“Mr. Client: After listening to your financial situation, Im reminded of someone I worked with a couple of years ago who faced the same issues you have. After we drafted a plan that saved this client several million dollars in taxes, he looked at me and said, You know, I can go home and sleep well tonight.”
And so begins our story, a tale about the value of storytelling. The moral of our narrative (for those seeking an abridged version) is this: You may be highly competent in insurance and retirement planning concepts, but your success rate with prospects will much improve if you can spin a compelling anecdote and tell it well.
“If we want to teach concepts that to clients are foreign and complicated, the most effective way to do so is to use stories,” says Scott Farnsworth, president of SunBridge, Orlando, Fla. “They help clients connect to us.”
Adds Stan Hustad, president of Minneapolis, Minn.-based PTG Group: “Nobody takes significant action because theyve been educated. They will only do so if theyve been energized. And stories create emotional energy.”
How so? Advisors say that prospects listen to stories differently than they do, say, PowerPoint presentations about products and features. In the latter case, they use the left hemisphere (or analytical side) of their brain to absorb and process information. The former is a right-brain function, where artistic and creative activity resides, and where we make decisions intuitively.
And, experts emphasize, prospects arrive at conclusions more easily when theyre thinking intuitively than when they are analytically. Advisors should therefore use storytelling to build rapport and credibility with the prospect. Only then can they safely launch into a technical discussion to help the individual buy into the proposed solution.
Mitch Anthony, president of Advisor Insights, Rochester, Minn., observes that storytelling is most effective when customized to the clients situation and way of thinking. To illustrate asset allocation, for example, one might point up the benefits of playing with a full set of clubs when speaking to an avid golfer, or discuss the value of diversifying the planting of perennials, annuals and bulbs with a gardener.
“Im a big fan of the analogy or metaphor using the words, its kind of like,” says Anthony. “I define metaphor in this business as using the language of the known to explain the language of the unknown.”
By placing the financial planning discussion within a familiar context, storytelling helps the client to relax. The technique has a similar effect on advisors, all the more so when the narrative is personalized. (Photo: Thinkstock)
By placing the financial planning discussion within a familiar context, storytelling helps the client to relax, he adds. The technique, say observers, has a similar effect on advisors, all the more so when the narrative is personalized.