The Secret to Getting More Referrals

Understanding How the Brain Works

I want to share with you one of the greatest secrets of getting more referrals.   

In order to teach you this technique, you need to understand a little bit about the psychology and the neuroscience of the human brain.   

You need to understand how the brain works and how our memories work to be able to apply this.   

Here’s the metaphor.   

I want you to think of the brain as a mental filing cabinet.   

That’s what the human brain is.   

It’s basically a mental filing cabinet.   

When you ask the brain to recall information, the more neatly the files are organized, the more accessible they are to the retriever, right?   

It’s no different than your office space is if you’ve got all your files.   

And I know most of us don’t have filing cabinets anymore. I’ve never had a filing cabinet, but even digitally, you could think about the more organized your digital files are.  

If somebody says, “Hey, can you send me this document?” And you respond with, “Oh yeah, I know exactly what file folder it’s in.”   

Just walk with me on this for a second.   

Let’s say that was a real-life scenario.   

Let’s say that I asked you if you can send me a certain file. 

Your brain immediately goes onto your computer, goes to your hard drive, and asks where it is. 

You can see the file nesting structure in your mind.  

If you recognize and know where it is, your brain will immediately think it can go retrieve that.   

You say, “No problem.”  

And you say, “Yeah, I’ll get that right over to you.”  

But if somebody asks you for a file and you respond, “Oh gosh, I don’t know where it is. I can’t remember. I think I have that somewhere, but I have no idea.”  

It’s much harder for me to commit to getting it to you.   

And it’s much harder for me to get it to you if what you’re asking for doesn’t fit into the way that my file structure is organized.   

And so that is how the brain works.  

That’s how a computer works.   

The more organized the information is, the easier it is to recall.   

And the more that your request for that information aligns with how my file structure is organized, the easier it is for me to commit to getting it to you and then actually get it to you.   

That is the same with referrals.  

How to Ask for Referrals

rory vaden quote

When you ask someone for referrals, you’re asking them to retrieve information from their mental filing cabinet.  

Here’s the problem and the mistake.   

By the way, I covered this in the other blog post, called The #1 Most Common Technical Mistake When Asking for Referrals where they ask to be introduced to people who need what they do, instead of being asked to be introduced to the type of people who they do it for.   

You don’t want to ask to be introduced to people who need what you do. You want to be asked to be introduced to the people who are the kind of people for who you do it for.   

Let’s come back here to the mental filing cabinet example.  

Let’s say that you’re a financial advisor and you asked me who do I know that is looking to get into the market right now?  

That is a very difficult question for me to answer.   


Because I don’t have a file folder in my mental filing cabinet called people looking to get into the stock market right now.  

I don’t have that folder.   

I also don’t have a folder for people who are looking to buy new cars.   

I don’t have a folder for people who are looking to buy a house.   

Now you could still ask me that question and I might be able to retrieve an answer for you if those things have come up recently or specifically in conversations that I have had.   

It’s probably very unlikely. There would only be a couple because that’s not how my brain is organized.  

That might be how your brain is organized, cause that’s what you sell all day and that’s what you think about, but that’s not how my brain is organized.   

The key to getting more referrals is to ask for referrals based on the other person’s filing cabinet, making it easy for them to recall and retrieve information, specifically the names of people that they know that they would feel comfortable introducing you to.   

If you ask me to recall people that I know who is wanting to buy something, it’s likely that there is not a file for it in my filing cabinet.   

If there is, I don’t know where it is.  

If there is and I can find it, there’s probably not more than one or two people in there. 

And that is the problem.  

That is why most salespeople don’t generate more referrals.   

Asking for Referrals

The key is to ask me to retrieve information based on my file folder system in ways that are arranged and aligned with how I think and how I live my life. 

As an example, here’s something you could ask. 

You could ask me who do I know that are the parents of on my son’s T-ball team?  

I could immediately come up with names.   

If you asked who are the parents of the kids that go to school with Jasper, I can immediately retrieve the names.   

If you asked who are the families that you see on Sunday at church? I could immediately retrieve the names.   

If you asked who are other speakers that have young children, I can immediately retrieve names.   

See, you’re not asking me to do your job. You’re not asking me to recall information for you on people who need what you do; you’re asking for me to recall information for the kind of people who you do it for.   

Which you know, in this scenario is, you’re looking to be introduced to people who are families.   

Why? Maybe, because you want to sell them a minivan or a new house.   

Or maybe because if they just had a kid, they want to start a college fund.  

Tell me who your lawyer is. No problem.   

Tell me who your doctor is. No problem.   

Tell me who your dentist is. No problem. 

Tell me who your pastor is. No problem.   

Tell me who your kid’s coach is. No problem.   

But if you ask to tell me who wants to buy “X”. I seldom come up with an answer.   

And that is what most salespeople do.   

That is why they don’t generate enough referrals.   

They don’t understand the key idea that the human brain is a mental filing cabinet.   

And when you ask for referrals, you need to ask in a way that makes it easy for me to recall the names of those people.   

You start doing that and you shall start getting lots more referrals. 

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