Don’t Tell to Sell: Share a Story

Posted By on Feb 17, 2013|5 comments

Sales Secrets

To affect change is the edict of any financial advisor … or at least it should be.  We want to guide clients and create value for them. We want to sell to them. However, when it comes to selling, we often get in the habit of trying to tell the person what to do.  Now let’s think about that approach. How often did you change what you were doing because someone else TOLD you what to do?

In the “O” organizations—World Presidents Organization (WPO), Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and Entrepreneurs Organization (EO)—there is a language protocol called Gestalt. The protocol provides a framework wherein members share their experiences rather than give advice. Essentially, members share stories based on their own account of something. The stories help make the topic more relatable to other members, allowing others to conjure up stories similar to the sharer. This process of making the story personal is much more powerful in affecting change than being told what to do.

In a recent AUM in a Box blog, From High to Goodbye: Are Your and Your Clients’ Finances in Line?, I reviewed the power of storytelling through the eyes of Chanel Reynolds. She was happily married until her husband, who was out for a bike ride in July of 2009, was killed by a collision with an automobile.  The event threw her into a state of panic and prompted her to get her financial house in order. Chanel’s story, the actions she took and the tools that helped her are on her site, However, the most valuable aspect of her site is not the insight into financial planning she shares, but rather it is the STORY she provides about how she got to her end result (financial order and a successful website). We all can think of similar stories, either of our own or of someone we know, that connect us to Chanel’s story—a once-removed subject becomes of personal interest.

Success in Storytelling

But what does this have to do with your financial advising business? The takeaway is simple: stories sell. In the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, we begin to understand how changing behavior is about creating a vicarious experience. As advisors, we do not necessarily have the time to take clients or prospects through an experience. However, telling a story like Chanel Reynolds has done enables us to provide clients/prospects with something tangible that they can make their own.

Storytelling is not natural for everyone though. After all, you opted for a financial advising career instead of becoming a screenwriter for a reason, right? Don’t fret. Below are a few tips to help you gather your words.

Four Tips for Financial Advisors to Improve Your Storytelling

  1. Allow people to empathize. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, emphasizes the importance of enabling a person to truly understand the emotional journey of another person. By touching into the feelings of another person, we, in effect, adopt those feelings and make them our own. In Chanel Reynolds’ case, we are able to connect with her feelings of grief, uncertainty and panic. You can allow people to empathize with your story by providing vivid detail and a keen sense of emotions.
  2. Define vital characteristics. When developing your story, think about how the character in your story exhibits a vital behavior. Chanel Reynolds’ vital characteristic is perseverance; she overcame hardship and recognized that as much as getting one’s financial house in order is a pain, it creates value. There is a benefit.
  3. Provide a solution. While provides a vivid story about Jose Hernando’s death, it also provides a solution to the story: Chanel Reynolds’ journey to become educated on finances and the tools to do so. Financial advisors need to do the same for your clients and prospects. What solutions can you offer in your stories?  If your story involves a 50 year-old corporate mogul who failed to plan for retirement, perhaps your solution is a combination of IRAs and mutual fund investments that can provide quick returns.
  4. Answer two important questions. When you are developing your story, you need to answer two questions for your audience: 1. Is it worth it?; and 2. Can they  (your audience) do this? In, Chanel Reynolds explains how dealing with the death of her husband was a disaster. She could have made things much easier for her and her children if her financial house was in place (this answers the first question for Chanel and her audience—it is worth it to get your finances in place). Second, her success and the tools she provides on her website are proof that anyone, regardless of education, can get their financial house in order (this answers the second question by creating realistic action items for Chanel and her audience).

Below is a great example of storytelling:

Next Steps

We’ve all been there before. Sometimes, our desire to tell someone what to do rather than show them overwhelms us. Yet, verbally telling someone to do something can often repel the person in the opposite direction. So, rather than tell your client (or prospect) what to do, try sharing a story. Make sure that your story is vivid, poignant, shows why taking action is worth it, and gives the person the belief that he can do it.


Create a story that works for your financial advising business. Follow the steps above and draw in your client/prospect with vivid details, emotions and more!

Below are a few other helpful articles:

Visual Storytelling: The Key Weapon to Content Marketing – Search …

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the story behind it may be worth a million more. Everyone understands and connects with stories. When you focus on yours, you may find you have an entirely different perspective on

The Seductive Power of Storytelling – UX Booth | UX Booth

Storytelling as a vehicle for influencing the behavior of others isn’t a new concept. The Brothers Grimm, for instance, built their career around cautionary tales about the dangers of accepting fruit from wizened crones or



  1. Aw, this was a really nice post. In concept I wish to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and in no way seem to get something done.

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    • It does take time. The best thing to do is to put in your calendar when you will write. Second, create a list of ideas that you want to write about.

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  2. After I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a remark is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there any approach you can take away me from that service? Thanks!

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    • I will work on this. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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