Pro Tips

Storytelling in the Planning Process

by Tiffany Markarian

Whether you are a financial advisor trying to engage new clients or a recruiter trying to engage new advisors, storytelling in your initial planning meetings sets the tone for the relationship. But whose story are you telling?

Storytelling Skills #1: Don’t Lead with the “Ps”

Traditionally, most financial advisors and recruiters focus on the “P” words in their introductory planning or discovery meetings. They will share as many features and benefits of their story with the prospect using words such as: 

  • Portfolio management
  • Planning model
  • Platforms
  • Processes
  • Products
  • People on your team
  • Pricing, payouts, or production grids
  • Premiums written
  • Placement ratios
  • Professional designations

The “P” words are all important attributes about you, your firm, and how you do things. And, yes, they will probably come up in conversation at some point. However, your goal when meeting with new prospects is to connect with them and uncover the outcomes they want in their life. That is how you articulate value.

People are focused on themselves and their personal objectives. They focus on outcomes that are important to them, not on processes that are solely about you.

Although the “Ps” will probably come up in conversation, the point is don’t lead with them.

Storytelling Skills #2: Uncover What Your Prospect Really Wants to Accomplish

Uncovering what a prospect wants to accomplish is a crucial step in the planning process. It allows you to tailor your offerings to their specific needs and objectives.

By asking the right questions, and actively listening, you can position yourself as a trusted advisor who can provide valuable solutions to their challenges and goals.

Consider asking questions such as:

  • What are 3 things you want to make sure I cover in our meeting today?
  • What is your most important accomplishment thus far in life?
  • What do you wish could be improved with your day-to-day finances?
  • What do you wish was different with your current advisor or firm?

Remember that uncovering what a prospect wants to accomplish allows you to connect with them on a deeper emotional level. It creates a genuine interest in their success and a willingness for them to listen and move forward. 

Storytelling Skills #3: Curiosity vs. Convincing

As we stated earlier, relying on the “P” words in your introductory conversations is the same as trying to convince people to work with you. Instead, you should be trying to create curiosity about you and your firm.

The key is to focus on outcomes the prospect wants to accomplish and uncovering their fears, uncertainties, doubts, and achievements.

Keep in mind, financial planning is not just an economic process; it is an emotional process. If you want your prospect to share their story and emotions, you need to get them to emote.

Avoid technical jargon and ask the right questions to get them talking.

Storytelling Skills #4: Speak in Outcomes

At this point, you might be thinking, “Well, I have to say something about myself and my firm!” Yes, you do! The key is to keep it brief and focus on the relevant outcomes you create for clients. This will create curiosity about you.

For example, you might say something like:

“At ABC Wealth Management, what our clients say we do is help them gain a more secure financial future and greater control over their finances.” BUT…before we get to any of that…what are 3 things you want to make sure we discuss in our meeting today?”

This creates curiosity for the prospect. You come in with a strong statement of value that is focused on outcomes they can relate to, but more importantly, you stop yourself from rambling by turning the discussion immediately back to what your prospect wants to accomplish.

Storytelling Skills #5: Overcoming Objections

Financial advisors often encounter objections from potential clients when discussing their services and recommendations. It’s like a plot twist in the story.

Overcoming these objections requires a combination of strong communication skills, a deep understanding of the prospect’s concerns, and the ability to provide tight, relevant solutions.

  1. Active Listening: Begin by actively listening to what the prospect is saying. Let them express their concerns fully without interrupting. This shows you value their perspective and are genuinely interested in addressing their worries.
  2. Empathize: Show empathy by acknowledging the prospect’s concerns and emotions. Let them know that you understand why they might have these reservations.
  3. Clarify and Ask Questions: Seek to understand the objection in more detail. Ask open-ended questions to uncover the root cause of their concern, such as: “Tell me more about that…” or “Would you share more why this is important to you…” This allows you to tailor your response more effectively.

Storytelling can also be an effective way to address objections. Share stories of clients who had similar concerns initially and how they were able to accomplish their objectives by employing your guidance and recommendations.

This helps counter the objection and demonstrates how you can help them overcome potential hurdles.

Sometimes, objections are simply misunderstandings or fears. Stories can help educate your prospects and bring clarity and perspective.

Other times, an objection is a legitimate drawback or feature that you do not have in your model. In these situations, you should uncover how important this issue really is to the prospect and showcase how your work provides a broader benefit for their lifestyle or objectives.

Remember, objections provide opportunities for deeper conversations that can lead to a better understanding of your prospect’s needs and goals. By addressing objections with empathy, expertise, and relevant solutions, you can build stronger client relationships and guide them toward a more sound financial future.

Storytelling Skills #6: The Recruiting Process

If you are trying to recruit experienced advisors to your firm, it is the same process. Focus on uncovering the advisor’s story and recognize that there are many different types of financial advisors with different business models.

Position your story from the advisor’s lens. For instance, what resonates with an insurance professional may not resonate with an investment advisor.

It requires you to research the types of advisors you want to recruit and share relevant outcomes that are meaningful to them.

For example:

  • You help RIAs and financial advisors complete their financial planning and honor their fiduciary role. You help them enhance their client experience.
  • You help P&C specialists elevate their risk advisory role and risk consulting services.
  • You help financial advisors spend more time with their clients. You give them the support they’ve rightly earned.
  • You help insurance professionals push their cases over the finish line and give them the assurance they are serving their clients well.

Knowing your audience and their motivations.

Your initial planning meetings with prospects should be about getting to know them and their story. In doing so, you will have direction on which aspects of your firm or your process will be most relevant to their situation. This creates curiosity and forms the basis for a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship.

Your stories should be genuine, relatable, and relevant to your prospect’s needs. When done right, storytelling can turn a sales pitch into a memorable client experience that resonates long after your initial interactions have ended.

Tiffany MarkarianStorytelling in the Planning Process

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