Once upon a time, before you learned to be more objective, you thought you were important and that people around you were important. Chances are you asked questions that made people uncomfortable. To protect you from a life of narcisstic, emotional waywardness, you were sent to school to learn how to be useful.
You learned you aren’t important.
You are actually just a dot on a bell curve. If you are lucky, your dot was two standard deviations from the mean and you were deemed “gifted,” which is objectively very similar to being “important”. Later you learned that nothing is true if you can’t test it and prove it is true in repeated experiments.
Critical thinking, rational analysis, and objective thinking prepared you and your clients to put emotions aside and make better decisions.
Since then, making objective, unemotional decisions has served you well. You can prove things are true with cost/benefit analysis, models, and bar charts so your clients can see when you are “right” and know your recommendations are “right”.
However, being right has lost its luster. Like any good financial planner, you gathered data that proves being right doesn’t mean people listen to you. You may have even begun to suspect that everyone you work with is two standard deviations from the mean and not in the “gifted” direction. In fact, there seems to be no significant correlation between being right and creating compliance.
Like most of us educated in the 20th century, you’ve come to the conclusion that clear communications, objective thinking, and rational decision making has its limitations when applied to the unclear, subjective, and multirational (everyone has their own ratio these days) world. If you are ready to acknowledge the limitations of objective thinking you are also ready to entertain the idea that subjective thinking is not as irrelevant as you were taught.
As a financial planner you can observe that your clients insist upon behaving as if they are important and the people around them are important. They may say they think in objective, rational ways, but every important financial decision they make is based on interpreting objective data in terms of how it affects them and those they love.
Decisions are always subjective.
When you stimulate human emotions with a story, you point those emotions in a certain direction. At a social level, stories replicate the neurological effect of attention in our individual brains.
Somehow it is only in our roles as financial planners that we avoid using stories. This is unfortunate. When was the last time you heard a story used to introduce and discuss a business or a financial issue?
Storytelling is an undervalued and underused art in the world of financial planning.
By the nature of our profession, the financial planning business can be difficult to describe and to understand. So resistance is one likely reaction to an unfamiliar service. Therefore describing financial planning in a way that overcomes resistance is crucial.
Just as your financial planning software helps you to analyze the financial situation of your client, storytelling will help you effectively communicate what it is all about.
Good stories engage listeners, so the story is the ideal tool to prepare for an in-depth discussion of your financial planning service and it’s underlying importance of your client’s financial future. Storytelling takes advantage of the explanatory power of your financial planning service by suspending disbelief in the unfamiliar.
Although you might have the best financial planning service, you can have a tough time getting past layers of your client’s disbelief and finding your way into your client’s right brain. So effectively pitching your service to your clients is crucial. This is where stories can help. Ultimately, your client is interested in the benefits for themselves, but having the right story can win their attention.
A good story is a compelling way to quickly outline your service before getting caught up in the details.
Explaining your financial planning service is like explaining a painting with words alone.
But telling a story of how your service creates value is like applying bright colours to canvas. It makes things tangible.
Pitchting to clients
Financial planners often have to pitch their service to potential clients. That can be hard because you already know that clients stop listening how you are going to help your clients to achieve their goals.
What your clients want to know is: How will you create value for them?
That’s the perfect setting for a story. It’s the ideal way to introduce your service before getting into the details.
Telling a story that illustrates how your service solves your client’s problem is a clear way to introduce listeners to your service. Stories give you the “buy-in” needed to subsequently explain your service in detail.
People want a crystal clear understanding of your financial planning service and what it means for them. So, in short, you need to engage them. That is where traditionally PowerPoint presentations or ‘informational’ websites usually fail.
Introducing your service through an engaging story-based presentation (delivered with Prezi, drawings, videos or other techniques) is far more likely to connect with listeners. Capturing people’s attention and curiousity paves the way for indepth conversations of your clients wants and needs and how you can serve them.
Storytelling transports people to different points of view so they can reinterpret or reframe what your “facts” mean to them. Subjective point of view changes meaning. Meaning is more powerful than facts. If people fear the meaning of your facts, they can easily distort, discredit, or ignore them.
Likewise, if they like the meaning (subjectively) of your facts, they embrace, use, and even embellish your facts and numbers.
Actions result from the stories people tell themselves about what objective facts or numbers mean to them.
So yes, subjective reasoning can feel dangerous to financial planners because we are trained to believe emotions degrade decision making.
A blind man who could suddenly see would not poke his eyes out just because some of the things he saw were horrible.
Likewise, subjective thinking is simply a new channel of interpretation that will bring both good and bad news. Regardless, it brings you vital information you need if you want to overcome resistance when explaining your financial planning service.
What resistance do you experience when explaining your financial planning service?
Please, leave your answer here below in the comment field. Thank you very much. If you want to know how to tell the best stories, please read Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact by Annette Simmons. You won’t regret it.
Together we can make financial planning matter.
To your success,
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