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Getting referrals from your social circle

If you’ve ever been to BNI training on one-to-ones, you’ll know that one of the questions they teach you to ask during a one-to-one is “so, what do you do when you’re not doing what you do?”

For example, it might be “what do you do when you’re not joining?” or “what do you do when you’re not accounting?” or “what you do when you’re not soliciting?” (actually, that one sounds wrong!), but the idea is that you get to know the person better by finding out what they’re into, you get to like them and you get to trust them. It’s the whole “know, like and trust” thing, and that’s all fine – we understand that.

However, what if you turned it the other way around and, rather than asking people in business what they do when they’re not working, why not ask people in your social circle they do when they’re not doing what they do socially?

Now, I don’t mean people who you’ve just met or people who you “sort of know”, because for those people you tend to ask them what “what do you do?” anyway as a conversation starter. I’m talking about people you’ve known a very long time – it could be people that you pool with, or went to school with, or who you’ve got on your Facebook.

Here’s an example, I once went on a lads’ weekend in Bradford and Leeds. When I say ‘lads’, I mean ‘nerds’ – it’s a load of Transformers fans who meet up once a year either in the North or South of the country. On this drunken night out, we were in the Lego shop (yes, we combine toys with beer!) looking at this Lego Millennium Falcon. Anyway, one of the nerds stood next to me, who I’ve known since he was about 14 when he joined my website back in 2000 and he’s now a fully grown adult, suddenly said “yeah, so, uh, I’m in the new Solo movie.”

If you don’t know what that is, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a 2018 Star Wars film which is a spin-off from the original trilogy and it’s a prequel about Han Solo, the Harrison Ford character. It turned out he was in the movie as an imperial officer (not a speaking role – he’s in the background somewhere), but also, he then went on to explain that he’s also in the 2017 Wonder Woman film with Chris Pine and Gal Gadot. And he never thought to tell us because he didn’t think we’d be interested!

And it occurred to me that I’ve got these nerds who I’ve known for decades, and now they’re all adults with jobs and careers of their own, and yet I didn’t really know what they did.

What I’d like you to do in your social circles – perhaps people you’ve known a very long time or are friends with on Facebook friends, or maybe it could be the spouses of your siblings who you tolerate at family gatherings but don’t actually talk to that much – is ask them “what do you do when you’re not playing with plastic robots and who do you do it for?” OK, you can change the “plastic robots” part to suit the social situation that you’re in, but I guarantee if you ask five people that question this week, you will find that either they or somebody they work or for will be the perfect referral that someone in your BNI has been asking for.

Maybe you’re the sort of person that doesn’t put much effort into finding referrals and you’re only getting referrals when somebody walks up to you and says, “do you know someone who can do my accounts?” and you say “yeah”. If that’s you, that’s perfectly fine, but I’d still like you to ask this question because – and here’s the kicker – you might actually find that this person you’ve known for years, or somebody who they work for, is the perfect referral for you.

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