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Storyselling: Six Magic Words Guaranteed to Engage Your Clients

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Written by: Matthew Paine

There are six words you can say that will instantly engage someone: let me tell you a story.

Storytelling is so deeply imbedded in our psyche that the offer of an interesting story instantly pulls a listener into a conversation. For anyone who’s ever presented a concept to a group or sold a product, one on one, stories have the power to express ideas better than any spreadsheet, PowerPoint presentation or fact-crammed folder ever can.

There’s a term for this business technique: storyselling. Scott West, an advisor at Invesco, has popularized it in a book he wrote about the subject. I highly recommend it.

West cites science that back this up. Scientists tell us that stories appeal to the right brain, the area that governs emotions. While facts play a key role in decisions, it is often emotions that clinch the deal. Appealing to the right brain with stories and emotions and then following it with supporting data that appeals to the left brain – that’s the concept for successful selling.

One of the interesting points West makes is how the left brain seems to age better than the right brain. I don’t think I’m alone in relating to the fact that I remember experiences far longer than facts and figures.

A 2014 study conducted by the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Harvard found an even deeper scientific basis for the power of storytelling. It turns out there is a chemical in the brain called oxytocin that is produced when we experience cooperation and trust. When the study’s subjects were told character-driven stories, it increased the level of oxytocin that made them more open to the presenter’s pitch and made them more willing to give the presenter money.

Related: Don’t Tell Them, Show Them: The Nuts and Bolts of Using Video to Engage Your Clients

Related: Five Steps to Change the Habits that Are Sabotaging Your Career

The study’s author Paul J. Zak wrote about its application to business: “My experiments show that character-driven stories with emotional content result in a better understanding of the key points a speaker wishes to make and enable better recall of these points weeks later. In terms of making impact, this blows the standard PowerPoint presentation to bits. I advise business people to begin every presentation with a compelling, human-scale story.”

I believe that the best stories are those about people and how they were transformed or overcame an obstacle and learned a lesson. As humans, we desire these stories to help us understand ideas that can otherwise be too complicated and that we can adapt to our own lives.

In my business, I am constantly in search of these stories as a way to tell clients about our work. Tell these stories well and you instantly engage others who might not otherwise understand some of the complex programs and transactions we use to make them successful.

Here are seven ways you can adapt storyselling to your practice:

1. Interview your clients to find out what stories they have to tell. Ask them about financial decisions they have made that succeeded or failed. How did they achieve success and what lessons did they learn?

2. Tell your own story. How have you overcome obstacles and become a success? What was the turning point you reached that changed your career and your life? The more personal a story is, the more the listener can relate to it.

3. Tell a story with a twist. Listeners love to be surprised by a story, either in an unexpected solution or a key element of the story that turns preconceived expectations on their heads.

4. Use the problem-solution/conflict-resolution approach. Demonstrating an obstacle that had to be overcome, especially if it’s through an unexpected solution is a classic way to tell a memorable story.

5. Craft an image that tells your story. Use pictures, awards and other elements that tell your clients who you are and display them where they can be seen. Many advisors and agents have their family pictures only pointed toward them. That can be a missed opportunity to show clients about the people in your life that tell them who they are.

6. Facts matter. Back up the story with details. Any time you can tell a story that has facts and figures behind it makes it more meaningful to the listener.

7. Make sure your story is The story you tell needs to relate directly to the point you are trying to make or it’s just another great story.

 

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