Business Insights

It never hurts to ask?

People often say “It never hurts to ask.” But there are times when it does hurt to ask for referrals. Before you ask for referrals, spend some time educating people about what you do and how they can refer you.

Outside of BNI, you will probably encounter people who ask for referrals the instant they meet you. This kind of request definitely hurts. You have to make deposits in a relationship before you can make withdrawals. When you give a referral, you give a bit of your reputation away.

So do your homework before you ask for referrals. Asking too soon puts people off.

Brought to you by Networking Now.

ivan misnerComplete Transcript of Episode 429 –

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Official BNI Podcast, brought to you by, 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 today?

I am doing great, Priscilla. I have an interesting topic today.

Okay, great.

I want to introduce the title, It Never Hurts to Ask. You have heard that before, right, Prisicilla? Where people say, “It never hurts to ask, right?” They always put that question afterwards, “Right?” It never hurts to ask.


So do you want to hear the answer to that?

Yes, please.

Yes, it hurts to ask. It absolutely hurts to ask. Now, let’s talk about this within two different contexts. First, BNI.

BNI is all about referrals. It is about building relationships and passing out referrals. We understand that you are going to come to a BNI meeting and you are going to talk about referrals and getting referrals. My advice to you if you are new to BNI is spend some time educating members how to refer you.

Even in BNI, spend some time talking to them about how they can refer you, what you do so that they can have a better sense for referrals. Even in the BNI context. You get to that point of asking for referrals in BNI a little quicker than you do outside BNI.

So let’s talk about outside BNI. I see people all the time who just meet someone- meet me- and they start asking for referrals. They almost always start with, “WEll, you know it never hurts to ask, so let me ask you. Hi, my name is John. It never hurts to ask. Let me ask you for the referral.”

I am absolutely here to tell you that it definitely hurts to ask. We are talking about asking for business, asking for referrals. You have to make deposits in a relationship before you can start asking for withdrawls.

I said this before in previous podcasts. When you give a referral, you give a little bit of your reputation away. If you give a good referral, it enhances your reputation. If you give a bad referral, it hurts your reputation.

If people are asking you for business or asking you for referrals, and there is no relationship, there is no chance that that person is going to actually refer you- or at least very little chance that person that you ask is going to give you any business until they know and trust you at some point.

Let met give you a classic example of doing this completely wrong. I am on a lot of online social media sites, and I had someone once, not long ago actually, make a connection with me on the social media site and as soon as I accepted the friend request or connection request, literally the next day. I got this basically spam email that said, “Thank you so much for connecting with me. I really appreciate it and I look forward to beginning a relationship with you. Let me tell you a little bit about what I do. I sell lead contact lists for you to call, basically cold call, and connect with to get new business. These are very clean lists and I think that you would really benefit from them. I appreciate you accepting my invitation and would love to do business with you.”

There were so many problems with this email request. I am not sure where to begin, but I am going to give you the three that came to mind. First, if you are connecting with someone for any reason, whether it be a chamber of commerce meeting, a BNI meeting or you are connecting with them online, and you are doing it only to sell with them, you are doing networking all wrong.

Networking is not an opportunity to do face to face cold calling or online cold calling. It’s an opportunity to build a relationship, so if your purpose for networking is only to sell – “I want to do business” or “I want to sell” – everyone wants to sell their products or services but if your first approach is to try to sell before there is any type of connection, you are doing it too early. You really are.

As a matter of fact, if you are, and if you don’t know it, if somebody is not telling you the truth, shame on them. You are putting people off if you are trying to sell to them before you are building a relationship.

Second, do your homework before you ask. Here is this person who makes it sound like they are genuinely interested in connecting with me- and what do they do? They try to sell me a cold calling list? I founded the world’s largest face to face networking organization and they are trying to sell me- does that feel incongruent with you?

Yes, it does.

Basically, this person was just cold calling me. And despite what the email may have sounded like, there was no attempt to really build a relationship. There was just an attempt to make a sale.

So do your homework before you ask someone. I have another. I will try to make it a quick story.

I remember when I had an opportunity to meet Richard Branson a number of times, and I remember one time I met him. He was coming on in, and I was talking to the president of one of Richard’s companies. Richard Branson walked in and this guy walked up and said, talking to the president, “Hey, can I get just five minutes with Richard to tell him about this great opportunity that is really going to launch his comapny, Virgin Records, into the stratosphere. I am telling you, this is a great concept.”

I said to the president with the guy still there, “Does Richard still own Virgin Records?”

And the president looked at me and very disgustedly said, “No, he doesn’t. He hasn’t for 10 years.” This was quite a few years ago.

So here this guy didn’t even do his homework. He wanted to pitch Branson. It never hurts to ask, right?

Yeah. Right. Exactly.

Of course it hurts to ask. If you are just trying to sell, if you haven’t done your homework and third, if you haven’t invested in the relationship. You have to invest in the relationship. you have to make deposits. Otherwise, you are just another person selling as opposed to truly networking and building relationships with people.

Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Ladies and gentlemen, if you are listening to this, it does hurt to ask if you haven’t laid the groundwork. Lay the groundwork. Build a little bit of a relationship. Then you can ask.

Even in BNI, it is important to educate people about what you do before you go right into sales pitch mode.

Does that make sense, Priscilla?

Yeah, totally. You know, one of the social media sites, LinkedIn, has a way that you can automatically respond. I get those spam responses all the time. What it does to me is it makes me want to avoid that person. It does hurt. It kind of does the opposite of what you think it might.

Yeah, it does. You are right. Actually, it was LinkedIn that this person connected with me on. I don’t want to beat up LinkedIn, and you weren’t beating up LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great social media site. I have no problem with it at all. I have seen people do something very similar even on BNI Connect. So it is not the site. It is the individual misusing the tool, misusing the opportunity.

I have seen people do it at a BNI meeting. I have seen people do it at a chamber meeting. At a rotary club meeting. So you can misuse any venue or opportunity. What you want to do, everyone, is build relationships. Don’t just try to cut to the chase and sell. It is not about selling. It is about relationship building.

Yeah, perfect.

That’s it for today, Priscilla.

Okay, great. Thank you, Dr, Misner. Well, I would just like to remind you, the listeners, that this podcast has been brought to you by, which is 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.

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