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Situational Storytelling for Financial Advisors

Situational Storytelling for Financial Advisors

Atlanta:  “This might seem a bit ridiculous, but in social settings I’m often asked ‘How’s business?’ and I feel as though I’m missing an opportunity,” John whispered following my keynote, not wanting other financial advisors to hear.  He then continued by sharing his typical response, “I usually say, ‘things are great.’ But I know that sounds superficial as the conversation usually goes in a different direction.”

John needn’t have been whispering as I’d venture that a large percentage of financial advisors in the audience would admit to responding to that simple throw-away question in a similar vein.  Granted, it’s one of those stock questions people ask when they have nothing else to say – but with a little foresight and preparation, your response to this stock question can be easily reframed into an “I’m open for business” opportunity.

Tam Milton, one of our senior coaches is an expert at teaching advisors how to reframe these stock business questions with a story that paints a picture of a hard-working professional, whose clients are so pleased with the services they’re receiving that they’re continually referring people they know to them. 

So how does an advisor accomplish this?  With a carefully crafted story, that’s how.

Recently Tam sat in my office and shared a typical example of how a financial advisor he was coaching was able to successfully pull this off -- at his neighborhood holiday party.

“One of the advisor’s neighbors down the block, someone who he doesn’t know real well, asked ‘How’s business?’ Instead of his typical ‘great’ response, he told a story along the lines of ‘It’s a busy time of year, I conduct Family Finance Summits for my clients and their children – most come home during the holidays.  Just this past week, I was able to get a trust set up for a client that protects everyone from taxes – and now I’ve got two of the adult children wanting to meet with me while they’re in town.  Like I said, it’s busy – but a good busy.’” 

Tam was obviously paraphrasing because even though he helped this financial advisor craft his timely story, he wasn’t present to hear it being delivered.  But what he did hear was what transpired; his simple (carefully crafted) story grabbed this neighbor’s attention. He began asking questions about trusts, which created a window of opportunity that led to a quick a mini close.  The neighbor scheduled a time for he and his wife to meet in the financial advisor’s office.

There are countless opportunities to use a brief story to connect with a prospect, too many to cover in this format.  However, let me share with you some of the most common stock business questions financial advisors tend to get and would do well to have a personal situational story as a response.

  • How did you get into this business?
  • How do you feel about the markets / economy?
  • How’s business?


I can’t craft your personal stories.  This is something you must do.  And in point of fact, Tam didn’t craft the aforementioned story, he simply helped guide his coaching client in how to explain in a short and compelling manner what he was doing for clients during this time of year. 

The formula for crafting situational stories is actually fairly straightforward.  Essentially it has three parts, so you want to make certain each story is…

  1. Personal - Whether you got into the business because your Aunt Sally was taken advantage of by a rouge broker or you always had a fascination with how Wall Street worked as a child – the key is that it’s your story, situational to the question being asked.
  2. Brief – Less is more.  Nobody wants to listen to your life story or your theory on market volatility.  It’s essential to keep your stories short and to the point.  This usually requires a lot of editing and practice.  Financial advisors tend to talk too much.  Be brief.
  3. Compelling – Your objective is to redirect and grab their attention.  Don’t expect to get an appointment every time. Tam was sharing a success story, but you do want to firmly plant the seeds of professionalism, knowledge, client centric service, and that you’re accepting new clients.  The most compelling stories encompass all of this in a very  subtle manner.  As you practice your brevity, you’ll also want to fine-tune your messaging to ensure that you’re being subtle. 


The easiest way to begin crafting your story in response to stock business questions is to sit down with your spouse or significant other and work through one question and story response at a time.  Once you’ve crafted a story, you’ll want to role-play and make the necessary adjustments.   You can never have too many situational stories in your affluent sales tool box.


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

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