Leave a comment

The Experience Story: In Reverse

It’s no secret that telling a great story can help prospects better understand your recommendations. Story-based selling is the art of using metaphors, analogies or stories to do just that. However, what is little known is that you can have a similar effect when you set the stage by having a prospect share an experience about themselves or about someone they know who has used a particular product or service. Many times you get them to buy into the products or services you are about to recommend based on a story they have just shared with you, so that there is little need for you to go down the path of a typical closing. This process is a reversal of sorts as the standard practice is for advisers or agents to have to share their existing client’s experiences in order to “sell” to a prospective client. So I refer to this as “the experience story: in reverse.”

During a recent group coaching session on story-based selling, I had asked all the attendees if they told stories during their presentations to help close the sale. I had coached on this material dozens of times before, asking this question each time, but what was new that day was what one adviser said, “I don’t tell them stories but instead I have them tell me stories.”

She went on to explain that the reason she did this was so that the prospect could eventually tell her the benefits that the individual in their story received from having a product or service. Once that occurred, the prospect often came to the conclusion that they could also receive the exact same value. In other words, they sold themselves on why they should buy.

Let’s take a brief look at how this process works:

  • Uncover the Prospect’s Experience: It’s important to begin by asking a great question to identify if the prospect has any personal experience or has known anyone who has had an experience with what you are about to recommend. The key is not to formulate your question around the product or service but rather about a situation or scenario that would prompt the need for that product or service. An example of what NOT to ask would be, “Have you ever known anyone who had long-term care insurance?” However, DO inquire, “Have you ever known anyone who went into a nursing home or assisted living?” Remember to make this question common enough to ensure that they will have some type of a story to tell you.
  • Invite the Prospect to Share their Experience: Once the prospect answers your question, invite them to tell you more. Some examples of good “cue” questions would be, “Why did they go to the nursing home or assisted living in the first place? How long were they there? What do you think it cost them to stay there? How do you think they paid for it?” Make sure you sprinkle in these types of questions to more readily “cue” the prospect to share more of the story and create a strong dialogue.
  • Uncover the Benefits and Tell a Story: After you let their story unfold, it’s time to help them uncover the benefits of the product or service that you will be recommending. Use questions such as, “Do you know what it currently costs for one month in a nursing home or assisted living situation? What do you think it might cost in ten to fifteen years if you or a loved one would need to stay in one? How would you pay for it?” At this point, explain your own experience of helping a client who was in a similar situation and the recommendation you made to them. Here is an example of how to make a seamless transition, “I am here to help assist my clients so that don’t have to worry about the cost and here is why…” Then, explain the product or service and how it has helped your current clients.
  • Ask for the Order: All that is left to do at this point is to help them come to the conclusion that they can benefit from this product or service just like your existing clients. Simply, ask a question such as, “Based on what we just talked about, what do you think is the best course of action for you?”

Why the Prospect Will Buy
If you have followed these aforementioned steps, the prospect will typically come to the conclusion that they want to buy because they want the same benefits as your clients. You have strategically led them to uncover their own need(s). In this case that was to be financially prepared for either themselves or a family member to go into a nursing home or assisted living facility, as well as the solution, with this example, long-term care insurance.

If you read this article and would like helpful techniques about how to create your own experience story: in reverse, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com to schedule a free complimentary consultation with Dan Finley.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.


Daniel Finley presents an FPA webinar titled “Beyond the Production Plateau: The Solution to Your Business Evolution” from 2 to 3 p.m., EDT, June 8. Register for the webinar here

Leave a comment

FPA Retreat 2016: Thursday, April 28

The Wigwam Resort outside Phoenix, Ariz., welcomed Financial Planning Association members this week for FPA Retreat 2016. Below are photos from Thursday, April 28.

Did you miss Retreat this year, or just want to register for 2017 early? Join us next year at Château Élan in North Atlanta, Georgia April 24-27, 2017. Use the code PARET17 for $100 off if you register before May 31, 2016.

Leave a comment

Build Your Story’s Character

Ed SaxonMoney is emotional.

In fact, Academy Award-winning producer Ed Saxon said that the “e” in eMoney Advisor, the company sponsoring his talk at the Financial Planning Association’s Retreat 2016, is for “emotion.”

Saxon tells stories through movies—like Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia—for a living, and he says the mark of a good story is one that is emotional.

“I know I’ve succeeded if we’ve made people feel something,” Saxon told a room full of Retreat attendees at the Wigwam Resort Monday night.

As planners, you are uniquely positioned to move peoples’ emotional stories with money from the horror genre to a genre that evokes more positive feelings. The way to do that is to help eradicate the stereotype of financial planners, embrace technology to help clients feel more comfortable, and to help clients see that life is full of problems and we need to anticipate and address them.

Telling an effective story starts with developing the character: you. You have to “communicate the reality of your character by acknowledging the stereotype” of planners, Saxon said.

He said the public has misconceptions about planners—they see planners more as the glasses-wearing, number-crunching, people-avoiding CPAs or the money-grubbing, playboy types they see in movies. In reality, Saxon said, planners are more like the Star Wars Jedi master Obie-Wan Kenobi.

But your role is to tell that story—make your clients feel like they are your Luke Skywalker, arm them with the tools to slay their money problems.

One way to do this is to embrace technology. Know now that client relationships are no longer one-on-one, rather they are more like a pyramid, one point belonging to the client, one to technology and the last to you, the planner.

According to Saxon, there are five points to successfully collaborating with your team to tell the story that your clients will hear, that will help them feel welcome and empowered:

  1. Keep people safe. Try not to judge your clients, even if they make simple money mistakes. Start by praising the things they’re doing right and then move into discussing the changes they need to make.
  2. Treat problems like kids. There are always going to be problems, so don’t create a sense that everything is always going to go smoothly. Help the client to understand that there are going to be bumps but there is going to be a way forward.
  3. Be present in tough times. Let clients know things are going to be alright when the going gets tough.
  4. Encourage community. Create social situations that make your clients feel like they are part of your community. Show them who you are, let them show you who they are.
  5. Play! All of these things only work if you allow your clients to encourage their urge to play. For example, when they want to purchase a second summer home (and that may not be the best financial decision), say that’s a great idea, but gently suggest Airbnb.

Your story, Saxon said, “is no good unless you share it.”

Did you miss Retreat this year, or just want to register for 2017 early? Join us next year at Château Élan in North Atlanta, Georgia April 24-27, 2017. Use this code (PARET17) for $100 off if you register before May 31, 2016.


Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.