Welcome back to the 250th episode of the Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today's podcast is Deirdre Van Nest. Deirdre is the founder of Crazy Good Talks, a communication coaching firm that helps financial advisors be better communicators, in both private and public settings, in order to help their clients and prospects actually take that next desired step.
What's unique about Deirdre, though, is that she has developed a very specific process that she uses to teach advisors how to employ a variety of foundational stories that in turn lets them make a deeper connection with those they’re trying to reach and connect with.
In this episode, we talk in depth about why Deirdre feels that it’s less important for advisors to worry about whether or not the people they’re communicating with “get” what they’re saying (and how it’s far more important to focus on making an emotional connection instead), how Deirdre teaches financial advisors to take the technical body of content that every other advisor (as well as the public) has access to and present it in such a way that prospects will be more inclined to take a specific next action, and why Deirdre feels that every financial advisor can learn to be a highly effective and emotionally compelling communicator, even for advisors for whom public communication doesn’t come naturally.
We also talk about the key question that Deirdre recommends that advisors should ask in the first 30 minutes of a prospect meeting in order to get, as she puts it, “into their hearts instead of their heads”, why, after getting the answer to that question, advisors should avoid showing prospects how they can solve whatever issue it is that a prospect is dealing with and instead use that opportunity to create empathy by sharing one of their own foundational Why, Desire, or Teaching stories, and why Deirdre believes that advisors who truly feel that the service they’re offering is in the best interest of the people they work for have a duty to learn how to be as persuasive, inspiring, and compelling as possible.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Deirdre shares how advisors can make the intangible service they offer more tangible in the eyes of prospects by emphasizing (and even naming) their planning process (rather than focusing on their service alone), the key mindset shift that Deirdre made in prospect meetings that helped her focus on simply helping the person she was meeting with rather than feeling pressured to do everything perfectly in order to close the sale, and why Deirdre feels it’s so important for advisors to look at their words, message, and stories as business assets that they need to invest their time and efforts into over time.
And so with that introduction, I hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast, with Deirdre Van Nest.
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Deirdre Van Nest
- Crazy Good Talks
- Crazy Good Talks Podcast
- Desire Story Template
- The Pocket Guide to Sales for Financial Advisors by Beverly Flaxington
- Lisa Sasevich
Michael: Welcome, Deirdre Van Nest, to the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Deirdre: Oh, thank you, Michael. I was thrilled when I got your email inviting me to be on your show.
Michael: Absolutely. I'm really looking forward to today's episode and talking about what I think is a really common dynamic and challenge out there in our advisor world and I think particularly amongst, I would say, the listenership to the Advisor Success podcast, which tends to be an advisor audience that takes their career of being an advisor maybe a little bit more seriously than the average advisor. Spends a little more time reinvesting in themselves and their expertise and their knowledge and their capability for clients, and gets that point that, I think, you characterize very well. And just knowing a bit about your work and what you do and even how you promote some of your work on your website, that there are a lot of advisors out there who are, I think, as you put it, A-plus professionals and B-minus speakers.
Michael: And if that's you, this is getting to be a tough world. Because I think particularly in our financial advisor world, clients do not have a lot to go on when they're trying to figure out who's a good advisor and who's not. Financial planning is a very intangible service, you don't really know its benefit after you've been through it, you often don't know who's good or not after you've already gone through the process with them, which means clients really have painfully little to go on to figure out who's a good advisor or not. Which means right or wrong, most people place a...or most clients or most prospects place an irrationally heavy weighting on your sheer speaking and communication skills. When we communicate well and confidently, people tend to presume we're pretty good at what we do.
When we don't communicate very confidently and we're not a good speaker, unfortunately, people tend to presume we're not very good at what we do. And so, I've long been fascinated with the work you do with advisors around speaking, around communication skills, and around this phenomenon that how we speak and communicate is literally becoming a proxy for how clients assess our competency and our skills as a professional. Which means, I guess, as you put it, being an A-plus professional and B-minus speaker is kind of a problem in today's world.
Deirdre: Yeah, and the problem is that gap really needs to be filled because for right or wrong...here's the good news, you can be not so great but if you're a really great communicator, people will think you're better than you are and you will get opportunities that other people won't. The flip side is I think that many people, especially in this industry, are really good and your listeners, in particular, are really good at what they do and they're probably not getting the credit for it right out the chute because they might not be speaking and writing. So, Michael, I also talk about writing skills. A lot of being a good speaker is actually knowing how to write a great presentation and then that also goes to knowing how to write, say, copy for your LinkedIn page or for your website or even social media posts. A lot of your listeners may not be getting credit "for how skilled they are" because they haven't really focused on up-leveling their communication skills.
What Deirdre Mean By Up-Leveling Communication Skills [06:00]
Michael: So, I'd love to just dive into that a little bit more of just what does it mean when we talk about up-leveling our communication skills? I feel like the default for most of us is something to the effect of, "I talk to my clients, I explained concepts, I educate them on financial issues, they seem to get it, we're doing okay, I give them advice and they take it for the most part." Granted, public speaking, I think in particular is a unique fear for a lot of people, just the whole phenomenon of being up on a podium. But short of public speaking, which maybe we'll come back to in a moment, I feel like this discussion is at in even more general level around just communication skills. And at least I'd like to think...a lot of us don't necessarily think we're that bad at communication. Are we actually that bad if we don't realize it or is this more a function of what you do in a one-to-one meeting with a client is not the same as what you need to do to connect with prospects and show your competency to grow your business?
Deirdre: No, here's what it is. And you said something, you actually said kind of the key. So, I think for your listeners, if you're listening to this, I might say something now that is the most important thing I'm going to say the entire interview. We'll see, we'll see what else you ask me. But here's the issue is that most advisors when they're communicating, whether it's one on one or in a group, whether it's on video, whatever mode they're communicating in, they are focused on making sure their listener or their reader gets what they're saying. And where you also need to be focusing, if not more than, "I'm making sure people get it," Michael, you have to make sure they feel it. That's the problem.
Michael: Okay. So, help me understand that a little bit more. What does that mean, at the end of the day, "Make sure they feel it?"
Deirdre: Yeah, so let me give you...okay, I'm going to say two words and then I want to give you an analogy.
Deirdre: So, the two words are “emotional connection”. You have to make an emotional connection with your listener or your reader. And the reason why is...back from Sales 101, people buy first on what?
Michael: On our emotions, we buy how we feel, and then we usually rationalize after the fact why we bought but that's not actually why we bought. I didn't buy because I actually think their services are the best. I bought because I liked them and then I justify it by deciding that I think they must have good services.
Deirdre: Exactly. But what we tend to do, and particularly in this industry, is we focus so heavily on information logic and technical content, and we discount the fact that we're actually talking to human beings who are wired to make decisions based on emotions and then back it up with logic. And so, that's why this focusing on how someone feels when they're listening to you or reading what it is you're putting out there is so critically important. So, let me give you this analogy. I'm a real estate investor. And so, the real estate industry has this concept “locked and loaded”. So, let's pretend, Michael, you and I are going...we're going shopping for a new home. Okay? And there are two homes. We're driving around...let's say, I'm your realtor, I'm driving you around. And your wife is Ellie, I think. Is that her name?
Michael: Yes, yes, my wife is Ellie.
Deirdre: All right, so I'm driving you and Ellie around and I said, "Okay, there's two houses for sale. They're in the same exact neighborhood, they're on for the same price, and they're the same inside, the footprint inside is exactly the same." Okay? One of them, we drive by one of them, the outside hasn't been touched in 30 years. Okay? We drive by the second one and that one has new paint, it's got window boxes, it's got a beautiful teak new front door with a nice chandelier kind of lantern out front. Which one are you likely to want to put an offer in on?
Michael: The one that's dressed up well.
Deirdre: Yeah, the one that has the curb appeal.
Deirdre: Right? So, what advisors are not doing? They are not packaging their information with curb appeal. And that's what I help them do, I teach them how do we take this technical body of content that every other advisor has access to...I mean, a lot of consumers have access to some of the same information advisors have access to. And so, how do we take that same footprint so you all don't sound the same? Right? And how do we dress that up with curb appeal so not only are people getting it, but more importantly, they're feeling what you're saying so that they want to take a specific action with you? Does that make sense?
Michael: It does. It strikes me in a couple of ways, though. First, I do feel like there's been this pressure for a lot of us as advisors these days. So, certainly, I think we're all feeling more and more of that pain of differentiation and how do you distinguish and stand out. And I feel like the trend for a lot of the industry in the past few years has been, "My advice is more customized, is more comprehensive, I'm comprehensive-r than everybody else, I'm a great advisor because I can find not just 18 recommendations, but 23 ways that your life is wrong and I will make it better." And the plans get bigger and the stuff gets more complex and we're trying to demonstrate more expertise, more capabilities, more service. I joked about this but I've been doing a survey for years of advisors of how do you differentiate from other advisors. And pretty consistently, every time we do the survey, about 70% of advisors differentiate on their above-average client service, which literally mathematically impossible for 70% of advisors to be above average on client service.
I think we're all collectively struggling with, "How do you stand out?" And I guess there's sort of two roads that you can go down when you get to that moment. One is, "Well, I'm going to find some other more compelling, more differenter or more comprehensiver or more expert or whatever it is way to differentiate." And the other that I think perhaps sometimes we discount too often as advisors is, "Oh, you just get better at improving the curb appeal so that when clients maybe aren't sure which advisor to choose, you're just going to win because you're doing a more polished job doing the same awesome thing that okay, maybe another advisor can do as well because it's hard to differentiate." But if you are better at communicating that value and making the connection with the prospect, you still win the business and you're the one that gets to grow and that's not a bad way to grow and be more successful.
Deirdre: No, you're absolutely right. May I share...that brings up a client story, may I share an example of that in action?
Deirdre: Okay, one of the things...I just want to take a step back, one of the things that I do want to say is that you have some listeners that are thinking right now, "This is just not my bag, I'm just not good at this." "Particularly when it comes to presenting skills, that's just not me, I could never be good at that." And I want to tell you that you're wrong if you're thinking that about yourself. I used to think that being a good communicator and a good presenter was something that was innate, you're either born with it or you're not. And what I've learned over the years and I think this is great news for all of us is that it's actually a learned skill. So, yes, will some people have a more natural ability? Just like in athletics, right? Some people are born with more natural ability, but I can promise you, the natural athlete who never trains can be surpassed by maybe the average athlete who trains. Would you agree with that, Michael?
Deirdre: Okay. So, it's the same, it's the same. And what's great is there's actually a science behind becoming an emotionally compelling communicator. It is not something that you have to have in order to get good at it. So, I just want to level the playing field, everybody can excel here.
And so, with that for the backdrop, several years ago, I had a client named Bob. And Bob came to me because he realized that he was in a position where he had kind of hit the ceiling, Michael, of what he could do growing through other means, right? He had been in the business for 30 years, he was successful, but he wanted to get to the next level and he said, "Deirdre, I know that I tend to not communicate as maybe excitedly as I could, right? I'm not as engaging as I could be as a communicator." And so, this was a frontier that he wanted to work on. And I don't mean any offense if there's any accountants in the room or if there's any accountants listening, but Bob sort of have that stereotypical accountant personality, right?
Michael: I think we can all...no offense to any accountants, I think we can all visualize what we're talking about here.
Deirdre: So, a little drier, a little very technical, not as much emphasis on words and facial expression. And I tell you this because it's so exciting what happened with Bob. Okay, so Bob and I work on his presenting skills and his communicating skills. And about six months into our work, I get this call from him, and he says, "Dierdre, I have an opportunity," he called it an audition, "To audition for business." And he said, "This board of realtors in my local area," and he was in Colorado, "Picked me and two other advisors and they narrowed it down to the three of us and one of us is going to be their advisor of records." So, it's the advisor for the brokerage, like the real estate brokerage company. Okay? And then, if they liked that advisor, they were going to let their 10,000 realtors know who their advisor was. So, that's a big deal.
So, he says, "I want to win this business, I want to nail this "audition" and what the audition was, was a 20-minute presentation. Each of these three finalists was going to give a 20-minute presentation, and from that, they were going to decide who was going to get the business. Now, I told you about kind of Bob's demeanor. And I tell you that because I want you to see that he wouldn't be like the natural winner, right? Michael, you wouldn't think of that as being like the natural winner going against two other speakers. And so, we work on the presentation, and I get a call from him a couple of months later and he said, "Dierdre, I got the business. Before I even got back to the office, the chairman of the board had left a voice mail saying, "We unanimously decided to go with you."
And after we got done celebrating, I was like, "Okay, why do you think you got it?" And he's like, "It was my presentation." And I said, "Well, what specifically about the presentation do you think really clinched it for you?" And he said, "It was the way I opened, I had their attention from the very first words out of my mouth, and I made that emotional connection." And so, if you're listening and you're thinking, "What's the magic bullet?" I think we always want that magic bullet. This is the magic bullet. And I won't say it's a magic bullet because it does take work, but this is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself. When I work with clients, my goal is that, "No other advisor will ever outspeak you." And that's what happened to Bob, they couldn't outspeak him.
Things Advisors Can Do To Make An Emotional Connection With Their Audience [16:49]
Michael: So, can you connect for us a little bit more, though? I hear the statement of making emotional connection, but what does that mean? I'm just envisioning the average approach of sitting down with a prospect and saying, "Tell me a little bit more about yourself, what brings you to come to our office to talk to us today?" I feel like a lot of us tried to spend some time from the start building rapport with clients, asking them more about their situation, their circumstances. As the saying always goes, the more the prospect is talking in the first meeting, the more likely it is they are to become a client because they'll get to talk and feel heard. But I feel like you're still talking about something that is at a different level or a different focus or different style than that. So, can you help us understand more what's the emotional connection part of that that we're not getting to by at least trying to ask some reasonably productive questions of prospects to get to know them?
Deirdre: I love this and I love that we have time because I love to break this down into several different parts if that's okay?
Michael: Please, please.
Deirdre: Okay, so let's go for the first part. Let's go with kind of the opening of the meeting, okay? So, the first, let's say, 20 to 30 minutes of your initial meeting with a prospect should be...your sole focus should be on making that emotional connection so that you can build trust and likability. So, let's say you're in a meeting and whether this is virtual...and if it's virtual, you've really got to...you've got to study these skills even more because it's harder to make that connection across a tech platform. But everything I'm about to share can be used virtually and can be used in a one-on-one live situation. So, let's say you sit down and you kind of have your nicey-nice chitchat, right? Just kind of the stuff you and I did before we started the podcast, right? "Where are you from?" Whatever it is. Then it's time for you to kind of move into the official meeting. So, the first thing you want to do is ask the question. Unfortunately, many advisors are asking questions that keep the prospect in their head, not get them in their heart. So, they might say something like, "What do you want to accomplish today?" Or, "Have you ever worked with a financial advisor?" Or, "What brings you here today?" Right?
And then this gets the prospect thinking about the answers to those questions and not necessarily feeling into the answers of those questions. So, I want to share a question that I learned from my mentor over a decade ago that I use when we are kind of welcoming prospects and advisors into our business, and that I teach my advisor clients to use that's been very successful to do three things. It gets people into their hearts, it gets them exposing their gap to you right away, and it gives you an opportunity to empathize and your ability to empathize with your client goes a long way to building trust. So, the question that I recommend you ask at the beginning of every client meeting with a new prospect is, "What made you want to invest the time to talk with me today?" I'll say it again, I'll say it again, "What made you want to invest the time to talk with me today?"
Michael: Okay. So, the distinction here from even kind of the earlier like, "What brings you to our office today?" is now we're actually a little bit less...we're a little about less into the "What's the issue?" And we're actually...this angles a little bit more of what's the motivator.
Deirdre: Yes, exactly.
Michael: There is like, "Why are you here?" "We need to decide whether we can afford to retire." "What made you invest the time to talk with me today?" "My wife said we need to come in." It's like cool, okay, that completely changes the tone of the conversation having heard that because I've heard that before as I'm sure a few other advisors have as well. So, yeah, just kind of thinking through and processing that, I get it, "What made you want to invest the time to talk with me today?" starts to change the tone of the conversation because we're actually getting...we're getting one step removed from the thing, the issue, the topic, the technical challenge, the financial issue, whatever it is. And we're one step closer to the motivator or the driver, the thing that gets someone to actually say, "Today is the day I'm going to go meet with a financial advisor and find one, but I didn't do that yesterday or I didn't do that the month before." Which means something's going on and the faster you can get to that, the more you can make a connection around that.
Deirdre: That's exactly it, Michael. It definitely lends itself to people really opening up what's going on for them. And I think we can all agree that 99% of people come to see a financial advisor because there's some sort of triggering event. Now, it might be a very small trigger, but it might be a big trigger. And the sooner you can find that trigger and that they reveal that to you, the quicker you can start to build that trust and kind of move things in the direction that you want to be.
Michael: And so, I'm just presuming whatever response I get to that, I'm just now going to get the opportunity to say, "Tell me more about that, tell me more about that," and just, I guess, start asking follow-up questions and going deeper down this road?
Deirdre: Yeah, so you start going...just like you would normally do, you're going to go deeper down that road, you're going to dig and get very specific, right? And you're going to find what we have found...and again, this is a question that we've asked hundreds of our advisor prospects. Oh, my gosh, Michael, sometimes you're like, "Okay, we got to move along here." You get a lot. It's not very often that people get asked like, "What's going on in your life?" And have an actual place to talk about it.
Michael: And feel like someone is genuinely going to listen. Yep.
Deirdre: Exactly. So, this is actually a really big gift that you're giving them. So, that's piece one. And then I purposely use the word invest because I do want to set up this sort of subconscious understanding that they are investing something right now. And obviously, that's what we want them to keep doing. Does that make sense? Rather than, "What made you want to spend the time talking with me today?" "What made you want to invest your time talking with me today?" That word is very strategically placed.
Deirdre: Okay, so then we get to part two. So then what happens is you have a prospect who is sharing with you their hopes, their dreams, their challenges, their concerns, and you as an advisor know that you can help them solve these problems. So, after you feel like they're sort of done, right, giving you what you need to help them, at least for that meeting, Michael, what's the tendency for most advisors to do next? What are they going to jump into usually?
Michael: "Oh, let me tell you how I can solve and fix all that for you."
Deirdre: Yes, yes.
Michael: "For the low, low price of 1% of your available investable assets."
Deirdre: Yes, exactly. So, your tendency is to sell. Even though you think you're being helpful and providing solution, you're not actually right there. You're actually selling because you've missed a really key point, a really, really key opportunity. And what you've missed there is the opportunity to show empathy. And the way that you're going to show empathy is by sharing a very specific type of story. And so, in my world, at Crazy Good Talks, there are three stories we believe every advisor has to be equipped with. The first is what I call your Why story. And Michael, we can get back to this because this is actually really an important differentiator. Your Why story is why you do what you do and why you care about the person sitting across from you or the audience or the people reading your book.
The second type of story...and this is the type of story that you're going to actually use in this scenario right now. The second type of story is what I call your Desire story. Your Desire story is typically a story about a client who is similar to your prospect and has gotten the same great similar results that your prospect wants. And I call it a Desire story because you're telling the story, yes, to empathize, but also to create desire in the hearts and minds of the listener for those same results. And a Desire story is the perfect way to sell yourself without you even smelling like you're being salesy because you're just sharing a story.
Michael: Simply demonstrating like, "Yeah, funny thing, I had another client I worked with recently who had a very similar problem, and here's ultimately what we did and she really wants me to do the exact same thing for you." Except, I have to say the last part.
Deirdre: Exactly. Right, so if you think back to the story that I shared about Bob, I share that strategically. That's a desire story. I share that story, one, because I wanted your listeners to know, hey, you don't have to be born great at this. And if you're struggling and you're like, "Oh, I don't know if that could be me," no, no, you absolutely can. I'm empathizing with the person who feels like that can't be them. I also want you to understand that I can help you and if you take my advice, you're going to move the needle on your communication skills. And so, right there, I was selling my services and my products without sounding salesy. Does that make sense?
Deirdre: Okay, so that was an example of how you would use that. And then the third type of story...and these are the stories that I think most advisors are very familiar with. When advisors are told, "Tell stories, tell stories, tell stories," this is the kind of story they think they should always be telling because no one else has told them the types of stories they should tell, is a story or an analogy to make a point. So, you're teaching something, you're teaching a concept, you're teaching about compound interest or inflation, or whatever it is, and you use a story to break down the content or use a story so that the content is more memorable. So, that's the third type of story.
So, in this situation, you're going to ask the question, "What made you want to invest the time to talk with me today?" They're going to open up, they're going to share what's going on in their life, you're going to probe, you're going to ask deeper questions, you're going to know that you can help them and you're going to bite your tongue, you're going to step on your foot, you're going to do whatever you have to do, you're not going to go into your laundry list of how you're going to help them. You're first going to say, "You know what? I can understand what you're saying. In fact, what you're saying really reminds me of my client, so and so. When so and so when I first met, this is where they were, fast forward to today." And I'm simplifying this storytelling structure because there are some steps to it. But basically, it's like the before and after, right? This is where they were, things were not great. Fast forward to today, here's where they are, things are really, really good. And how did this happen? It happened because they went through our XYZ proprietary process.
Michael: So, I do have a couple of questions right on this. So, I'm just sort of thinking like trying to do this or trying to do this on the fly. So, A, do I need to start worrying about client privacy, client confidentiality as I start telling the stories about my other clients? Or just as long as I only use their first name and make their company generic ABC and not actually where they worked, then I'm in the clear? How specific am I supposed to get here without breaching confidentiality all that fun stuff?
Deirdre: Yeah. So, there's a couple of answers. So, I have advisor clients that will go back to their clients and say, "Can I share the story?" And if the client has said, "Yes, absolutely," then you can share what they have given you permission to share. So, that's option one. Option two is you change anything that's identifying. So, I would definitely change their names, I would not use their real names. And if someone...and especially if it's a small town, if let's say it was a woman, change them to a man, if they were a dentist, maybe they're a...I don't know, an executive somewhere. Right? So, the story has to be true...what happened in the story has to be true, but the material facts about the character do not necessarily have to be accurate to protect client confidentiality.
Michael: Okay. So then, the next question I sort of inevitably have is, "What if I don't have a client that is a similar story to the person I'm sitting across from? I get it if I'm specialized in retirement and all my clients are retirees and at some point, most clients have kind of similar retirement stories and there's a fairly similar set of issues. So, at some point, almost everybody I sit across from is just kind of rhyming similarly to a prior scenario, but that that doesn't always happen. I feel like particularly for some of our best or biggest prospects, if you're breaking into a new market or a new opportunity, I may never have had someone in quite the same situation. I can certainly come up with the "hypothetical" story of a client because I want to illustrate my point but I may not have a true story of another client that I've handled in the same situation.
Deirdre: No, that's great. So, there's a couple of options there. I think you will find the majority of the time, it doesn't have to fit exactly. So, I think you will find the majority of the time in many situations, if you...especially if you are relating it to financial planning in general. So, I think for most clients, you can probably relate whatever it is that's going on to good financial planning in general. Right? So, that can always be your fallback.
Michael: So, I've got a generic story of the client I work with who blew up their portfolio in 2000 and again in 2008, so they eventually decided to work with me and then they wonderfully navigated the pandemic because I talked them off the ledge. And that just sort of my generic story for any client who comes in who's having anxiety about market volatility, even though it might not quite be the same situation and they weren't the business owner you are or the inheritor you are or the retiree transition you are. You're here because you tend to blow yourself up with your money and I got stories of people who don't blow themselves up with their money once they work with me.
Deirdre: Yeah, absolutely. And so, even though I say there's three stories every advisor should have, each advisor should have multiple stories of each of those three stories. Does that make sense?
Michael: Because I was going to say it feels then in practice, I'm probably going to end out with a couple of different go-to Desire stories for the common thing. I got my transition into retirement and uncertain about their lives story, I've got my business owner liquidity event and doesn't know what's next story, I've got my client who blows themselves up when markets get volatile and how I talk people off the ledge story. And I'll have three or four of these for the scenarios that crop up most often with my clientele and by then, I got my desire story for almost every prospect I'm going to sit across from.
Deirdre: Yes, absolutely. You got it. You got it.
Deirdre: Okay? Do you have anything else before I go on to the next part of this? I feel like...
Michael: No, no, I think that helps. So, if I'm just kind of thinking through, so I've kicked off with my, "What made you invest the time to talk with me today?" They're going to talk about a problem and probably more importantly a motivator and what's driving them to action. I'm doing some follow-up questions there and trying to get them to just tell me more. And then at some point, I'm going to transition to the next stage here which is the, "What you're describing reminds me a lot of Client Bob that I've worked with for many years, Bob was dot-dot-dot," and off I go now down to my story. So, I guess just remind me once more before we move on to the next section, where am I wrapping this story, right? Because I could sort of wrap this story with like, "And we all lived happily ever after," I can wrap this story with, "And then Bob became my client and we did all this awesome stuff because I'm totally awesome and now I'm going to show you how awesome I am."
Deirdre: And that is so not where you're going.
Michael: Yeah, where does this story ends so I don't maybe get a little too far back into, "But I really just want to show you how awesome I am so you'll work with me?"
Deirdre: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. Okay, so where does this go...
Michael: So, where do I have to rein myself in on this story so I don't blow too far past?
The “Then, Now, How” Storytelling Framework [32:48]
Deirdre: Yeah, so this particular storytelling type has a framework called the “Then, Now, How” storytelling framework. Okay? So, you have to imagine the story as if it's in three separate parts or three separate buckets. Advisors do a lot of illustrations with buckets, so I think buckets might relate here, okay? So, we've got three buckets, so we've got the then bucket and in the then bucket, you're going to give some details and you're going to give some emotions about how the character was feeling before they worked with you. When they came in, what was the problem? Right? And what were some of the things they were saying to you?
Michael: So, Bob had come in because he was really struggling with retirement, he's made a few bad investment decisions over the years, he felt awful after they sold out at the bottom of the financial crisis and he didn't participate in that recovery. Actually, it even really stressed his marriage because they had to work longer and his wife held a grudge about it for a really long time. It was really awkward for them as a couple because it's really stressful if you're the one who's responsible for money in the family and you actually make a bad decision in the markets.
Deirdre: Yes, and one of the things that Bob said to me...and you always want to add some dialogue from the client. One of the things that Bob said to me is, "Michael, I literally lie awake for an hour every night, I cannot fall asleep because my mind is racing because I'm so stressed out about money." So, you got to give us some emotion, you can't just...one of the things that I find advisors doing when they tell stories is they narrate the story and they're just going down the facts of the story. That's better than not telling a story, but it's not really telling a story. You have to actually give some emotions and let us get a feeling for who that character is. You've got to see the character's humanity.
Michael: So, that's the big piece of like, "And Bob said to me, "I'm up at night, I can't even sleep because I'm so stressed about the money now and the fact that we've had to work three extra years to make up for the fact that I panicked in the financial crisis."
Deirdre: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So, that's the “then” bucket and the only thing that goes in the “then” bucket is the “then”. You don't want to talk about the now or the how. You have to think of these as three totally separate buckets. Okay? So then, the way that you move them to today or last year or whenever that you're talking about the now is you would just simply say, "Fast forward." So, you might start the story by saying, "That reminds me of my client, Bob. Five years ago, Bob and his wife, Sally, came in and sat down in those very chairs. And I'll never forget the look on Bob's face, it was one of total discouragement and Sally looked angry." Right? "And as we get to talking, Bob says to me, "Basically, I'm here because I am so stressed out about money, I cannot even sleep at night, and here's why." And then you go through a couple of those details that you talked about, Michael. Right?
Then you'd say, "Fast forward three years later," or, "Fast forward to today," if this just changed recently, okay? So, let's just say fast forward three years later, "Fast forward three years later, I have a meeting with Bob and Sally, they come in, they sit down, they are grinning from ear to ear. In fact, they're holding hands and they look like newlyweds. And I said, "So what's going on? Life looks really good for you." And Sally is like, "Oh, my gosh, we just came back from the best vacation." And then Bob said, "I'm actually sleeping better at night," blah-blah-blah, and then you talk a little bit about where they are now. Okay? So now, now, the key thing here...and this is the mistake that a lot of advisors make is what they want to do in the now is they want to insert themselves and they want to insert themselves. You are only a guide and an observer at this point in the story, you are not the solution. In fact, if I can even smell that you were the solution, you're selling.
Michael: Okay, so I got to resist the temptation, "Fast forward three years later and we'd made a bunch of changes in Bob and Sally's portfolio and then they came back in and they were grinning ear to ear holding hands looking like newlyweds." I got that "I made changes to their portfolio" thing in there and now I've tainted my story because everything is about how great this is going because of my portfolio changes.
Deirdre: One hundred percent, you have totally tainted...I love how you just said that, it's like such a great way to say that, you have totally tainted your story. Or you'll say something like, "So in our meetings together, we discovered that blah-blah-blah." No.
Michael: Right, "We discovered that they weren't well-diversified, so we help them make changes on the spot, fast forward three years later and they were grinning ear to ear," but I've inserted myself in the story, which now basically means everything that's happening is just really about how awesome I was.
Deirdre: Exactly. And it's not time yet for that, we're not there...we're totally not there yet. So, you have to resist that and again, you're just the observer, you're just reporting on what you saw and what you experienced. And I can give...when I'm done explaining this, I think it might help if I share one of my stories, Michael, because I think this will actually clearly demonstrate...you know what I mean? I think it'll have instead of talking in like generalities.
Deirdre: Okay. So then, what happens is you're going to tell the then and you're going to tell the now, and they're going to be looking at you and they're actually going to be really curious and they're going to be thinking, "Well, how did this happen?" And that's likely what they're thinking. Okay? So, again, this is...
Michael: Because I've kind of created a gap here of like, "Five years ago, Bob and Sally came in, I'll never forget the look on Bob's face, he was totally discouraged, Sally looked angry. He said, "I'm up at night and I can't sleep thinking about money." Fast forward three years later, and they came back into my office, they're grinning ear to ear holding hands looking like newlyweds. Sally said they came back from vacation. Bob says, "I'm sleeping better at night." So, I've now opened kind of a curiosity gap like, "What the heck happened in the three years?"
Deirdre: Exactly. So then you'd say something like...and I don't like to get overly prescriptive because I want people to be...you got to see what's natural to you, right? You don't want to sound made up. But you might say something like, "So, you might be wondering how this change happened," or you might say something like, "Pretty dramatic change, huh?" And they're going to be like, "Yeah." So, if you're wondering how this happened, you can do this one of two ways, Michael. You can say, "If you were to ask Bob and Sally, they would tell you it was implementing the Nerd's Eye View Blueprint." Okay? I'm naming a process for you.
Michael: Sure, sure.
Deirdre: Or you might say, "If you're wondering how this happened, it was learning the Nerd's Eye View Blueprint," or, "Applying the Nerd's Eye View Blueprint to their financial situation." And then you'd say something, "And that is the same exact process that I would take you through. Would you like?" And this is where you get permission now to "sell." "Would you like to walk through what that process looks like?"
Michael: For which, of course, the natural answer at this point is like, "Yes, I want to be happy like Bob and Sally, I want to know what you'd like. Okay, tell me more about the mystery magic." But that's the point, right? Now you've drawn me in, I'm like, "Okay, I'm on the edge of my seat, tell me what comes next in the story."
Deirdre: Exactly. And then if someone says, "No," well, then great, you just saved yourself another 45 minutes.
Michael: "No? Well, that's cool, thanks for coming in. Have a nice day."
Deirdre: Yeah, I once had something like that. Because this is the process we use when we do...we call our appointment strategy sessions. And the guy was like, "No," and I was like, "Well, okay, is there anything else I can do for you?" And he's like, "No," and I'm like, "All right, well, it's great to meet you. If you're interested in connecting, I'm here for you." It was like the weirdest...it was weird but okay, I was happy I got a half-hour of my life back and went on to do something else.
Michael: So, I do feel like I have to ask, though, I'm channeling my inner non-salesperson, my inner non-salesy person, that I still feel like as an advisor, this was kind of a setup, right? I knew where I was going with the story, I knew what we were coming down to, I'm setting it up to, "Would you like me to walk you through what that process looks like?" But that was the sale and I was leading them there with a progression where it was only going to end in one place. I'm asking your permission to be cordial but we all know I'm expecting you to say yes so that I can then begin talking about all the things that I actually do that are supposed to be so awesome because I'm going to sell you. I feel like there's sort of this giant lob of like, "So now I'm going to sell you things, okay?" Is that's how the game is played? That's how this is supposed to work? We need to accept that or say that that's okay, that's natural, or am I reading too much into it?
Deirdre: I think you're reading too much into it. But let me ask you this, what's the alternative?
Michael: Well, I just start talking about all the awesome things that we do and hope you realize I'm awesome and sign up.
Deirdre: Yeah, that's the thing. It's like you're having a meeting because you're hoping it's going to result in the prospect taking action to work with you. So, we can either do this in a way that's going to be engaging and in the best interest of the prospect, or we can do it in the way we've always done it, which can tend to be boring and not get you what you want and not really be in the best interest of the prospect.
Michael: Well, I find there's a...I love how you're framing that like, "Look, we're not trying to sell people something they don't want or need," right? There's a whole other version of pushy sales, which is not what we're trying to do here. But that doesn't mean you can't acknowledge along the way that this does still go better when you make it a more comfortable, natural, engaging, interesting journey for them. We all get it, they came to your office because they're here to learn about your services, and you took the meeting because you want to tell them about it and we all know that we're trying to figure out if we're going to get to doing business together at the end.
So, there is sort of this overarching pretense and context to the whole meeting that we all know why we're here, so let's get over that and then just say, "Okay, are we going to do this in an interesting, engaging way that makes people enjoy the journey and ultimately getting there and makes their decision-making process easier? Or are we going to just start hitting them with a whole bunch of facts and details and hope logic prevails?
Deirdre: And to me, I think that salesy. Here's the thing, I believe if you really believe...and most of the advisors...I mean I would say all the advisors I work with do believe this and I believe your listeners are this type of advisor, Michael. If you really believe that what you're offering is in the best interest of the person or persons sitting across from you, then I think you have an obligation to learn how to be as persuasive, inspiring, and compelling as possible. And let me tell you why. Let me just actually share a little bit of my story, if I could?
Deirdre: Okay. So, when I was 10 years old, my mom was killed in a car accident.
Michael: Oh, God.
Deirdre: Yeah. And this is actually my why of why I work in this industry. So, my dad, he almost died also. He didn't, thank God. He was out in the hospital for quite a while and out of work for many months. And other than my dad not dying, obviously, the only other silver lining in our story was that we were not impacted financially by my mom dying and my dad being out of work. We were a pretty broken family, Michael, you know? And I cannot imagine what it would have been like to heap financial devastation on top of our already really fragile, broken family. I don't know how people do it. And yet, you and I both know, there are so many people, countless people, that that happens to all the time. Right? Many Americans are one tragedy away from total financial devastation and they need the help of your listeners. So, if you're listening right now, they need your help. There are countless people in your community that need your help.
And what they need you to do, if you really believe in what you're doing, they need you to be compelling as a communicator, they need you to be inspiring and persuasive. And here's why, most people don't want to have these conversations. Most people would rather do a lot of other things than sit in your office and plan for the future or talk about, "What happens when I die or if I need long-term care?" Any of the other things that you are great at helping with. And so, the more compelling you are, the more you can tap into their emotions and get them feeling something, the greater the likelihood you can get people to have planning conversations and make planning decisions today that they would rather put off for someday. And I shudder to think about some of the people that have put it off for someday have had a situation like mine, and they've never come back from it.
Michael: I think to me, part of what that emphasizes is that, ironically, we know deep down as advisors in the work we do with clients, but sometimes...I'll just call it the non-sales-oriented advisor forgets or leaves behind the sales processes. Look, we've all had clients where they're not in a good place ane situation, they need to make changes. We know what they need to do. They know what they need to do. We told them what they need to do, they've heard what they need to do, and then they don't do it. And we have to nudge them or cajole them or convinced them or you do whatever it is we can to figure out how to get them over the line from knowing what to do to actually doing it because the knowing part alone isn't always enough.
And the same thing is true when the moment of change we're trying to create is not, "Get your will done," or, "Buy your long-term care insurance," or, "It's time to pull the trigger on retirement," or, "Stay in the market," or whatever those sort of client-level decisions are. The same thing crops up when it's, "You know you really need to stop doing all of this yourself and hire a professional to help you with it and I am the great professional that can solve all of that for you, but you still need to actually make a change and take action and do this, hopefully with me, hopefully, starting today." Right?
And even the same context, you can be the right answer, you can know you're the right answer, they can know you're the right answer, you still have to perhaps sell them to get them...to sell them, "sell them," sell them to get them to take action. And it's not because you're being salesy, it's just because human beings, even when they know what to do, sometimes need a little extra nudge or a gentle kick in the pants to move forward and take the action to do it. And if you don't, in the most positive way of ways, do those things to help get people across the line, there will be folks who absolutely need your help and know they need your help and would have readily pay for your help and are going to walk out your office without your help.
Deirdre: Exactly, and that's a tragedy and it could be a real tragedy waiting to happen. And that's why I...that's why I work in this industry.
The Importance Of Emphasizing The Process Versus The Person [46:41]
Michael: So, I'm building up this story, I'm kind of going through my then, now, how, I get to the...I guess what was sort of the culminating moments, which is, "Would you like to walk through what that process looks like?" Whatever, "My Nerd's Eye View process about how you can be financially awesome, would you like me to walk through that what that process looks like?" So, what comes next?
Deirdre: Yeah, and actually, we need to stop here because this is a really key point. So, the first thing is, notice how you didn't say, "Oh, I'm Michael, I'm awesome." You said, "The Nerd's Eye View Blueprint." Right?
Deirdre: So, you're not sitting there patting yourself on the back, which feels awkward and can sound arrogant and awkward.
Michael: It's not about me, it's about our process.
Deirdre: It's about your process and it needs to be about your process. And you said this in the opening of the podcast, about how advisors, you're offering something intangible, right? So when you're in a business that sells air, promises, dreams, you have to make what you have as tangible as possible and you do that by having a process. You also want to be able to show people something step by step because that makes it more tangible. And so, when you have a process, people aren't thinking, "Well, I hope I get Michael on a good day." It's like, "No, everybody gets this. This is how we do things." And so, when we're talking about differentiation, there's actually three main ways for an advisor to differentiate themselves. And I'll tell you...we can talk about the other two in a little bit. But one of the main ways is to have...and every advisor already has a process, but what you need to do if you haven't done it yet is you just need to call it something. So, your process is your way of doing business.
Michael: And I guess how fancy do I need to be or do I not need to be with this? You sort of said like the Nerd's Eye View Blueprint, like it's the name of my business and the word blueprints at the end. So, does that really cut it? The Smith Wealth Management blueprints? That's enough?
Deirdre: Yeah, what I would prefer when I'm working with my clients on...we call this your Crazy Good Signature System. So, when I'm working with my clients on naming and setting up their Crazy Good Signature System, sort of the best-case scenario is to name it a name that your clients want, so name it something outcome-driven. So, I'm making this up and obviously, you have to go...different companies have different levels of compliance. But if you know all your clients who come in and they sit down and they say, "I just want financial independence," it could be Financial Independence Roadmap. I had one client who specializes in working with women going through a divorce and I was like, "Michelle, what would a client say? What does everybody say when they sit down?" And they say, "I just want to move forward with my life." So, she was calling it the Move Forward with Your Life Blueprint. Right? Use their words.
Michael: So, you really can't be too on the nose with this because it's literally what they've said they want. Just call it that, don't get too caught up in your head. Okay.
Deirdre: Well, here's the other thing now, Michael. Sometimes I get clients who are stuck and they're like, "I can't come up with the name." I'm like, "You know what? Then just call it the Smith and Wesson", whatever you said, I'm sorry.
Michael: Smith Wealth Management.
Deirdre: Smith Wealth Management Roadmap. I'd rather you call it something imperfect than wait five months to find the perfect name. You'll get better results taking imperfect action and you can rename it later on.
Michael: So failing anything else and if you're stuck, Firm Name Blueprint or Firm Name Roadmap, you get a choice.
Deirdre: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Michael: That's the choice.
Deirdre: Yeah, exactly. So, when I started this part of my business, my speaking and presentation and communication program was called the Speak and Get Results Blueprint. And I liked that name, Michael, but I didn't love it. And it was that name from 2011 until, I think, 2015 when I landed on the Crazy Good Talks Blueprint, which I love, and then I rebranded everything. But I didn't wait, I would have waited four years.
Michael: Right, four years of not growing as well because you couldn't just talk about what you did.
Deirdre: Exactly, yes. And I'll talk about how fantastic the blueprint is all day long and the great results it gets, but I'm not going to be like, "Oh, I'm the best speaking coach and speaker and blah-blah-blah." No, right? Yuck.
Michael: Right. Because that's the whole point as you're articulating, right? I don't actually have to make a decision about whether I think you're a good speaker or coach, I have to look at your blueprint and decide if I believe the blueprint is a process that would get me an outcome, which is presumably going to be pretty straightforward because the process is probably going to be kind of self evidently useful at that point, right? We're going to teach you about talking and we're going to teach you about how to frame a script and we're going to teach you about how to have a good stage presence and whatever else it is. It's pretty straightforward to start saying steps of a process that are likely to be self-evident, "Yeah, that's probably going to be useful, that pretty much seems to cover what I would need."
Michael: But then my process basically sells itself because I've said I have a process, you have to evaluate the process. The way you're going to evaluate the process is to look at the steps of the process, which are going to pretty obviously pertain to what you do since that's the process. And now I'm just going to sell myself like, "Well, yeah, I guess those look like all the steps I would need to take, so let's go ahead and get started."
Deirdre: Yeah, and they know that you're the genius behind the process, that's not lost on people. So, don't worry, you're not getting left out. People sometimes worry like...sometimes advisors are like, "But I want them to know," I'm like, "They know, you don't have to tell them."
Michael: They are talking to you. And I guess, particularly for all those advisors where...it's the Smith Wealth Management Blueprint and you're Smith, they're going to figure out it was yours. Or maybe you didn't put your name and your firm name, but they're usually quite familiar that they're talking to the owner, founder, partner, key advisor, whatever it is, so they're going to figure out it's you. And I guess for those who maybe aren't in the owner, leader, founder position, I suppose this in many ways help helps more because you've got a thing of the firm that you can sell that represents the firm overall, so the pressure is off that you don't have to sell how super awesome, amazing, and special you are, although it's totally wonderful if you're super awesome, amazing, and special. It's just like, "It's the Financial Independence Roadmap, and you came to us for financial independence, why would you not want me to walk you through this process?"
Deirdre: Yes. And here's the thing, so you've got that, so now this is doing...this has done three things for you. Actually, four. So, first of all, the whole story allows you to show that empathy, right? It allows you to show the great results people get, but then it allows you to sort of tell about you without telling about you. And it shows this tangible process where your service before was completely intangible and then...but there's more, Michael, it sets you apart from every other advisor because I guarantee you, let's say they're going between you and somebody else, your competition doesn't have the blueprint or the roadmap.
And let me give you a story from my life. Now, I got a very compelling...this way, let's say...I didn't have any kids in college yet, so this was probably four years ago. My daughter was a sophomore in high school and now she's a sophomore in college. I get this very compelling invitation in the mail and I'm saying very compelling because usually, these are not very compelling, but this one was. An invitation from an advisor inviting me to a seminar about college planning. Okay? And I have never ever gone to one of those seminars that I randomly get in the mail ever. But I went to this one because I thought I needed to see the advisor who is behind putting this out, I was that impressed.
Now, I've been working...my husband and I have been working with our advisor Eric for a long time and we are 100% loyal to him. Okay? So, I didn't go thinking, "I'm going to switch advisors." That's not why I went, I wanted to see what this guy was doing. So, I go and I'm sitting in the audience and listening to the presentation and it's pretty good and blah-blah-blah. And all of a sudden, he talks about the College Planning Blueprint. And for the next 45 minutes, he references the College Planning Blueprint, he's like, "And this is step one, and step two, and five and eight." And I'm like...you know what's going through my head? And I know what he's doing, Michael, I teach this stuff.
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's like, "I know exactly what's coming in the sequence."
Deirdre: I know what's going on. But you know what I'm feeling in my heart? "Oh, my gosh, I got to call Eric tomorrow," Nope, I've got to text him right...no, I got to text him now and make sure he has the College Planning Blueprint. What if Eric does not have the College Planning Blueprint? He has never mentioned the College Planning Blueprint. We have two kids going into college, I need the College Planning Blueprint." That's what I was thinking. So then, I talked to Eric the next day, "Do you have the College Planning Blueprint?" He said, "What do you mean?" I was like, "Well, listen," and then he's like, "Well, yeah, we're going to take you through the steps." I'm like, "But you didn't tell me that and it's not packaged that way." And imagine if I was any old client and I didn't teach this and I also didn't know enough to be loyal, he might have won me over. Right?
Deirdre: So, that's what you can do when you start branding, I promise you, you will win business from your competitors. And as I was listening to your Bill Bachrach podcast, he was saying, "Steal or rescue clients." Right? From other advisors, because again, it's kind of like being a great speaker, you're going to be seen more put together and more competent. Okay.
The Other Two Ways Advisors Can Differentiate Themselves [55:53]
Michael: So, out of curiosity, I want to jump back to the sales process. But first, I'm wondering what are my other two ways to differentiate besides naming my process?
Deirdre: Oh, yeah, yeah. Of course, there are other two ways. And I'm going to add in a little bonus to this process that I just walked you through that's a bit controversial and it's not for the faint of heart. But man, if you want to add gasoline on everything, this will do it. So, the first is...the first way to differentiate yourself is that...and these are not in any specific order, okay? Is the process. The second is knowing, strategically crafting, and then sharing what I call your why story, telling people why you do what you do and why you care about them. Nobody else can have a why story like yours, nobody, nobody. That'll differentiate you. And then the third...and this is my one wish for this entire industry, Michael. If you were to say...and I might say this at the end when you asked me about success, right? If you were to say like, "If you had like one wish for the industry, what would it be?" And it would be that people in this industry would stop trying so hard to prove themselves and start being themselves.
Deirdre: The more you are yourself, the more you will attract the right clients to you. You will differentiate you by being you because people are buying you. And I've had to learn this too. Listen, I'm in a different business in the sense like what I do is different than you but I have to build my business exactly the same way that you...I have the same goals, the same challenges. And I don't say this lightly, "Stop trying to prove yourself and start being yourself," I learned through the school of hard knocks. It's taken me quite a long time to learn how to be myself. And it's really only been the last few years that I finally feel like I'm coming into my own and being myself. And I cannot tell you how much more enjoyable and how much more fun I'm having and how much easier it is to drive business and help more people and have a bigger impact on people's lives. It's very hard to be yourself. I know that's so...it counterintuitive, right?
Michael: I think the challenge is for so many of us is something in the fact of, look, I know I'm not for everyone, I'm not going to get along with everyone because just human beings are human beings, we don't get along with everyone, but I'm not exactly swimming in prospects and growth. So, I need to figure out how to stay middle of the road enough to be able to connect with almost anyone and not to piss off or upset anyone, right? So, never talk about politics or religion, middle of the road and everything, certain level of conservatism and dress, language, and anything and everything else just because we're trying to...there's a lot of pressure, I think, on advisors to just stay as the middle of the road as you can because you're never quite sure who you're talking to, what their context is, what their background is, and you don't want to step on a landmine and blow up an opportunity.
So, you don't, which means you usually inevitably end up cramming down a couple of parts of being ourselves because if we are ourselves, some people will like us and some people don't, right? That's just sort of the reality of life. But I think a lot of times we don't feel like we have that luxury when we're still growing the business, so I can't take the chance that I do my thing and someone doesn't like my thing so I'm going to be as kind of plain vanilla, middle of the road, relatively conservative, and all this stuff that I do but not too conservative, just so I can kind of thread that needle.
Deirdre: But you're a great example of that. We were talking about how your podcast crushes it and you've gone against every...anyone who's anyone in podcasting would tell you, "You're insane for doing a 90-minute podcast." It's insane. And you were like, "No, this is me, this is what I want to do and I'm doing it and..."
Michael: I like nerding out on things. I can't get anything done in five minutes, so we're just not going to do a short podcast.
Deirdre: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And you know what? It's exactly what you said but also, I think the industry has really, for many decades, was very much about being professional, and being professional meant not being human. Does that make sense?
Deirdre: And I think hopefully, you can be very professional and very human at the same time and that's the message I'm really trying to get across to people. And I think that the pandemic has actually helped people open up to that reality, which makes me really, really happy.
Michael: So now take me back into our sales process a little bit more. We've kind of set this up of like, "Would you like to walk through what that process looks like?" So, presumably, I've gone down the process road here for at least one of my differentiators. So, is there anything particular that just comes next in this journey as I'm setting up my crosswalk kind of set up to talk about my process? I'm talking about the Financial Independence Roadmap, the Move Forward with Your Life Blueprint, and just kind of walk them through. And then what?
Deirdre: Yeah, so I think your listeners probably have their way of doing that, so, again, I don't want to be overly prescriptive here. But I think, in general, you're going to kind of take them through it at a 60,000-foot view and find out where they have questions and you might pay particular attention to some areas of gaps that they've already identified. And then, from there, I always, when we're having a strategy session, ask the question that needs to be asked to move to the next step. Whether that's in some situations in my world, that's going to be like, "Hey, I would love to work with you and to help you hit those goals and I feel confident we can do that. Would you like to move forward?" Right?
Or if it's maybe a corporate situation I'm in where I know they're not ready to make a decision, it could be like, "You know what? Again, I would love to work with you, I would love to train your advisors, I feel really confident we can do great work together. "What's the next step we need to take to move towards that goal?" Right? So, just make sure you ask and being genuine. I mean, that's part of being yourself. For me, I'm like, "I would love it, this would be awesome, this would be exciting to help you." Right? "Do you want to do that? Let's do it together."
Michael: I've always been struck in our world. I think it had first hit home for me reading Beverly Flaxington's book on marketing many years ago, where she just drills home, I think, very well the point that for a lot of advisors, we talk a lot about what we do and the good work that we do and just sort of hope like, "So it should really be obvious that you would want to work with me and that I'm going to do great stuff for you." And we just never actually get to the part of saying, "So I would love to work with you to meet these goals and I'm confident that I can help you. Are you ready to move forward?" That moment, right, in the sales world, that moment where you ask for the business, we just don't ask because that's the scariest moment of the entire process because that's the moment that they can say no to you.
And so, so often I see advisors just...we never actually ask the question at that moment because it's the scariest moment to ask it because it's like, "What if they say no? We built all this up and then we get to no, that really sucks and feels awful so I'm just not going to put myself in a position." And the reality is if you don't ask that question, then if they did want to hire you and move forward, they otherwise get to the end of the meeting and they're like, "I'm not actually sure what happens next." And so, they just kind of wander out of your office because you were sort of hoping they would say, "Oh, my gosh, that sounds so awesome. Can we start working together now?" But they're not sure if that's what they were supposed to do yet because they were waiting for you to ask. And I'm almost envisioning it of going all the way back to what perhaps would just be my own terrible days of high school of like...
Michael: Right, yes, like all the dates that never happened because I was too shy to ask and the other person was too shy to ask. And so, we never asked and the date never happened. And I think that happens a lot in advisors world and I find...or I think particularly amongst, just as you put it, the A-plus professional who might be a B-minus speaker, because we balk at that exact moment and just kind of like the dating analogy, if no one ever actually asks in the moments, then the date never happens and the connection never happens. And just the practical reality is if you're the advisor and you have something to sell and you're the one with the great professional services that really, really helps the clients, it's like it's on your shoulders. It is on your shoulders.
Deirdre: Okay, so imagine it's like having them come over to your house and people are sitting in your living room and you never asked them if they want something to drink. That's terrible. You wouldn't do that. It's the same, you're the host, you have to move the meeting forward. It's terrible for a prospect to not know what to do. Right?
Michael: Right. And just don't underestimate that they really might...it may seem obvious, "Well, if you want to move forward, you just have to say, "Let's start working together." It's not that obvious to them, you have to say it. They're going to be like, "Well, I was sort of assuming there must be something else in the process." Because ironically, all the rest of the process you were doing so well, so I assume there was some step in the process. And if you hadn't asked me, then clearly something else was coming, so I was just waiting for something else. And then I left and then nothing had happened and then my life got busy and then I never called you back and we never get together again.
Deirdre: And people like to be invited to things. So, just think about you're inviting them into your world, right? And so, here's the thing, and I'm talking from someone, Michael, back in 1990...no, 2001, I actually quit a business that I love because I couldn't sell my way out of paperback. I was terrified. When it got to this place in the "sales" call, I would freeze and I wouldn't say anything, I would literally just leave. It was terrible. And I realized but I knew God had put this dream in my heart to be an entrepreneur and to help people and I knew I would have to get good at this and I'd have to get okay with this for this to move forward. And so, I'm not saying this as someone on an ivory pedestal who likes sales and these conversations have always been easy.
This was incredibly painful and difficult for me, I had to learn to move past it. And what's really helped me is when you come into a meeting...and I want to give you the mindset, I'm going to give you the mindset in a moment that I recommend having coming into any meeting with any human being in a professional setting. But before I go there, when you actually spend the time getting to know people on a heart-to-heart level, you're hearing this story, you're empathizing with them, right? It becomes a different type of meeting, it becomes way easier to genuinely get excited to help them and say from love, "I really want to help you, this would be so great to do this together. Would you like to do that?" Versus, "So, you want to work with me?" You know what I mean?"
Deirdre: It comes from a different place. So, can I share the mindset that really freed me, that mindset?
Deirdre: Okay. One of my mentors taught me years ago. So, first of all, what I recommend, when you go into any meeting with anybody, you see them as a human being first and a prospect second. I know that might sound like, "Well, duh." But so often we're not doing that, right? We're going into a meeting and we're thinking, "Okay, I got to get this right, what's going to happen? What if they say yes? What if they say no?" I want to give you permission to go in and be like, "I'm just meeting with two other human beings and I really just want to spend some time getting to know these human beings." And the way that you detach yourself from being sort of restricted by the outcome is this mindset. And the mindset is...and I'll give one of my mentors, Lisa Sasevich, the credit for this because it changed my world. The mindset is you're committed, but not attached. Committed but not attached.
Michael: So, what does that mean?
Deirdre: So, what that means is you are 100% committed to helping these fellow human beings find the solution they need to make their life better and you are not attached if it includes you or not.
Michael: Okay. I'm 100% committed to seeing that you get to a better place, a better outcome. I'm not attached to the fact that it has to be me.
Deirdre: Correct. So, I'll have situations...you might think this is crazy, but I'll have situations when I'm listening to people and I don't feel like we're...I know that we could help them but we're not the thing they need right now. I will recommend...I will make connections for them with maybe a competitor or strategic partner and I'll be like, "Michael, you know what? I see how I can help you but you really need to get your operations set first from everything you said. Let me connect you with Andrea because that's what she does. And I might never help you, Michael. Of course, would I love to? Yes, but at the end of the day, I want to make sure you get what you need." That's my highest priority whenever I talk to any prospect and that takes so much pressure off of me feeling like I have to do everything perfectly and impress you. I'm not worried about impressing you.
Michael: You're just trying to be helpful.
Deirdre: I'm just trying to love you. Yeah.
How Deirdre’s Advice For One-On-One Interactions Translates To One-To-Many Settings [1:08:10]
Michael: So, Deirdre, this is very one-to-one. When we got started, we were actually even talking a little bit different context about the one-to-many format, right? The public speaking, Bob had to go in front of his real estate investor board to make his case. So, just can you share for a few minutes, at least, how does this start changing when we're in a little bit more of a public speaking context than the one-to-one prospect that we've been talking about?
Deirdre: So, let me think...I want to do some...it's a big topic, obviously, right? So, I want to see if I can at least pull out some kind of useful nuggets in a short amount of time. So, the first thing is when you're getting up to present in front of people, I would encourage you to have the same mindset. You're committed to speaking passionately...well, first of all, you're committed to preparing. I really hope you're committed to preparing, too many people wing it. I do not recommend that. Secondly, you're committed to speaking passionately, and you're committed to connecting with people. I always tell my clients, "Let's go for connection and not perfection." Right? Be as good as you can be, prepare, but you're really...if your speech is perfect but you connect with no one, it meant nothing.
So, be committed to that but be unattached again to how they receive it. You can't make people like you or not like you, right? So, if you go in with this mindset like, "I'm here to love people and I'm here to give them a gift," that's going to help with the nerves and any hesitancy you have about speaking. In terms of making it emotionally connecting, yeah, a big part of speaking is knowing how to tell great stories, knowing where to strategically place them, right? And so, you're still going to use the why story, the desire story, the story to make a point, that's one of the ways you're going to add curb appeal to your content. You're going to hopefully use what I call my CETA formula, C-E-T-A. I'll run through it super quickly. And basically, what you do...and actually, I was working with a group of wholesalers just this week.
What we did was we took one of their compliance-approved sales pieces, right? Ones that they might deliver a presentation on a webinar, or even talk one-on-one to an advisor. And it's just basically the facts, right? And we blended this CETA formula into the sales piece, and it really brings it to life, brings it to life. And that's what you're trying to do, you're trying to add that curb appeal, that coat of paint, that beautiful teak door, the landscaping. So, the C in CETA means you want to be conversational. First of all, you want to make sure you speak like you speak when you're speaking, you don't want to speak like you write. You don't want to use industry jargon. Please, I promise you, if you're speaking directly to consumers, they're not saying things like liquidity.
They're saying things like, "When my husband lost his job a few years ago, I came home and I said, "Peter, if we need access to cash, where are we getting it?" I didn't say, "Oh, I hope we have enough liquidity in our portfolio." Right? So, you got to watch. They're not even saying, "Comprehensive financial plan." Don't say that. What does that mean? So, use the word your clients use, no jargon. Okay? Talk as if you're talking like Michael and I are talking today, like you're sitting across from a good friend having a cup of coffee. That's how you want to feel and the sound to be.
And you want to use the word "you." You don't want to put them in a group, you don't want to say things like, "Everybody, how many of you," "Anybody." You want to use the word you, you, you. You want to make people feel like you're talking just to them. One of the ways to do that is to use the singular you. Okay? So that's the C for conversational.
E, you want to give people an experience, you don't want to just...you don't want this to be a lecture. So, hopefully, today you felt in this podcast this was an experience, right? Michael and I were talking, we stopped, he asked me questions, I tell you a story, I give you an analogy, I might say something directly to you, ask you a question, right? It's an experience. So, you want to use anchor when you're speaking to anchor the content. That means you're throwing in stories, you're throwing in analogies, maybe you have a video, maybe you have props, you're doing an activity. Okay? Make it experiential.
The T is get people thinking about themselves. Ask them questions to get them thinking about their own life. Right? So, you might be telling a story about when you were five years old and you could say, "Has that ever happened to you?" "Did you ever have your brother steal your cookie and it was the last one in the jar? Well, how did that feel?" Right? Or instead of spoon-feeding them all the information, if you have maybe some facts or some statistics you want to share, instead of saying...and I'm making this up, I don't know what the number is offhand, "50% of Americans filed for divorce." Right? That's kind of...I'm just thinking of whatever I can think of. You could say to them, "So, how many Americans every year do you think file for divorce? What percentage? Just call it out?" "Oh, 50%, 40%, 80%? Yes, it's 50%."
Do that so you don't create lazy listeners. Don't spoon-feed your audience everything, get them to actually participate in the content. And Michael, that's one of my secret weapons is asking what I call these thinking questions where they're actually kind of creating the content with me. I will do presentations where I don't let them ask me a single question and afterwards, they'll say, "Oh, my gosh, that was so interactive." And it's interactive because I am asking them questions and having them answer the questions I want them to answer. Right? So, I'm leading them down this path.
And then finally, I don't think our presentation should be a big theoretical conversation. I think every time someone's in our presence, they should get something that will make their life better. Give them a tangible application, a tangible tool that they can use and apply to their life whether or not they ever lay eyes on you again. That's the A. So, I know today, for example, if you never hear me again or see me again, hopefully, you will start using that question, "What made you want to invest the time to talk with me today?" Hopefully, you'll be like, "Oh, my gosh, I need to tell these three different storytelling types." Right? So, give people tangible things they can do to make their life better. And so, you're weaving this CETA formula throughout all of your content to create this rich, emotional kind of sensory experience for people. You will be memorable, they will choose you over their phones if you do that, I promise you.
Michael: So, I hear you, it sounds wonderful, but if I'm the average advisor who's doesn't like public speaking or has never done public speaking...I'm thinking the famous survey was like the average person is more afraid of public speaking than death, which means we'd actually rather be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy.
Michael: So, this is terrifying, I've never done any of this. The picture you're painting sounds wonderful but I don't know that I can do the awesome thing that you're describing. Where do I start?
Deirdre: Well, you start with saying, "Okay, I'm terrified of it, but I'm more terrified of not getting the results that I want by avoiding doing it than I'm terrified of doing it." And I speak from someone with experience. If you can believe this, Michael, I used to be terrified to speak. That might sound insane, and it was not that long ago. In fact, I had a very bad experience in my high school acting class with my ninth-grade teacher who basically called me out in front of the whole class and told me I stunk. And I left the stage for 24 years.
Deirdre: Yeah. No public speaking, no acting, no nothing. In fact, when I got my master's degree, end of my first year, a group of my colleagues, my classmates come up to me and say, "Hey, do you want to run for president this year for next year?" And my only question...
Michael: "Do I have to give a speech?"
Deirdre: Yes. That's all I ask, "Do I have to give a speech?" And they said, "Well, probably," and I'm like, "Nope, I'm running for vice president." And that's what happened, I ran for vice president. And then you know what happened? Irony of irony, the president got expelled, and guess who had to deliver the commencement speech? Me. Anyway, totally other story. But I was terrified and it wasn't until...when I first started my business, I wasn't actually coaching people on speaking and communication, I was coaching on fear, Michael. I'm a certified Fearless Living coach. And I was working with business owners, advisors included, on how to get past the fears and excuses that were holding them back in their business. And people coming up to me saying, "You really need to speak, it's the best way to grow your business and a lot of people could benefit from your message."
And I was like, "Oh, no, no, no, I don't do that." And then the irony dawned on me that I'm trying to help you get past your biggest fear and I won't get past mine. Well, that didn't work so well for me. So, I thought, "All right, I got to do this thing but if I'm going to do this thing, I need a mentor and I need a process." And so, I found my mentor, I learned his process, and that is what I hung my hat on. I thought, "Well, if it worked for him and other people, how bad could I be?" And that is how I got myself out there speaking. And over time, I fell in love, and I nerd out...like you nerd out about your stuff, I am a nerd and a geek when it comes to this. I can talk about it all day long in every little nuance and never get sick of it. And so, that's how you start.
The Biggest Thing That Advisors Miss About Sales And Communication And How Deirdre Works With Clients [1:16:40]
Michael: So, having done this for four years now and consulted with a lot of advisors trying to get through this over the years, what do you find is the biggest gap of just what most advisors don't get about the sales and prospecting communication part of interacting with client or prospect?
Deirdre: What they don't understand is that your words are assets.
Michael: What does that mean, your words are assets?
Deirdre: Okay, let me give you an illustration here. So, a client of mine, Mike, he for years was doing this college planning seminar, this one seminar, he would do it nine times a year in local high schools. And in 2011, he said, "I'm really wondering if I should do this anymore. It just doesn't seem like it's worth the time, the time to get all set and go and do the thing and I'm only getting a couple of clients a year." So, fast forward 10 years later, and I get this email from him and he's like, "Deirdre, I just want to tell you how much income I've generated from this one college planning seminar." And I was like, "Okay, well, how much?" "North of $2 million." So, the way that it went from being, "Should I do this anymore?" to north of $2 million is we use the Crazy Good Talks Blueprint and we rewrote the seminar, right? So, Michael, do you think he thinks that's an asset in his business, that seminar?
Deirdre: Right? That seminar actually brings...it drives revenue. It's like having money in the bank with the compounding interest, right? Every time he gives it, he gets more clients and then those clients bring him more clients. And so, advisors don't understand that your words and your ideas are not just words and ideas that you can haphazardly string together. And just because you can speak...or just because you can talk doesn't mean you can speak and just because you know how to write doesn't mean you're putting together your words and ideas in a way that's actually moving the needle. And so, my hope and my prayer for you is...I would obviously love to work with you but if it's not me, work with someone who can teach you this skill. It will blow your mind what can happen when you get good at this.
Michael: So, what was the low point in your career and your journey through learning all this and figuring all of it out?
Deirdre: I think the low point was particularly in the first...from maybe 2012 until about '18 where I was really beating a drum trying to convince the industry that these things were important. And what's been nice over the last several years is that I feel like the industry has caught up and now I have people asking me for it. Storytelling, right? Really powerful communication, not having to do the convincing kind of like, "Here's why it's important, why you need to consider this." I have people calling going, "Okay, we know that's storytelling and strategic storytelling is super important, we know the why story is a key part of our marketing messages, we know we should be powerful speakers." I feel like people are starting to actually catch on.
Michael: So, I guess is in that context, can you just explain for everyone just what do you actually do? How do you work with advisors? Do they engage you? I guess that's your opportunity to share your desire story if you're so inclined.
Deirdre: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, the three ways...we work with advisors in three ways. So, companies will hire us to do specific consulting projects for them or bring us in to do keynotes at conferences, that's how we met, right? To do keynoting conferences or doing training. So, that's one way. And so, that's working kind of at one removed from the advisor in that the corporate entity is hiring us to work with the advisor or with a wholesaler or with their leaders. And then the way we work directly where the advisor hires us directly as in one of two ways. The first is our done-for-you asset creation, and that's where we actually write your stories for you. So, we write your why story or stories and we write your desire story or stories.
So, a lot of advisors, particularly the kind of top producer advisor, doesn't have the time nor the inclination to learn how to be a great story creator, right? And so, we set up a process...I'm thinking about calling it the 60-Minute Story because we interview you and in 60 minutes, I will figure out what the story is and make sure it's the right story for your ideal clients and then my team of writers will actually write your story for you. And then we deliver you a playbook and then we have another session where I coach you on your delivery because the words are about 80% of it and the structure is 80% of it, but the words without the right inflection and intonation isn't going to get you where you need to go.
So then, we coach you on your delivery and then you get a playbook of how do we use the story in one-on-one meetings, in group, online, everywhere. So, that's the second way we work with advisors. And then the third way is we have advisors who want to learn these skills, they want to learn how to be a crazy good speaker on stage, in front of groups, they want to be more effective one on one, they actually want to be able to write and tell their own stories. And so, then we've got the Crazy Good Talks Blueprint and the Emotionally Engaging Advisor virtual training programs.
Michael: Okay. Okay. And so, who in...is there a typical advisor who engages with you? The done-for-you is sort of the, "Deidre, this sounds great but I'm really busy, I don't actually have time to go through all this stuff." So, that's just like, "I'll pay you, you interview me for 60 minutes, and you're just going to give me this stuff so I can run with it."
Michael: The last option is just the advisor who wants to learn to speak more and wants to go down that road?
Deirdre: They want to go down that road, they want to be really compelling in front of clients for financial education because they want to bring in more business, they want to set more appointments and bring more business. Or they might be like my client, Jimmy Williams, who's like the top of his game but he's got a podcast, Michael. He actually wanted to get paid to speak, so we were able to teach him to get good enough so he's commanding really nice fees as actually a paid speaker and he wanted to be that ambassador for his company to drive more revenue.
Deirdre’s Advice For Newer Advisors And Her “Controversial” Tip [1:22:27]
Michael: So, what advice would you give for younger, newer advisors getting started today and wanted to get off on the right foot?
Deirdre: I know this is so hard at the beginning of your career, it does go back to that try not to prove yourself, be yourself as much as you can, and really nail your why story. Nail why you're doing what you do because you don't have a lot of experience behind you but hopefully, you're working with a firm where you're...maybe you're doing joint fieldwork and you have other people you can bring in who do have the experience. People are going to connect more with your story and your passion for what you're doing than you try to prove you know stuff you don't yet know.
Michael: And then out of curiosity, just because you'd mentioned earlier and I'm not sure we circled back on it, but you had kind of talked about your different differentiators and the controversial tip. What was the controversial one?
Deirdre: Okay, so we talked about that process in the one-on-one sales meeting, right? Or the one-on-one connection meeting, where you're sitting down, you have the nicey-nice chitchat, and then you go into the, "What made you want to invest the time to talk with me today?" Right?
Deirdre: So, one thing that I recommend you try...and I do this, I have clients that do this, and it's worked extremely well but it does fly in the face of what you might have been taught in this industry and I'll talk about the caveat to that, is instead of just jumping right in and asking them to kind of open up and show you kind of their underbelly, for you to actually take two minutes and share your why story first. And I'll tell you why I'm suggesting this. There's two reasons. One, Michael, have you ever been in a situation where someone actually has been vulnerable with you first?
Deirdre: Has that made it easier for you, then, to be vulnerable with them?
Michael: Yeah, it's really powerful. They're just sort of like, “Wow, you put that right out there upfront," it's like, "Okay, I guess I sort of have to be out there now too."
Deirdre: Yeah, yeah, it's like the law of reciprocity and you immediately feel more affinity for that person and usually more trust for the person. And what advisors are doing is you're asking Sally and Bob to come in, they might have never met you, and now you're like, "Hey, tell me all your deepest, darkest secrets?" Well, that can be really hard with someone you really don't know or know if you even like yet. Right? And this is why choosing the right why story is critical because you don't want to air your dirty laundry. This isn't about like, "Hey, I went out of boozing last night." You know what I mean? This isn't that, this is a story that's actually going to resonate with your listener. So, let's say you are going to do that...oh, and then the second reason is it builds that trust, connection, and likability very, very quickly.
Nothing will build the trust, connection, and likability faster than the right why story. And I've tested this, I've tested this over and over and over again. So, it could look something like this, if you're willing to try it, is you're talking to Bob and Sally, you do nicey-nice chitchat, then it's time for you to move into the meeting and you can say, "Okay, Bob and Sally, I'm really happy that Michael introduced us and the bulk of today's meeting is going to be about you and I'm so excited to learn about your goals and your dreams and kind of what's going on with you. And I'll imagine there's some questions that you're going to have for me, but the most important question that I think clients have is not so much what I do, it's why I do what I do. So, before we jump into why you're here, would you mind if I took two minutes and share why I care that you're here?"
Michael: Okay, yeah, I'm curious, right? You set it up that way, I'm like, "Okay, all right, I'll bite, go ahead."
Deirdre: Okay? And then you share your why story and it should be two and a half to three minutes, about 450-475 words, no more than that. And then what you'd say is, "So, that's why I'm here today, let's talk about why you're here today. What made you want to invest the time to talk with me today?" And there it is. Now, I was talking with two advisors yesterday about this because we were writing...we wrote their why stories and we were doing the presentation session where I coach them on what we just did on how to use this. And one of them said, "Okay, so what I normally do is I do start out, I'm asking the questions about them, and then there's this spot in the middle where I do stop and I tell them about our company. Could I put it there? I could tell them about the company and then I could tell the why story."
I said, "Absolutely, you can put it there because I want this to feel organic." It might feel weird in the beginning because it's new, but I don't want it to feel contrived or sound contrived. So I said, "You can put it there but please lead with your why story before you go into your company. I promise you, they care little about your company and more about you." So, sell you and sell the emotion first and then if you've got three bullet points about your company that you want to share, you can do it after that. But you got to get them to trust you and buy into you first. And then the last place if...sometimes you get into a meeting with someone, you can tell this is a real driver analytical and if you stop them to tell your story, they're going to be annoyed. So, you have to gauge the client too.
If that happens, you could tell the story at the end and you ask that question, "Hey, would love to work with you, do you want to take that next step?" And they're like, "Great, yes, what's the next step?" "Well, I need you to do X, Y, Z, this and that thing." Right? And so, you say, "Okay, so these are the next steps, and before we wrap up, would it be okay if I just shared two minutes to tell you why I actually do this work and why I care about you following through on those action steps that we just agreed to?" And then you could share the why story there. So, you have choices, I don't like to get overly prescriptive.
What Success Means To Deirdre [1:27:32]
Michael: Okay. So, as we wrap up, this is a podcast about success and one of the themes that always comes up is just the word success means very different things to different people. And so, you're having wonderful success and growth with the business. As you said, I think the industry is finally kind of coming around too, maybe we need to have better conversations than, "I get paid in two ways," and all the different traditional very salesy scripts we've had in the past. So, the business is doing well but how do you define success for yourself at this point?
Deirdre: Yeah, so I define success...and that's such a deep question, right? So, I'm going to take the 60,000-foot view is am I hitting the double bottom line in my life and in my business? And what the double bottom line means particularly...I'll just put it in the business context for today, for this answer, is I call myself a human-centered capitalist, which means, absolutely, I'm a business and we're looking at profits but not at the expense of people. And so, whatever we do has to make good business sense but it has to make even more good people sense. And so, for me, my relationship with Jesus and with God is the central part of my life. I believe everyone is created in God's image. And so, my goal whenever I interact with anyone, Michael, is that they would feel love, they would feel...maybe they're not recognizing that God's love, but I'm hoping through me, they will feel loved and they will feel encouraged. And if people walk out of my presence or out of my team's presence feeling loved and encouraged, I know I've fulfilled my purpose and that is success.
Michael: Love it. I love it. Well, thank you so much, Deirdre, for joining us on the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.