Sep 01 2022 / Round the Table Magazine
3 tools to sharpen your persuasive edge
We are all storytellers. We process our world in story. We communicate in story. Storytelling is the No. 1 skill you can build that will set you apart from other advisors, and there are three public speaking tools that can help you get ahead.
We need these tools because ideas don’t sell themselves. As advisors, you offer valuable knowledge and information, but that doesn’t mean much if you cannot convince prospects and clients to act on the information you provide. Ideas need someone to advocate for them, and that role falls to you.
First tool: Types of stories
There are different types of stories you can tell. There are me stories about your own personal experiences, they stories, which can be your case studies or examples from other clients; and we stories, which are about how we, together, can create an insurance plan to protect you and your family.
Every great story has a structure. Good storytellers fit their presentation into a three-act structure:
- Act 1 is the setup — That’s what the world is like today for your clients. You describe the current situation.
- Act 2 is the conflict — What might happen if your clients are underinsured or if they don’t have a financial plan in place?
- Act 3 is the resolution — How will your financial plan resolve your clients’ problems mentioned in Act 2 and give them peace of mind so that everybody lives happily ever after?
Now that we have talked about storytelling as a concept, I’d like to offer two more specific communication tools that are actionable and effective.
Second tool: Present bigger to smaller
Communicate the big picture before the details. There is a famous example in neuroscience literature that reinforces the idea that remembering concepts and facts are easier when people are presented with the big picture. For example, if I give you a set of random words and asked you to remember those words, your brain will try to fit those words into patterns.
If I ask you to memorize words like sandals, raincoat, boots and umbrella, you might pair raincoat with umbrella or sandals with boots. Your brain is trying to figure out patterns. But what if I gave the hierarchical structure first? What if I started with a category like rain gear, which had umbrella, raincoat and boots? Then I gave you beach gear, which included sunglasses, swimsuit and sandals. Providing the big picture first makes remembering the rest of the words much easier.
Another tool that will help you communicate the big picture for your clients is called the log line. In a Hollywood pitch meeting, a screenwriter pitches an idea for a movie, typically to a producer or a studio executive, with a log line: In one sentence, what is your movie about? One of the greatest log lines ever was pitched by director Steven Spielberg. He walked into a studio executive office in 1975 and said, “I’ve got an idea. It’s a movie about a police chief with a phobia for open water who battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains.” The movie was “Jaws,” of course.
TED Talks have a log line of sorts. The conference asks its speakers to have one idea that they can talk about for the length of the presentation, usually 18 minutes or less. That one idea has to be specific and easy to remember. Speakers must focus on one big idea that they can say in a single sentence. It’s a good exercise. For example, can you tell me in a sentence or two what makes you different from other financial advisors? Every product you recommend should have a one- or two-sentence description. Can you express what it is and why it’s important for your clients? That’s the log line, and it is much easier for people not only to remember but to follow the rest of the discussion.
Here is one more tip. If you are presenting your recommendation virtually or with a visual aid like PowerPoint slides, your log line should appear as text on your slide. When you’ve decided what the key message you want to convey, that message and nothing else should be on the slide in text form. Then your listeners are not only hearing your log line, but they’re seeing that message too. It’ll be much more memorable and easier for them to recall and explain to a spouse or partner.
Third tool: Rule of three
Your key message is not your entire presentation. What are you going to do with the rest of it? One of the most powerful concepts for writing, speaking and delivering presentations is called the rule of three. A story should have a beginning, middle and end. In literature, we have “The Three Little Pigs,” “The Three Musketeers” and the genie who grants Aladdin three wishes. The rule of three is universal. Humans have a capacity to comprehend three and probably no more than four big ideas at a time. So, don’t bombard your clients with too much information. Keep it to the three details they need to know. Give people three benefits of an insurance plan you put together or three reasons to take your financial advice. Complex information requires simple communication, and the rule of three is a good way to keep it simple. Ask yourself, “What are my three supporting messages?” The main idea, which is the log line, should be followed by three or four supporting messages, such as three reasons to work with you or three benefits of a particular policy.
Your ideas matter. If you match the power of your communication with the power of your ideas through effective storytelling, you will stand out.