Storytelling for Financial Advisors

By Mitch Anthony and Scott West

I picked up this book because my communication with clients and prospects needs improvement. People in all industries tend to fall back on acronyms, slang, and technical terms that are like a foreign language to others. Advisers are notorious for defaulting into “Jargonville” with clients and prospects; discussion of “process” is also very popular. Guilty to the above. Fact is, most of the 300,000 or so advisers in the US sound the same to the typical financial consumer. I thought the ideas in this book might offer clear, concise and relevant ways to better differentiate solutions I offer.

The authors’ key insight was that a typical linear, reason-based process is flawed. It takes longer to explain and invites client objections when time could be better used listening to them. Rather than moving linear from A-B-C-D, they suggest starting with an illustration and explanation of why solution “A” works, proceed directly to “D” asking if this fits their need. It’s an efficient way to help them decide. If they have questions about “B” and “C” they can ask at any time. Otherwise, it’s likely you’re overwhelming them with unnecessary details that make it more difficult for them to choose. Got me again.

“Yes but” I like to present facts and evidence so clients can have comfort that the work being done for them has a strong foundation; an intensive due diligence that examines risk and tradeoffs in crafting unique solutions for their goals. I’m telling a story through organized thought and a robust process that leads to the intended results.

Note to myself: Never mind the “Yes but.” Be sure to understand the client and help them make an emotional connection between their concerns and the solutions being offered. Explain it better.

Facts are Part of the Story, Not the Story

I get it. It’s still hard for my personality type to digest. I don’t trust shortcuts and need to analyze things from multiple angles before I get comfortable with how a solution could work and where it could go wrong. Every decision has trade-offs that clients should know beforehand. The authors note that different personality types have different ways of processing information and making decisions. Not everyone wants or needs that level of detail. Understood. Still, I can’t bend on something I feel is vital to differentiating how I develop solutions against an industry dominated by charming sales people who sell claims instead of good solutions.

The Compromise: Facts with Cliff Notes and Word Pictures

Appeal to intuition. Use illustrations (charts and/or pictures), metaphors, and analogies. Humor always helps. Facts and logic are important to developing solutions, they’re mostly impotent in helping clients’ make decisions about the solutions. Fewer words, less data. Most people don’t want to see how the sausage is made. Pictures and metaphors help them gain clarity and understanding. The left side of the brain monitors; the right-side is the mover!

Ask questions to discover their answers and concerns, then solve their problems. It’s not the same as telling someone what they need to know and throwing data on top to prove the point.

The second half of the book offered numerous examples of how to apply their methods. Technical financial concepts like inflation, risk and return, diversification, timing the market, time in the market are explained with intuitive, common lingo. Overall very insightful and a good read for anyone looking to help yourself help your clients with better communication.

Jerry Matecun helps business owners and individuals with key planning and investment considerations vital to build and protect business value and personal assets.  For a no cost, confidential conversation regarding your situation, please call or email Jerry at 949-273-4200, 616-499-2000 or jerry@compoundvalue.com

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