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How to Socially Prospect with Storytelling

Anyone can tell a story. But the best advisors tell stories with strategic intent.

“I’m in a number of affluent circles but I’m unsure how to broach the business conversation. I don’t want to ruin any relationships or come across as ‘salesy.’”

We hear variations of the above statement every week at Oechsli. Truthfully, there are a number of effective ways to transition social contacts into business ones without ruining relationships. However, the following strategy is one of my personal favorites. Why? Because it’s casual, conversational and comes down to telling more stories.

The idea is to catch your prospect’s attention by sharing a quick story or situation about an area that impacts your work. Imagine the following scenario: An advisor sits down for lunch with an old friend with whom they would like to do business. They both sit down and casually glance at the menu. The friend then asks, “How’s work going?” The advisor then shares a window into their work life by saying, “Things are going well. As you can imagine, we’re spending a lot of time with clients right now. I just got out of a meeting with a client who [insert story].”

Stories work the best when they are purposefully relatable. If you share a story about a business owner with a business owner, it forces them to reflect. Have I addressed that financial need? Has my advisor brought this up before? The same goes for physicians, executives, retirees or any other niche market.

Here’s a simple process to start incorporating stories into your prospecting.

Step 1: Catalog More Stories

With your target market in mind, make a list of client, prospect, and COI situations that you’ve experienced over the past year. Resist the urge to tell the same stories over and over. Think through the various issues, successes and concerns you encounter. The more stories you have in your back pocket, the better. By the way, there’s no need to create sensational stories. These need to be real-life, true and relatable.

Step 2: Practice Your Delivery

Your story needs to be easy to follow. No one wants to listen to someone drone on. Write out your story in a succinct manner and practice your delivery. Say your story out loud. Get clear on your main character (client), the challenge they faced, and how you helped them overcome it.

Step 3: Share Your Stories

With your stories in hand, start sharing them. The more you use them, the more your delivery will improve. Remember, the story needs to be pertinent to the person you are speaking with. For example, if you’re meeting with a widow you might use a story such as:

“I just met with a client … such a sweet lady. Her husband passed away 6 months ago and he’d been the one to manage their investments. We’ve spent a lot of time together working on…”

If you’re meeting with a business owner, you might use a story such as:

“We’ve been working recently with a business owner here in town. He’s built a great business, but never really stopped to think of his exit strategy. Fortunately, we’ve been down that path many times and helped him with…”

Step 4: Redirect the Conversation

If you’ve done a good job of selecting a story to which your social contact can relate, there’s a good chance they will ask some inquisitive follow-up questions. You’ll likely get comments like, “Do you do a lot of that?” “What happened?” “What did you recommend to them?” etc.

When these questions arise, answer and immediately segue the conversation to them personally with the objective of closing for a meeting. This doesn’t have to be long-winded. You could say, “We should probably get together more formally to talk more about your situation and how we might be able to help. Are you open to that?”

Anyone can tell a story. But the best advisors tell stories with strategic intent. What’s the best part of this approach? You don’t have to wait for your prospect to broach the conversation! Plan your stories and start sharing them.

Kevin Nichols is a partner with Oechsli, a firm that specializes in research, training and creative services for the financial services industry. @KevinANichols

TAGS: Marketing
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