers examples

·       What makes a Good Referral?

·       Questions they ask

·       Gets to their passion/Why they are in Business

During (Customer Concept)

2.     Ask about their industry or profession, what’s going on and what they are doing about it

3.     Who is their Ideal Customer? Why?

4.     What is their customer trying to fix, accomplish or avoid? How do they help?

5.     Why do their customers buy from them?

6.   Understand Business Results and Personal Wins. What are they most passionate about in their work?

After (Advance)

7.       When the 121 is about you, follow up with a piece of information that will help them

8.       When you are the referrer, allocate time to think through how you can help rather than just “ticking the 121 box”

9.       Grow your/their understanding over time. Have multiple 121’2.