To influence change is the edict of any financial advisor … or at least it should be. As advisors, our objective is to guide clients and create value for them. In other words, we want to sell to them. However, when it comes to selling, we often fall into the habit of trying to instruct our client on what to do. Now is the time to think about that approach — how often have you changed what you were doing simply because someone else TOLD you what to do instead?
In the World Presidents Organization (WPO), Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), there is a language protocol called Gestalt. This protocol provides a framework wherein members discuss their experiences rather than give advice to one another. Essentially, members share stories based on their own account of something. These stories help make the topics more relatable to others and opens up communication for all members which aids in allowing change to occur.
In a previous article, From High to Goodbye: Are You 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 after being struck by a vehicle. The event sent her into a state of panic and prompted her to organize her financial situation. Chanel’s story — including the actions she took and the tools that helped her – is featured on her site, http://getyourshittogether.org/. The most valuable aspect of her site; however, is not the insight into financial planning she shares, but rather the STORY she provides about how she got to her end result (finding financial stability and managing a successful website). We all can think of similar stories, either our own or from someone we know, that link us to Chanel’s story—a once-removed subject that evokes emotion and personal interest.
Success in Storytelling
Storytelling is a terrific art form, but what does it have to do with your financial advising business? The takeaway is simple: stories sell. In the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler describe how changing behavior is really 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 our customers with a tangible concept they can make their own.
Storytelling does not come naturally for everyone though. If you’re unsure how to lead your clients on an experience through the use of words and feelings, don’t fret. Below are some tips to help you gather your thoughts and words.
Four Tips for Financial Advisors to Improve Storytelling
- Allow people to empathize. There is great importance in enabling a person to truly understand the emotional journey of another individual. By tapping into the feelings of someone else, we are able to adopt similar feelings and make them our own. Allow others to empathize with your story by providing vivid detail and a keen sense of emotions.
- Define vital characteristics. When developing your story, think about the vital behavior your character exhibits. In Chanel Reynolds’ story, her vital characteristic is perseverance; she overcame hardship and recognized that as difficult as getting one’s financial house in order can be, it helps to create value.
- Provide a solution. While Chanel’s story presents vivid detail about Jose Hernando’s death, it also provides a favorable outcome: her journey to becoming educated on finances and the tools required to do so. Financial advisors need to do the same for their current and prospective clients. What solutions can you offer in your stories? If your story involves a 50 year-old corporate mogul who failed to successfully plan for retirement, perhaps the solution to your tale is a combination of IRAs and mutual fund investments that deliver quick returns.
- Answer two important questions for your audience:
- Is it worth it?
- Can they (your audience) do this?
On her website, Chanel explains how dealing with the death of her husband was a disaster. Things would have been much easier for her and her children if her financial house was in place at the time tragedy struck (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 can achieve financial stability (this answers the second question by creating realistic action items for Chanel and her audience).
It is a common occurrence to feel overwhelmed by our desire to tell someone what to do rather than show them. Yet, verbally telling someone to do something can often repel the person in the opposite direction. Next time you feel compelled to instruct your client on how to make a decision, try sharing a story instead. By telling a story that is vivid, poignant and delivers reasonable solutions, you are giving your client the belief that he/she can do it.