Our modern day methods of communication value fast, short, information-rich conversations. With the rise of social media and texting as key ways to communicate information, conversations seem to be getting faster and shorter.
But it hasn’t always been this way. For thousands of years – long before we had mobile devices or even the printed page – communicators have relied on one key tool to build rapport, communicate information, and persuade listeners.
That tool is storytelling.
In spite of today’s apparent desire for rapid-pace communication, we still value stories. Television continues sharing half-hour and one-hour stories. Hollywood continues producing stories of 2 hours or more. People still listen to music, which are just stories set to a tune.
Why Stories Are So Compelling
People love stories.
- Stories communicate facts in a compelling way, wrapping those facts in emotion – which is something that adds a “human angle” to information that might otherwise easily be forgotten.
- Stories take concepts and add relatable context, helping listeners apply theoretical information to their lives.
- Stories have a beginning, middle, and satisfying conclusion and we’re hard-wired to want to hear the whole thing. We have no problem tuning out dry facts but we actively listen to an engaging story.
For financial advisors, stories are effective ways to communicate: Telling clients stories is a great way to promote your ideas and recommendations, and stories accelerate understanding.
Everyone loves stories. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring stories because you think they are for the “folksy” advisor who has the time to sit around chatting with retired clients. Even the most hard-charging business client who is almost too busy for a quick phone conversation will enjoy a brief, carefully chosen story when used appropriately.
How To Tell A Good Story
The basic story model consists of a hero, antagonist, passion, awareness and transformation. The hero is who the story is about, the antagonist is the problem, passion is the energy that makes you want to tell the story, awareness is what allows the hero to prevail and transformation is the action that is happening in the story.
The story should start with the hero facing a problem. Then the story should briefly move through an attempt to solve the problem, with a conclusion reached when the problem is successfully solved.
Here are a few other tips to help you create a good story:
- Stories do not need to be long and detailed; they do not need to be funny or jaw-droppingly riveting or have a clever twist at the end. You’re not trying to craft a sequel to Indiana Jones. Just communicating your information in a simple narrative is enough to get your client to take notice.
- Stories should contain some aspect that is relatable to the audience. For example, business executives will more likely respond to stories that involve other business executives.
- Stories can be real or made-up but just be clear about what you are presenting. You don’t want to dilute the important facts in your story because your client isn’t sure if you are telling them a true story. You can use embedded clues to help your listener know the difference. For example, you might say, “One of my clients asked me…” to tell a true story but you might say, “this reminds me of a funny anecdote I heard once…” to tell a made-up story.
- When sharing a real story about another client, of course you should not share identifiable information. Rather, generalize it by referring to them as “my client”.
Storytelling is a skill – something you can hone with practice. There are plenty of resources out there to help you become a better storyteller and your family and friends will always enjoy hearing more stories from you as you practice your skill.
How To Develop Stories
The first thing you should do is identify a few places in your practice where you tend to repeat the same information every time you talk to someone. For example, you might consider starting with some of these common scenarios: A sales presentation, a seminar, when countering prospect objections, or when helping clients make portfolio decisions. (This is a good starting point so you can find a few solid, reliable stories that you can use over and over again. Later, you can always branch out to get more stories but start with a few as building blocks).
Pick one or two parts of those common scenarios and write down the information you try to convey when speaking. For example, if a prospect makes an objection, the information you usually try to convey is a specific piece of information that hopefully counters their objection.
Next, find a story that communicates the information you wish to convey in these scenarios. You might find short, engaging stories in magazines or drawn from your own experience. For example, you might find a story about an objection you commonly receive – when someone asks you why they should switch advisors to work with you. You might think of another client who was hesitant to switch at first but was later glad that they made the switch.
Collect these stories together and practice them regularly so you can weave them into your conversations. And once you have a few that you are comfortable with, continue to collect stories that help you to communicate facts and support your points.
- Start small. Don’t try to become a storyteller overnight. It will feel awkward for you and your stories may end up feeling forced. Rather, just pick one or two stories and integrate them into your conversations, tweaking them as you go.
Rosemary Smyth, MBA, CIM, FCSI, ACC, is an author, columnist and an international business coach for financial advisors. She spent her career working at leading investment firms before pursuing her passion for coaching. She lives in Victoria, BC. Visit her website at www.rosemarysmyth.com. You can email Rosemary at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Hoos, MBA, has worked in the financial industry since 1997. Formerly a stockbroker, insurance broker, and award-winning sales manager, today he writes for the financial and real estate industry as an educator and marketer. His first book, The Sales Funnel Bible, helps advisors master their sales funnel. Visit his website at www.AaronHoos.com and follow him on Twitter @AaronHoos.