Referral Coincidence


Mike was a good member who held the investment advisor classification in his networking group. Most people were surprised when he dropped out of the group only a two years after joining. He had worked hard at helping to put it together and put in extra time to make sure the group was performing well. Mike was receiving referrals and things seemed to be paying off with some high quality referrals turning into sales.

Despite appearances, Mike had a totally different perspective on the situation. In talking to Mike, he explained that the group liked each other a great deal and he truly felt that they would help each other if they could but, ultimately he felt that it just wasn’t working for him. Mike explained that his business was doing well and he went on to describe some of the new clients that he acquired. Oddly enough many of the clients and referrals he described sounded very familiar. As it turned out, many of these people and companies that he discussed as the basis for his burgeouning business were the very same people that had been referred to him by the group members throughout the previous two years.

The call that was made by one of the Leadership Team members to end confusion over why he was leaving only created more confusion. The conversation took an hour and in the end they agreed with all the facts but had dramatically different interpretations. The facts were;

1. He had been introduced to these clients by members of his group or by people introduced to him by members of his group.

2. He didn’t feel that the results were any indication that the system was working. He stated quite clearly that these referrals were basically coincidences. It was by chance that so and so bumped in to someone that just happened to need his services, etc.

Looking at this from an uninvolved perspective left many people wondering how he could miss the connection. Mike was looking at his success from a position of repeatability. The program he was professionally trained on required that he call people from a list that was generated based on the demographics you were looking for in a client. If you didn’t have enough business, you needed to get a good list and call more people. The results of your activity were always measurable and could always be accounted for by the actions he took. Most importantly, there was a well-defined ratio that he fully understood relating to the number of calls to the number of appointments and closed sales.

The clients he picked up from referrals on the other hand always had a story attached to them that could not be repeated. Leading one to believe that the results were coincidental.

This misconception happens when someone focuses on the referral rather than on the relationship that produced the referral. This leads people to the wrong conclusion that the result was coincidental.

It is no more coincidental that you receive referrals from the people in your network than it is that a fisherman casting a net catches fish. The fisherman concentrates on his action of casting the net, not the individual path of one of the fishes that swam into it. If he did base his decision on that one random fish he would quickly come to the same conclusion that Mike did - namely it was a coincidence.

The reason Mike focused on the referral and not the relationship is because he didn’t understand the process of building effective and profitable relationships. In fact he has never been trained on how to build mutually profitable relationships. In his training as a new investment advisor he was taught about the products, customer service and cold calling. When he did receive referrals he had no idea what actions he had taken that had caused it so he was simply thankful for it and went back to what he new.

When it comes to networking, “luck” is where persistence meets opportunity. There is no coincidence about repeat referrals. It comes because – day after day, week after week, month after month, you execute on the activities relating to building referral relationships. Although it can’t be measured as easily as tracking cold-call ratios – the results are dramatic and almost never coincidental.


Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organization. His new book, Avoiding the Networking Disconnect can be viewed at Amazon.com. Dr. Misner is also the Co-Founder of Asentiv (www.Asentiv.com) a coaching and consulting company.

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