From the Founder


More One-to-Ones Equal More Referrals

By: Ivan Misner, Ph.D
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    From the Founder

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    Ivan Misner, Ph.D

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Featuring guest co-author Beatrice Sparacino

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 here, 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.

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 corelation 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!

We’d love to hear your story about doing 1-2-1s and how it’s helped you in BNI.  Please share your story below – or feel free to comment on the results from this study.

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, the world’s largest business networking organization.  His new book, Avoiding the Networking Disconnect can be viewed at