Portland: “I take a comprehensive planning approach with all of my clients,” began Don, a financial planner based in Portland.  He continued, “The problem I’m having is that prospects don’t always understand the importance of dynamic financial planning.  I’ve lost quite a few lately because they aren’t willing to pay for it.  I guess they are missing the value?”

Don is excellent at what he does.  His planning process is overall one of the best we’ve ever seen, but Don is correct. Prospects are missing the value of his services. He’s losing prospects, not because Don isn’t telling them the benefits, but because they aren’t relating. He needed a change in approach and we suggested he tell a relatable story.

Human beings have passed along stories for centuries. The reason for their longevity is that stories create awareness and we remember them.  For example… If my goal was to prove the reality of identity theft and I told you a personal story of how my identify was stolen and it took me three years to repair the damages, this would most likely hold your interest much more than a series of statistics and research facts.  In addition, you would be much more likely to repeat my story to a friend as compared to cold, hard statistics.  Stories create awareness and memorability. They are powerful because they promote a change in perspective.

When we apply storytelling to business situations, they become powerful sales techniques.  Don and I decided to hash out his own narrative about the importance of financial planning.  We put the facts and figures aside and polished a true story about a recent client experience.  It just so happened that Don recently had a client lose her job.  As she was sobbing in Don’s office, Don reminded her that he had already factored this possibility into her financial plan. The client’s gratitude and relief were reward enough for Don.  This is why he believes wholeheartedly in the necessity of financial planning.  Within twenty minutes we crafted a powerful and emotional story around this experience that linked to his financial planning process. It was as if we had turned on his communication switch – as he’s now connecting with prospects better than ever before.

Crafting Your Own Story

You’re probably thinking of ways you can incorporate storytelling into your selling process.  The following provides a simple structure to follow.  Remember, good stories are concise in delivery and easy to understand – so practice.

1.     Introduction:  Don’t give away the moral of your story too quickly.  You want to slowly build and captivate your listener from the beginning.  You might lead-in from a prospect’s objection by first validating their concern and then seguing into your story.  For example:  “I can see how you might feel that way.  Let me share a recent situation with you.  I had a family I was working with once that…” 

2.     Middle:  Your story should continue to build but don’t let it go on too long.  Three to five sentences should suffice. For example: “She had just lost her job and still had kids in college…”

3.     Conclusion and Moral: Finish your story with your moral.  Why was it important that they followed your advice?  What impact did it have on your client? For example: “My take away from that client experience was that…”

4.     Check-in:  You’ve just made a huge point!  This is the time to check-in with your prospect to test their receptiveness to your story.  You might ask, “Do you see why I stress the importance of working from an updated financial plan?”

Storytelling is a powerful communication technique, both with clients and prospects.  However, save this influential tool for emphasizing key points.  If you overdo it, it loses impact.   So, the next time you encounter a tough objection or stall, have a story to reinforce your key point.

Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nicholsare thought-leaders and coaches with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that does ongoing researchand coachingfor nearly every major financial services firm in the US.  To take the first step towards coaching, complete the pre-coaching business profile for a complimentary consultation.