Using Storytelling to Boost Sales and Build Relationships

4 Nov 2021

Using Storytelling to Boost Sales and Build Relationships

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

If you’re like most life insurance advisors, you’re a skilled storyteller. That is, when you’re talking to clients and prospects, you weave in related stories about other clients in similar situations. Perhaps you tell your own story, to help them get to know you. Under some circumstances, you may even describe the experience of presenting a much-needed check to a grieving family. 

Chances are, you do this instinctively. You know from experience that it’s a good way to connect with others. But did you know that neuroscientific research not only confirms it—but tells us why this phenomenon holds true. 

By more fully understanding the impact of storytelling on the psyche, you can use this powerful communication tool more effectively. Because when clients purchase life insurance from you, they aren’t just buying a policy; they’re buying into the belief that you can help them write a specific kind of story for themselves and their family. 

Why Our Brains Are Hardwired for Stories

Since mankind’s earliest days, we’ve shared our experiences and hard-earned wisdom through the stories we tell. Consider prehistoric cave paintings and what they reveal about the lives of artists who made them. Imagine members of a Stone Age tribe, sitting around a campfire, spinning tales of high-stakes hunts and battles—lessons of triumph and loss.

These stories help ensured mankind’s survival, and our brains, also wired for survival, learned to pay very close attention. 

It’s no coincidence that one of the first ways we engage with our children is through stories. And why mankind keeps finding new ways to engage in storytelling, whether through books, movies or social media. Chances are, when you turn on the TV at night, you’re in search of a good story.

Man and woman happily shaking hands with a sales person after closing a deal

How Stories Activate Our Brains

Our brains are composed of two hemispheres: the left—the logical, analytical side—and the right—the creative, emotional side.

When we hear or read objective information such as facts and statistics, it’s processed through the left side of the brain. Which, while potentially useful, may also be easily forgotten.

However, when we hear or read a story, it stimulates the right side of our brains, too, boosting neural activity fivefold and triggering an emotional response. Research indicates that, when our emotions are aroused, we vividly remember the stories that aroused them.

In fact, according to one Stanford study, stories are up to 22 times more memorable than dry facts and figures.

In addition, when the right brain is stimulated, it releases oxytocin—aka the “trust hormone” or “bonding hormone”—which bonds listeners and storytellers. Back in prehistoric days, oxytocin helped early man distinguish friend from foe. Today, it still forges the emotional connections that support authentic relationships—including the one between clients and advisors.

Using Storytelling to Make Your Case

That’s not to say we should all start spouting stories. Storytelling is a skill that’s best used strategically and sparingly. Here are some ways to deploy it effectively. 

  1. Always Know Your Point: Before launching into a tale, consider who your audience is and what message you want to get across. Every story should be relevant to the conversation. For example, if your prospect’s goal is saving for their child’s college fund, you might tell the story of how another client with similar goals accrued cash value successfully.   
  2. Mine Your Life Experiences (But Don’t Overdo It): Of course, you want to let your clients know who you are and what makes you tick. But always talk about yourself in a way that won’t be seen as bragging. For example, rather than wax poetic about your success, you might explain how your humble beginnings drives you to help others ensure financial success.
  3. Center Your Stories around Clients’ Needs: Interesting plots are crafted around conflict. When you frame your stories around clients’ financial challenges—i.e., saving for retirement, guarding against an unknown future—you not only tell stories your audience wants to hear, but position yourself as their problem-solver.
  4. Keep It Short and Polished: Most people have short attention spans. Resist the urge to embellish your tale, and get to the point. It’s fine to develop a repertoire of stories, then polish and practice them, so you can deploy them to greatest effect. 
  5. Listen to Other Storytellers: Chances are, you know some highly successful producers who are also master storytellers. Listen to their stories every chance you get. Beyond the storyline, pay attention to—and learn from—their delivery and technique.
  6. Be Authentic: In our business, honesty and integrity are all important. If you choose to adopt a fellow producer’s story, give credit: preface it by saying it you learned it from an fellow advisor. Storytelling is an effective way to create bonds with clients—but for those bonds to be genuine, they must be grounded in truth. 

In summary, storytelling can be a very effective communications tool for producers. When you share them with clients and prospects, you’re signaling that you have the knowledge and empathy to help them write their own unique story. One with a happy ending. 

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