The title on this blog post was originally “Four Stories That Will Help You Sell More Services”. Do accountants, attorneys, payroll providers and bankers sell services? It sounds so tawdry. Ask any of your peers if they sell services and their unfiltered, off-the-cuff response will likely be “no” – until they think about it, and then grudgingly concede that yes, in fact, they do actually sell services.
Cringe if you must, but it is a fact that CPAs and other business advisors sell professional services. You must “sell” yourself — your expertise, knowledge base, ethics, years of education and experience, skills, creativity, ability to solve problems, capacity for listening, empathy, and trustworthiness. When dealing with existing clients, where the bond has already been established, all you have to do is maintain the relationship. When you are actively seeking new business, however, it can often be particularly challenging to establish the necessary rapport to get a prospect in the door.
You have to tell a story.
In my last post, I discussed why stories are effective in marketing and sales. Incorporating stories into your marketing and business development will help you bond with your prospects, nurturing them and earning their trust. Trust is an essential step in the buying lifecycle, particularly when it comes to selecting an accountant (or an attorney, payroll provider, banker, etc.).
These four stories really do help you earn more business.
In this post, I review which stories will help you sell more services, earn you more business and boost your bottom line. Consider how you can thoughtfully incorporate these four types of stories that have been proven effective time and again into your marketing strategy.
1. Personal Stories
I started off this blog post with a personal story. Did you notice? If you’re still reading, it was at least moderately effective. One of the most successful ways to reach out to prospects and show them that you are their best choice for their estate planning needs is to profile yourself, your staff and your current clients in the form of a personal story. People respond to people, particularly if sincerity is palpable. Stories come in many shapes and sizes, so don’t be shy about recording one on video, jotting one down on your blog, drawing a cartoon, or sharing one on your Facebook page. Use first person whenever possible to establish that connection with your readers. Infuse emotion into the story so that your readers can relate and begin bonding with you on an emotional level. Anecdotal stories are frequently the easiest to draft, as the memories are yours. If story telling is new to you, start with a personal anecdote and go from there.
2. Success Stories
Success stories are just a twist on personal stories. Rather than using yourself as the main character, use your clients. They all have a story to tell – the story of how you helped them through a particularly painful situation. Success stories persuade, even when a sale is not the primary objective. While protecting your clients’ privacy, tell the story of their struggle. What was the issue? Why was it such a big problem? How did it affect the client’s life, business, family, perspective, financial resources, status in the community, relationships, reputation or success? Be specific. Be poignant. And then focus on the positive – the outcome, the success.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies conducted a youth-oriented anti-smoking campaign that was highly effective because they used success stories that included the initial struggle to overcome the addiction. The ads evoked empathy in addition to fear. Empathy was the winning trait. “Personal testimonial ads rely on emotional appeals that may enhance message relevance and credibility… there is increasing evidence that ads using personal stories are effective.” If success stories can convince teenagers not to smoke, couldn’t they be used to convince your prospects to hire you?
3. Pop Culture Stories
Pop culture is a great communication starter. At parties, we meet new people and discuss celebrities, television shows, pop culture happenings, politics and other current events as ice breakers. Use the same ice-breaker concept to break into your prospects’ hearts and minds. Tell the story of a known celebrity who has experienced a similar pain point as one your prospects might be facing. There are dozens of tragic stories of wealthy Hollywood types who “forgot” to plan for their estate, or failed to maintain and update their plans that resulted in family feuds that lasted for years. These kinds of stories are fodder for a “don’t follow this example” story that might resonate with your prospects. Consider adding how you would have handled and resolved the matter had you been involved, infusing yourself and your product or service into the story. As long as your prospects understand that it is a hypothetical situation, you may introduce yourself as the would-have-been protagonist.
4. Historical Stories
Persuading prospects to consider you for their estate planning needs can often come with stories from times of yore. The historical story might take a bit of additional research, but the time spent collecting data to support your case will likely be worth it when you get new business from it. On last summer’s television hit show Franklin & Bash on TNT, the partnering lawyers have a reputation for using both personal and historical stories in their courtroom antics with tremendous success. Their behavior may not be traditional or conservative, but it is effective. They use stories in each case to persuade and connect with the jury. While these are fictional characters in fictional courtrooms, the show’s writers developed the characters’ behavior based on standard neuromarketing research – stories have an emotional impact and can generate the desired response if told properly.
The relationship between accountant or other professional advisor and client is a complex one. It is professional, yes, but there is a personal element as well. Perhaps this is due to the client’s need to divulge sensitive or intimate information. Perhaps is it due to the nature of the work. Regardless of the reason, prospects have to get to know you, trust you and maybe even like you before they take the plunge to hire you. Using stories, you will create a bond with prospects that will help you win their trust and earn more business.