Every interaction you have in a day—every conversation with a friend, business associate, client or prospect—is an opportunity to articulate your value.Of course, the dynamic of each encounter is unique. There are times, for example, when you need to get beyond technical terms or industry-specific language and connect with a prospect in a more emotional way. In these situations, you need an engaging narrative—a “professional story”—that appeals to the heart.
A professional story can be about any number of important topics: how you entered the business, why you created your unique business process or why you subscribe to a particular investment philosophy or approach, for example. But the most common example of a professional story is the case study — a detailed description of a particular problem a client faced and the solution you came up with to help.
Effective stories have three important characters—the same basic characters you’ll find in a fairy tale:
- The dragon — the problem or challenge to overcome
- The princess — the one threatened by the dragon
- The hero — the one doing the rescuing (the advisor)
To maximize the marketing power of your story, you need to cast yourself as the hero who used his specialized knowledge and expertise to solve a complex problem (the dragon) for the client (the princess).
No matter what the content of your story, its structure will always be the same:
- Client faces a seemingly insurmountable financial problem.
- Client is unable to solve the problem without help.
- Just when client thinks the problem will never be solved, client is referred to a trusted advisor who applies a systematic, disciplined approach and solves the problem.
- With the problem solved, client can enjoy a life free of financial worry.
The implicit message of this type of story is that you played a central role: You made life easier for someone by taking care of complex problems that couldn’t be solved without your help—and you could do the same for the listener, if asked.
Delivering your story
With stories, delivery counts. By delivery, I’m not talking about what medium you use. Sure, stories work best when they’re told face-to-face, but you could easily tell a story in a brochure, on the radio, in a book, your newsletter or on your website. What I’m talking about are the words you use to make the story real for the listener.
Pay particular attention to the language you’re using to relate your story; a story needs to be spoken in the language of the listener, not the teller. For example, don’t tell the listener how you built a conservatively managed, well-diversified portfolio for a client couple. Tell him how you helped Joe and Judy stop worrying about money and provided them with peace of mind for years to come. And don’t tell people how you created a family trust for a wealthy client. Instead, tell them how you made sure Bill and Mary’s seven grandkids would have the chance to water ski at the family’s cottage on Lake Overthere for the next 25 years. Also, in face-to-face conversations, be animated; your body is as much a part of the conversation as the words you use. A conversation without movement leaves your client thinking of you as stiff and distant. On the other hand, hurried, frenetic movement suggests that you are unfocused and overly reactive.
Practice makes perfect
Telling stories as part of your client relationship process, in my opinion, is not an option. It must be implemented. The skill comes naturally to some advisors. To others, however, it’s an art they must practice. Whichever group you fall into, take some time to consider which aspects of your practice would make a compelling story. Then, practice telling your story to your consultant or coach, associate or personal friend. The more you focus on telling a good story, rather than making a marketing pitch, the more persuasive you will be.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Jeff Thorsteinson is president of the YouFoundation, an organization that helps advisors build world-class practices. As a speaker and consultant, he has delivered his practice-building programs to thousands of advisors. For more information, send an email to email@example.com, call 800-223-9332, ext. 1, or visit the company’s website at www.youfoundation.com.