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Crafting Your Story

Crafting Your Story

The goal is to keep it short, elicit a reaction and make a connection

Minneapolis: “How did you get into this business?” asked Charlie following a keynote I’d delivered at his firm’s top producer conference.  With a twinkle in his eye, it was obvious that Charlie had personal presence combined with people skills.  A dapper veteran financial advisor was asking me to tell my story.

I gave him the abbreviated version (all stories should be abbreviated); counselor for emotionally disturbed boys, Scoutmaster for the only emotionally disturbed Boy Scout Troop in the state of New York, during which time I got certified in clinical hypnotherapy. 

Before I finished my short story, Charlie smiled and replied “That explains why you work so well with financial advisors – you understand the emotionally disturbed.”

We had a laugh, but that’s the type of ah-ha conversation that follows a personal story.  Suddenly I was viewed in a different light; Charlie felt as though he knew me better, my non-related (on the surface) personal story made sense to him, trust was strengthened, and all of my 36 years of professional work in the financial services industry made perfect sense.  Charlie knew my story and as a result, we connected on a personal level.

Some 30 plus years ago Rod Stewart had a top hit song Every Picture Tells a Story.  Well, every story paints a picture and everyone has a story.  Personal stories are connection enhancers.  Since financial advisors need to be able to connect with clients, prospects, and COIs, every financial advisor should be able to conversationally tell a Cliff-Note version of his or her story.  

The key is to keep it truthful, make certain that it is short, clear, and builds a bridge to your chosen profession.  Just like Charlie’s response to my story, your goal is to elicit a reaction along the lines of “Interesting, it makes sense that you’re a financial advisor.”

Let me outline the personal connection impact factors that a carefully crafted story will activate:

  • It fills in personal gaps – Most likely they know you’re a financial advisor, that’s your profession. But without your story, they know little if anything about you on a personal level.  When a financial advisor tells his story, he instantly begins to build a personal connection.   

> Tip – think of something personal and interesting from your life before becoming a financial advisor.

  • You become more credible – The fact that you raised money for XYZ, or volunteered for ABC, or took care of your grandmother, handled your family’s finances, lost all of your money on some investment scam, or had your heart set on being a teacher, but you discovered advising people on their finances was still teaching and more rewarding – all of this gives context on you as a person.

> Tip – Real life experiences trump hyperbole and today’s affluent have a highly sensitive B.S. antenna.  Keep your story down to earth and it will define you, sincerity being a component of that definition.

  • Trust is developed – Whenever you reveal personal aspects of your life, you build trust.  By opening up to someone in conversation, it’s natural for the other person to open up to you. 

> Tip – It’s important to develop a rapport first by focusing on the other person, you never want to lead into a conversation with your story.  You share your story when you find the right moment.

  • Easy recall – Although Charlie has been reading my column in REP. for 20 years he’s now going to always remember my early career of counseling emotionally disturbed boys. 

> Tip – Less is more impactful.  Keep your story short as you can always fill in the details later.

I know what many of you are thinking.  Corporate executives, business owners, and physicians don’t care about your story.  That thinking is dead wrong!  The aforementioned don’t want the details of your investment philosophy; they’ve heard that pitch before. 

You can’t afford to NOT tell your story.  Take care in crafting it, let your skeletons out of the closet (nobody can connect with someone who claims perfection), practice it with people in your circle of trust, and enhance your connections. 


Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Centure Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.


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