Call Us : 571-220-1891

Frontpage Banner

Psychology Behind Asking for Referrals

asking for referralsThis week, let’s focus on the psychology behind asking for referrals and how you can increase your odds that someone will respond with something you want.

Most people say either “If you know someone who needs my services, please hand over my card” or “A good referral for me today is…”

Neither of these are particularly effective. (Don’t believe me? Try them sometime and see what happens.) The first one does have a call to action (hand over my card), but asking for “someone who needs my services” is vague and not specific.

Remember that our natural inclination is to do nothing. It’s not fair, but it’s how most people act. Taking risks is…well…risky, and we don’t like to fail. As children, we’re taught to do the safe things, and the safest thing is often to do nothing. So if you are vague in what you ask for, we’ll default to doing nothing. Oh, we might say, “Sure, we’ll keep you in mind,” but more than likely, five minutes later, you’re forgotten.

So you need to force us to think. Right here. Right now. Which is why “A good referral for me today” has part of it right. The “today” part. That gives a sense of urgency to think about it now. But you leave us with the question of “Is is still a good referral tomorrow?” Which gives us permission to ignore the request tomorrow and the day after. Still not what you want, right?

Frustrated yet? Don’t be. If you’ve followed the structure, you’re half way to getting what you want.

Think stories. Stories stick with us if they evoke an emotional reaction. You will remember an emotional reaction for a long time. It might be associated with what you were eating, smelling or feeling when the emotion is triggered. Emotions get fixed in us and can be re-triggered easily later. So the story will be valid tomorrow and the next day in the way that “A good referral today” won’t be.

Follow the story up with something to make us think, and you’ve probably got us. It makes the emotional trigger sink in deeper.

You make us think by asking for something specific. We make a decision with our emotions and then justify it logically. Well, the story helped us make an emotional decision. We either believe the story and want to help or we don’t. But most people want to help. They really do, deep down. So that specific request, if it also triggers an emotional reaction, might shift the decision.

If our emotional decision was to help, then the specific request hits our logic and seals the deal.

How can you be specific? That’s a topic for later. Stay tuned.

  • I have to admit my first thought when I read “today” was but I’ll give referrals months sometimes years later. If I think of how I give referrals and how I get referrals in my personal life, it’s when someone puts a shout out on facebook (occasionally twitter)

    So I guess I would give 2 cards and say, hang on to that card, so the next time someone needs a blah blah, you’ll have my name. And a thank you afterwards.

  • admin

    Most referrals don’t happen instantly. You’re right. They usually happen months or even years later. Which is why compelling stories are so important. We remember them.