Who Has Been Sitting In My Chair?

As children, most of us grew up knowing the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. When the bears returned to their house they were aware someone had been eating their porridge, sitting in their chairs and sleeping in their beds, but they weren’t sure who.

Occasionally, life happens and we need to miss our weekly BNI meetings. We all know how being absent can damage our VCP and Referral Confidence Curve, so how do we maintain our referability even when we are away.

Quite simply by having an amazing substitute there to represent us.

Now we could just send anyone to do this, we could even rely on our fellow members to ‘bail’ us out because we were just too busy to find our own substitute, but let me ask you a question: You have just had an opportunity to present to one of your best clients but you cannot make the appointment. Would you just grab a stranger off the street to cover this meeting for you? I can hear you all shouting, “no of course we wouldn’t”. Yet, after almost 15 years of being involved with BNI, it still amazes me how many business owners do not think about who has been sitting in their chair and representing their business in front of their biggest client whilst they were away.

So, who make the best substitutes?  Quite simply – Non-members of BNI.  Customers, clients, friends, family, employees and even patients any of which may need to use the products or services available in your chapter. If one of your colleagues were away next week which of the above would you like to see in the room so that they could listen to your presentation and add value to your own membership?

How do we prepare our substitute for their visit? Some suggestions are:

  • Firstly, thank them for taking the time out of their busy schedule to help you to grow your business.
  • Wherever possible, take your planned substitute along with you as a visitor so that you can introduce them to the chapter and they can and become familiar with the other members and the format of the meeting.
  • Pre-arrange with another one of your BNI team to look out for your substitute so that they are made to feel welcome. If your substitute is not familiar with BNI they need to be looked after. An exceptional visitor experience is a key trait of successful chapters, regardless of who walks through the door. If the visitor is looked after they will always be more conducive towards using the services of someone in the room.
  • Provide them with a well-written presentation in plenty of time so that they can read it, practice it and present it in their style, not yours. Make sure that they are aware of how long they have to present and that the script is within this time limit
  • Make sure that your substitute has your positive contribution to present on your behalf. If they know how to pass a referral for you, they may be more willing to pass one of their own to someone else in the group. It also focuses them on how important the referral process is to you. We all wish that our existing clients would pass us more referrals. Imagine if each time that you asked an existing client to substitute for you, they went away and found you an additional referral for you because they understand the referral process better.
  • Make sure that your substitute knows how to accept a referral on your behalf.
  • Encourage substitutes to arrive early to the meeting and to stay afterwards. This will give them an opportunity to network, promote their own business and get to know a few of your team.Give a good substitute when you can’t be there to give a good referral…. Some are too hot, some are too cold and some are just right.
  • The other reason for thinking about who we send along to represent our business is often forgotten. For the weeks preceding you have been training your sales team to search for specific introductions. The week you are not present, that life changing referral was invited into the room to meet you. Now they are not meeting you but are being introduced to your substitute. What is the first impression of your business now?
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