Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Create Your Transformation Story

March 2008

How to Create Your Transformation Story

Whether you call it “Our Firm’s Story” or “The Story of My Practice” or “My Personal Introduction,” every successful advisor must be able to crisply and credibly relate a personal Transformation Story. It’s one of the key pieces in meeting prospects and engaging clients. It can make all the differences between a thriving, vibrant business and one that barely squeaks by.

Your Transformation Story is powerful for several reasons. First, it makes you more human. People can relate to you because they know that the real world is about dealing with change in a constantly changing world. When they see that you have experienced life in real terms, that you’re not just simply a figurehead, a plastic person, somebody with a title and a bunch of letters behind your name, they can relate to you as a real person.

It’s also an effective way for them to connect with you. We feel connected to the people whose stories we have listened to and who have listened to our stories. By hearing your story, they feel more comfortable telling you theirs. By opening up to them, they are invited to open up to you. Your authentic sharing makes it easier for them to share genuinely with you.

Another very important benefit of the transformation story is that it gives permission and encouragement for them to change. When we approach prospects about working with us, we are asking them to change, to change from being a prospect to a client; to change from not having a plan to having a plan. The story of our transformation is a subtle and powerful way to say, “I’ve changed, and it’s okay for you to change too.” While the message will never be spoken by you in those terms, nonetheless they will understand it in those terms.

Finally, telling a Transformation Story is an amazing way of shifting the dynamic of an advisor/client meeting. Most clients come to an advisor’s office feeling intimidated, guarded, skeptical, and worried about fees. They’re very much on the left side of their brain because they’re going to have to process some complicated information. People who are in the left side of the brain, in analytical or critical mode, are much less likely to move forward. That’s because virtually every major decision we’ve made in our lives—whether to buy this house or to move or to marry or to go to that college—was decided on an intuitive level, on the right side of the brain. Then it was justified on the left side of the brain. So, if you want your clients to make the transformation from prospect to client or from ordinary client to exceptional client, you need to address the right side of the brain. And you do that best by shifting the conversation into story-sharing mode. You can do that most easily by telling a story about yourself—your Transformation Story.

The structure of your Transformation Story is deceptively simple. It has four key steps: Step number one is that you describe what I call “the old you.” You briefly describe the way you used to be, setting up the transformation that will soon follow in the story. Thus your listener is able to see you and the setting in which you were operating. It’s important to set that anchor first, because people need to know and identify with the person who was “the old you.”

Step two is the transforming event. Something happened that rattled your world and shook up the status quo. It may have been an earth-shattering, life-changing event like a major disaster, a serious illness, or even the death of a loved one. Or it could have been something subtle, something cumulative that built up over time, like the feeling that enough is finally enough. Some times, it’s only the last straw. But whether it was large and dramatic, or small but irritating, it put the protagonist of the story in a bind and created a tension that had to be dealt with.

Step three is the response. You reacted—perhaps badly at first—to the transforming event. It makes a more interesting story if the protagonist (which in this case is you) initially pushes back, reacts badly, doesn’t handle well the change that has been thrown his way. It’s important that you share that less-than-perfect side of yourself, because that shows you to be more human because as humans, we naturally resist change. But ultimately your better self took over and you became a much better, more qualified, competent person.

And that lead to step number four, which I call “the new you.” As a result of the way you responded to the transforming event, you became a different person, someone much better qualified to help the prospect or client address the concerns and problems that they have.

This very basic pattern can be used to narrate a very powerful story. But, while the story is told in this sequence, it is created by approaching the four steps in a different order. You tell the story in order: step one, step two, step three, then step four. By contrast, when you sit down to design your story, you use a different sequence. To create a great Transformation Story, you’re going to first identify who you are today. You’re going to recognize which attributes you want to emphasize to the client. That’s the new you. Next, you’re going to decide which event in your life played a key role in helping you become that kind of person. After that, you’re going to focus on how you responded to the transforming event, both negatively and positively. Finally, you’re gong to clarify who you used to be before the event happened, before the transformation occurred.

Your Transformation Story has to be told quickly. Typically the prospect’s only going to allow you about three minutes, even if it’s an interesting story. Hence, you need to write out the pieces of the story and polish it. I would suggest you take a piece of paper and identify in writing the characteristics you want to project to the client: Who are you and what makes you uniquely qualified to help them? Who is “the new you?” Next, write down what changed you. Go back in your memory and think about which events are causes for your becoming that kind of a person. You’ll be surprised at how many triggers there could have been. Find one’s that interesting and has a human believability to it. If it’s big and dramatic, that’s good. If it’s only small but believable, that’s still okay because we know that even small things can drive us to make major changes. Then think about and write how you reacted and ultimately changed in response to the event you identified. Finally, write down a description of who you used to be before all this change occurred.

Once you’ve written it out, it’s important to start telling the story. You might start by just telling it to yourself, maybe into a recorder for the first time or two. Then find somebody who is willing to give you a listening ear and good feedback. Say to them, “I’m working on telling a story about how I’ve changed and I wonder if you would listen to this story and then give me some response.” Tell them the story and then listen to what they say. As you practice, remember a few important points: The story has to be believable, it must be interesting, and it must be short. It doesn’t have to be perfect before you tell it to a client. In fact, the very best practice you get is simply telling it to clients and seeing how they respond. Over time, the story’s going to get better and better as you learn which words to use to help your listeners connect with you and visualize the events you are describing.

Before you know it, you’ll start seeing what I call “the connecting look” in the eyes of prospects and clients, as they “get it.” They understand you, they like you, and they want to work with you. It’s a magical moment for both of you.

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