An honest account of a real-life experience can have far greater impact than a carefully crafted marketing message. John Evans, Ed.D., Head Strategist of Knowledge Labs™, offers his advice on how advisors can use storytelling to engage prospects and build client loyalty.
Narratives are woven into the fabric of human experience. We are hardwired to tell stories, to listen to them and be moved by them. In contrast, we are most certainly not hardwired for PowerPoint presentations (as I think anyone who has spent time on the industry conference circuit would agree).
Your biggest prospects do not want to hear your carefully crafted marketing messages or your expert commentary on portfolio construction. They want to hear a story – your story, to be precise.
While I don’t feel there’s much room for debate when it comes to the potential impact of a well-crafted narrative, not everyone is born with an inherent gift for storytelling. It takes work. But I firmly believe that if you’re willing to put in a little extra time and effort, you can master this art and connect with clients and prospects on a whole new level.
So, how to tell your story?
The next time a prospect leans in to ask an important question, here are a few ways you can turn a run- of-the-mill response into a relatable tale that will leave a lasting impression.
- Demonstrate vulnerability. The best personal narratives reflect a degree of sensitivity. There may be moments where things look grim – perhaps really grim – and your stories may not always have a happy ending. Be as candid as you are comfortable being, but remember that “TMI” (Too Much Information) is a real phenomenon and can quickly turn the listener off. In my experience, listeners want a dash of unexpected candidness, not a litany of too-personal details. Use your best judgment and be diligent about practicing your delivery on the vulnerable aspect of your
- Don’t make yourself the hero. My longtime friend John from Orlando once did an interview on the radio in which he told a story about how his brother was mistreated by an insurance company after a tragic accident. He described in detail how his sibling demonstrated exceptional grit and determination over the years and ultimately lifted himself up and rebuilt his life. John told a story in which his brother – not himself – was the hero. That key difference is what made it so
- Use your imagination to find your story. If you have no idea what your story is, consider this exercise: Imagine your retirement party, five, 10 or 20 years in the future. Your spouse, your neighbor, your top client and your child/children are each going to speak at the mic. What do they say about you? What do you wish they would say? Be specific. Somewhere within the aspirational ideas you jot down lies your signature story.
Storytelling may not come naturally for us left-brained investment management types – particularly not in a professional setting. But as human beings, each one of us has the innate ability to talk about our experiences in a personal, relatable way.
Think about how you tell your family or friends about that amusing, scary or life-altering thing that happened to you when you were a child. You can use that same honest, direct delivery to tell stories your clients and prospects can relate to. It just takes some extra practice, a more refined approach and – most importantly – a focus on what you want the client or prospect to learn from what you’re relating. (Remember, your stories are ultimately for their benefit.) When told well, however, they can also be a competitive advantage and a tremendously effective strategy for engaging prospects and building client loyalty.
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