As you might know already, I’m a big believer in telling a story.
As I write this, it’s presidential campaign season. The candidates are all about telling their stories. They want to get their preferred narratives out there, in front of voters. Successful candidates are very well rehearsed on these stories. They constantly make references to these stories, in the effort to brand themselves, differentiate themselves from other candidates, and inoculate themselves against attacks from competing candidates and their staffs.
Because it works!
It works in financial services, too.
In fact, it works so well that I don’t want you to have a single story defining you. I want you to have at least eight! And I want you to know them cold.
Here are the eight stories that land clients.
Each of these eight stories serves a purpose: To move a prospective client toward being a client. To learn more about these stories, I urge you to read ‘Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins’ by Annette Simmons and ‘What Great Salespeople Do’ by Michael Bosworth and Ben Zoldan.
Here they are, roughly in order:
- A “Who I Am” story;
- A “Who I Represent” story;
- A “Whom I’ve helped” story;
- A “Why am I here” story;
- A “Teaching” story;
- A “Vision” story;
- A “Values in action” story;
- An “I-Know-What-You’re-Thinking” story.
Let’s take a closer look at each one.
#1. ‘Who I am’ story
When people are dealing with you, they want to know who you are, first. After all, in the final analysis, it’s you they have to trust in order to hand over their money.
You can represent the greatest brand in the world but if the prospective client doesn’t understand or trust you, because they can’t relate to you, they won’t sign on with you. On the other hand, if you help them relate to you with an effective “who I am” story, you still have a good shot at the business, even if the company branding is terrible.
#2. ‘Who I represent’ story
This is your chance to tell the story of your firm or company. Don’t underestimate the importance of this: Companies spend billions each year in advertising trying to establish a brand. But your prospective client may or may not have even seen the advertising. You may represent a small firm that doesn’t advertise, or they simply may not watch TV or consume other media.
So, good advertising may help set you up for the interview on a favorable basis, with the prospect holding positive associations with your brand. That can help you get on base. But you need to be prepared to tell that story yourself.
When you do, tie it to how clients typically benefit from doing business with your firm. Everybody knows what insurance company can help them save 15 percent on their car insurance. You should identify your firm’s key differentiators, and be able to tell that story in your sleep.
Even if no one else has heard of your firm and how it benefits its customers, they will by the time you get done with them!
#3. ‘Whom I’ve helped’ story
This is a story about someone like your prospective client who is much better off today because of what you were able to do for them.
It should be about someone the client can relate to. They share a similar professional background and values. Some common examples:
- A business owner
- A military member/veteran
- A retiree and grandparent
You should have a growing number of these types of stories, over time. The idea is to get the client thinking, “Hey, this advisor gets me! He understands my problems!”
This story also establishes that you are able to provide a real benefit to people in their shoes.
Think about the major identity groups and professional classes you’ve been able to help. Prepare your “talking points” in advance, and be prepared to share on a moments’ notice how you did so.
You don’t need to be perfectly polished. But you should have your facts down pat, so you can show how you can help the person sitting right in front of you. Which is what it’s all about.
#4. ‘Why I am here’ story
I hope you have a purpose for being in this business – and it’s not just making money for yourself. It’s great to make money. But if that’s your only motivation, prospects will be able to smell that from a mile away. Nobody likes a user, and nobody wants to be taken advantage of.
Your ‘why-I’m-here’ story should convey your purpose for being in this business: For example, to help people have a more secure retirement and to help realize their financial dreams while avoiding the risks that can destroy them. And that you love what you do.
#5. ‘Values in action’ story
Look, if your brand doesn’t convey values, you’ve got some work to do. Your personal values are very much intrinsic to your personal brand – and your parent company’s values or your RIA’s or broker/dealer’s values are very much a part of their brands. And it doesn’t matter if your firm is large or small. If anything, conveying your values is even more important if you’re small.
This is different from your “Who-I-Am” story. Your “values-in-action” story should be about a time when you did the right thing a.) even when it hurt like heck, and especially b.) when nobody was looking.
#6. A ‘teaching story’
A “teaching story” is any story that’s designed to make a complex concept easy to understand.
Stories are incredibly effective at distilling complicated topics down to their vital truths. Jesus constantly spoke in terms of stories, or parables, that his contemporaries could understand. And though Aesop died in 564 B.C., we still remember the Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf’, the Tortoise and the Hare, and the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs! So much so that these titles themselves have become shorthand to remind the listener about these important truths.
That’s how powerful a teaching story can be!
I, myself, collect them! And I encourage you to do the same.
#7. A ‘vision story’
This is a story to help your clients remember to keep their “eyes on the prize.” To keep them focused on their long-term goals and strategies. Anything that helps them avoid being distracted by today’s market news, or from some talking head on TV. Anything that shows the value of remaining focused on the long term can be a useful vision story.
A great vision story is one that makes a mountain seem like a molehill in the grand scheme of things. A big, sickening downward lurch in the market can seem devastating to people in the middle of it – especially if they don’t know much market history.
For example, Black Monday, October 19th, 1987, was pretty scary for a lot of people at the time. On that day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 22.6 percent of its value. On a single day!
At the time, it was 508 points. As of this writing, it would take a 6,122.53 point drop to do 22.6 percent worth of damage.
Sure, it could potentially happen. Stocks can be risky.
But take a look at a logarithmic stock chart, and ask the client or prospect to find Black Monday.
It’s barely visible. In the fullness of time, the single largest one-day market drop in history… is just a speed bump.
Here… spot it on this chart:
Anyone who panicked and fled stocks forever at the close on October 19th, 1987 would have missed out on the greatest 30-year period of wealth generation in the history of the world!
This story acts as a reminder of the importance of having a long-term vision.
#8. ‘I know what you’re thinking’ story
This is the story you hold in reserve. You should have a few “I-know-what-you’re-thinking” stories at the ready to deploy when you’re encountering an unspoken objection. One for every common objection.
For example, “I know what you’re thinking… you’re wondering why this costs so much, or why our fees are so high.’
Then tell them the Springfield story.
Your stories don’t have to be long to be effective. Just long enough to make the point, and get prospects mentally set up to receive your presentation – or to decide to hire you.
Lots of things can kick the door to a new client relationship open, but in the end, it’s your stories that will draw them in, and cement their loyalty so that they’ll be a client of yours for many years to come.