How to Sharpen Your Storytelling Skills to Benefit Your Business
Episode 7810th August 2022 • Human-centric Investing Podcast • Hartford Funds
00:00:00 00:22:42

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We forget data, but we remember stories. Tim Owings, PhD explains how storytelling can deepen your client relationships, then shares the key components to building your own impactful stories.

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Julie Genjac [:

personal stories to share with clients or prospects in our life. Oftentimes I know financial

professionals will say to me, I'm not sure where to tap into these stories. I don't know

which stories are the most important. And it's interesting, when we chatted with Tim today,

one thing that really stuck out to me was he suggested we do a Google search of our

decades. So think of our teams, our twenties, our thirties, our forties, etc. and write those

down and leave a little space on the page and and start to think about some of those

important turning point stories in our lives to curate that collection. And I just thought that

was such a fascinating way of thinking about reviewing our lifetime.

John Diehl [:

lab, often tell us that those stories, those events that happened in our late teens, early

twenties, mid twenties, often times really determine our worldview, how we think about

things. And it was really interesting in our conversation with Tim Owings how that same

sentiment was reflected in terms of assembling stories that can better align us with our

clients. So with that, why don't we bring everybody in on the conversation that we had

with Tim Owings? Hi, I'm John.

Julie Genjac [:

John Diehl [00:01:29] We're the hosts of the Hartford Funds Human Centric

Investing Podcast.

Julie Genjac [:

hear their best ideas for how you can transform your relationships with your clients.

John Diehl [:

Associates, and he's the author of a book called Cadence of Care, with more than 40

years of experience as an ordained minister and a financial professional. Tim teaches

financial professionals how stories from their lives and the lives of their clients can

transform relationships and practices. Tim, welcome to the podcast today.

Tim Owings [:

this time together and talk about one of my very favorite subjects, which is storytelling.

John Diehl [:

counseling aided you in your career as a financial professional.

Tim Owings [:

as a pastor of several congregations, I, I got in the business and began to do what all

financial professionals do when they get into business. I started calling people that I knew,

and I would say to them, you know, we haven't talked in a long time. Have you heard what

I'm doing now? And people would say, No, what are you doing, Tim? Last time I heard,

you were helping nonprofits and churches raise money for various projects around the

country. I said, Yeah, I did that. And until I wore out my role or board and in my legs and

decided I didn't want to fly so much. Is that so? So when I told them I was working for a

major wirehouse firm as a financial advisor, they said, Man, Tim, that's so much so

different than what you used to do. And I would say, Well, you would think so. I said, But

really it's not a lot different. I said, It's the bottom line of being a minister is taking care of

people and the bottom line of an effective financial professional is doing that. It's it's taking

care of the clients that come your way and investing your life and their lives and they

investing their life and, of course, their resources and what you can do to help them plan,

prepare for the future and manage their assets. So early on in the business, I learned that

sharing stories from my past that were what I now call turning point moments enabled me

to connect with people in ways that may have had nothing to do with a financial topic. It

was a moment in my life when a radical change took place. It could have been a health

concern, something that my mom or my dad taught me when I was at home. My first job

when Kathy and I married, and what both of us learned about living together and the ways

that you compromise with each other and learn to listen better. Oh, that's so important.

Particularly that listening component. John, when you take to your training and pastoral

work, you take courses what's called pastoral care. And a big part of your learning is

developing effective listening skills. And those listening skills then enable you to ask more

questions so that people will tell you more about themselves, their story, their background,

and really what brings them to this this moment, this turning point moment in their life. So

that's that's how my background helped me to apply those very same skills in working with

clients going forward.

Julie Genjac [:

about the power of stories in terms of helping financial professionals connect with clients

and prospects. But I'm guessing that these stories aren't necessarily off the cuff in the

moment recollections. There probably is some preparation, maybe some practice, maybe

even some role play, which I've long advocated as an underutilized tool in our industry. But

could you tell us a little bit about the process of curating some of these turning point

stories? Because I know when when John and I speak with financial professionals, I feel

like they they certainly have the stories in their repertoire, but they're not necessarily laser

focused, prepared kind of with that beginning, middle and end. And I feel like those that

are with us today listening might benefit from your guidance on kind of the creation and

cultivation process of one stories.

Tim Owings [:

found to, as you say, focus on the turning point moments in my life that may be

candidates. For a story, though, let me be clear. Another returning point moment in Tim's

life, the candidate for a story, I can promise you that. And I wouldn't share them. But when

I suggest that financial professionals do, is to do what I would call a Google search on your

own life. So go back and and take what I call decade searches. So take a moment. Listen,

if you can turn the phone off, get away from the phone, have a quiet 15 or 20, 20 minutes,

30 minutes, sipping a cup of coffee, just, just by yourself with no external distractions, and

jot down on a piece of paper the words teens and then skip the from spaces twenties,

thirties, forties. And if you're in your fifties, fifties or older and then go back and focus on

your teens, I find that there are a couple stories that I've curated from my childhood. My

unfortunate but really fortunate experience with contracting polio as an infant was difficult

for my parents, but it was perhaps the major turning point in my life that that effected and

and shaped who I became. But it teenage years, we begin to deal with things like first job

dating experiences, graduating from high school, learning to drive all those teenage

moments. And there are teachable moments we have when parents and significant others

in our lives, like teachers and extended family, guide us, sometimes admonish us when we

do something stupid in our teens, but then go to your twenties and say, Let me look back

in my twenties. And here's the key word. The key word is change. When did a change take

place? In my life in each of those decades. Will Star, who is a columnist in Britain, wrote a

book titled The Science of Storytelling. And he begins that little book by saying, Every

story begins with change. So note down in those decades of your life, your teens, your

twenties, your thirties, your forties, what were some significant change moments that

happened? And then reflect on those and say, okay, what happened? Here's the four

components of a good story. What happened? What did I do? Or What did I fail to do?

What did I learn in that moment? And then from that learning, what difference has it made

in my life? And if you can wrap your story around those four movements in a in the

narrative, what happened? What I do, what I learn. What difference does that made? You

were on the road to create your first turning point story. That may be a candidate to work

into a client conversation.

John Diehl [:

is one of your stories? Can you go through those four steps?

Tim Owings [:

released titled The Power of Stories, is one of my favorites, because it was it was a

painful, teachable moment when I was when I was about 11 years old or 12 years old at

that time, my older brother and sister were in college. My younger sister and I were still at

home, and my parents were part of a bowling league through our church. One Friday

evening, Beth and I were in the backseat of the car. We're driving home, and I heard my

mom say to my dad, who was driving, Neil, we need to pull into the farm store, which was

like a drive thru convenience store where you could get bread and eggs and milk and other

things. They've got eggs on sale and I've got a coupon I'd like take advantage of, of that

sale, pick up some eggs that we need and we'll get it. We'll get a half gallon of milk over

there, too. So as Dan's driving to the farm store between the bowling alley and our home, I

blurted out from the backseat, Mom, do we have to buy everything on sale? Well, my

mother was a child of the Depression, as was my dad and me tell you, that was not the

question to ask. Elaine Owings coming back from the bowling league with a coupon in her

hand. And she turned to me and she said, Tim, your brother and sister are in college and

we're having to watch our expenses. I don't want to hear any more from you about buying

things on sale because one day you and Beth are going to want to go to college and your

dad and I are preparing to make that happen. So let's deconstruct that story. What

happened? Well, I'm in the back car with my sister. My parents were in the front and the

front seat and we're driving home. And my mother said to my dad. Neal, let's go through

the farm store to pick up some eggs on sale now. I blurted out a very immature comment

about money, and my mother responded in a direct but forceful way. And she was a very

kind and gentle woman. Not that night. And and then she told me what I needed to hear.

And then from that moment on, I learned something about my family. I learned something

about myself. And about the importance of planning. It made a huge difference in my life at

11, 12 years old. And I've drawn on that story and shared it with clients about how

important it is to prepare for college, for for your children's college education, for

retirement, for the purchase of a second home, whatever that may be.

Julie Genjac [:

financial professional listening today, they might have just heard your story and thought,

wow, I've had several interactions with family or close friends through my childhood that

are very similar to that. But gosh, I never really connected that day and time about the

coupon and the eggs or whatever happened in their particular story to sort of a life lesson

and mindset around money or preparing to save or in any of those major economic type

events. That could potentially be a learning lesson for others, especially clients or

prospects. How best do you think someone should go through the process of, you know,

say they've gone through the Google search and maybe they've gone through the decades

and they have these stories. Is it best to find a sounding board in your life to walk through

the stories and try to connect the principles and the learning lessons? I'm just thinking, if

someone is sitting there with their own thoughts, sort of in their own story. How do you sort

of step out of that rise above that and kind of look down on yourself and say, okay, this

story is such a great example of the power of saving, or this story is such a great example

of of listening or empathy. How would you suggest someone get started on that path of

really kind of curating those stories from from their Google search of their decades?

Tim Owings [:

when you're with a client or a prospect. You want them to be talking 75% of the time? And

you're talking 25% of the time. One of my senior clients when I was in the business, by the

way, he turns 95 this month, which is kind of cool. He he said to me many, many years

ago, I learned so much from this man. But he said to me, he said, Tim, have you ever

thought about this? I said, What, Bob? He said, The happiest person in the room is the

person talking. And I thought, Oh, Bob, that's true. That's true. When you're talking and

talking about your life and important moments in your life. You like it when somebody

says, Tell me about whatever, and you get to talk about yourself. Well, financial

professionals need to be careful that with the stories that we're curating, we remember that

the goal is for our clients to be talking 75% of the time and us to be talking 25% of the time

because we want them to be the happiest person in the room. We want them to hear their

voice and to be talking about about their life and their needs. So here's what I suggest. All

of us have what I call a list of onboarding or financial planning questions that we ask of our

prospects and clients. Tell me about your work, your education. Where have you lived?

How long have you been at this location? Tell me about your family and where it's

appropriate. You pick up that they have children or they don't have children. And then

often when they talk about their children, if they do, the grandchildren, if they have

grandchildren, will come into into the focus. And then you ask about their job and about

how long have you been at this position? What made you change into this new job? And

then, of course, we ask the financial questions. We get to that in a in a learning

conversation with a prospect. And we're always learning with our clients. And we just stop

and say this don't ever come to the position as a financial professional where you believe

that you know your client. You always want to learn more about them and they've got more

to tell you. So here's how I hear. Here's how I decide the stories to curate. I go through my

list of information that I want from a prospect or a client. Personal family, education,

business, health. Are parents still living? If so, tell me about your parent or parent or

parents who are living. And then I back into stories from my life that I can put alongside of

those issues and say, Tim, here's a story about grandparents. Here's a story about your

parents when they were alive. And you can begin to put those into the categories of topics

that you want to discuss with prospects or clients. So when you get into that and they say

something like, Well, my dad passed away a few years ago, but my mother's still living.

And you say, Tell me about Mom. And they tell you about their mother. And then you say,

and you learn that mothers in assisted living facility, or maybe she has Alzheimer's or

maybe she's struggling with some other health issue. Let the person tell you all about

mom. Ask more questions about that. Where is she? How's she doing? How has she

adjusted, etc.? And then you have the opportunity perhaps to share a story that you've

developed. In my case, it was about my mother's battle with Alzheimer's, so I could step in

and say, I don't know whether you would be open to this, but I went down a similar road

with my mother several years ago, and if you like, I'd share a little bit about what I learned

from that. Julie. John nobody ever turned me down. They said, No, please tell me that. So

I curated the story about a parent because I was going to ask about parents.

John Diehl [:

a departure from the historic approach of financial professionals, which was I'm the expert

at all anybody cares about is my expertize right now, which I don't want to say is not

important. But two questions. One, the stories that you're talking about are not necessarily

about my value proposition as a business. Correct? It seems like you're talking about

personal stories. And then the follow on question to that is, is are there any stories that are

too personal? Like, is it possible to cross the line? And how do I know if I'm getting close to

that edge?

Tim Owings [:

other person as much as they respect us. And that's why I always ask permission to go

there. You know, they've told me that their mother's struggling. May I ask a little bit more

about Mom? Would you be comfortable telling me more about Mom and what

responsibility you may have for Mom? Emotional support, financial support, or so forth?

And people at that point in the conversation, John, you have built or you have begun to

build a bridge to the other person. Let me let me be very clear here. Stories work as bridge

builders. They don't create the connection, but they create the environment for a good

connection to take place. So as you're building that bridge to the other person and they're

building the bridge to you. You begin to discover, is this person more open or are they

more closed? And you then can test that as you go into other questions about family,

children, etc.. So. But my short answer is you're always testing. The strength of the

relationship is the bridge. Can I walk on this bridge yet? Is it walkable? And as you walk

across that connecting bridge, you then find opportunities whereby you connect with

people. Why is that important? I know our time's getting away from a sudden me to say

this real quick. It's real important that the people we serve see us as human beings with

feelings, stories, past and present struggles that we've had. We become more relatable

when we do that, and people want to work with financial professionals that are more that

are as much about human life as they are financial concerns.

Julie Genjac [:

your storytelling skills to benefit your business. For those that are interested in more

information on Tim's guidance and curation of your own stories, please visit Hertford funds

dot com slash stories. To view his power of stories, white paper workbook and

presentation. Also, as we mentioned at the beginning, Tim has written a phenomenal book

called The Cadence of Care and you can also visit his website. Tim Owens dot com and

that's Tim oh with wings on it is Tim shared with me so Tim Owens dot com. Thank you

again Tim for all of your guidance today. We really appreciate having you on here with us.

Tim Owings [:

Julie Genjac [00:22:13] Thanks for listening to The Hartford Funds Human Centric

Investing Podcast. If you'd like to tune in for more episodes, don't forget to subscribe

wherever you get your podcasts and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube.

John Diehl [:

transforming client relationships, email us. Guest booking at Hartford Funds dot com. We'd

love to hear from you.

Julie Genjac [:

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