Tell Stories Your Clients Can Tell Their Friends



A client makes a referral when they tell someone else about you and recommend that they call you. And 90% of the time those people don’t actually contact you. Even small improvements in the proportion of people who hear about you that actually make the call can make a big difference in the growth of your business.

One advisor, let’s call him Sam, knew his clients spoke well of him, and he was perplexed over why he didn’t get more referred clients. So he started asking. He contracted with a firm to do a survey of clients, and included the question of whether they had mentioned him to anyone in the past year. He was shocked at how many had, yet his phone wasn’t ringing all that often. Now Sam was REALLY curious!

He started asking clients two questions at the end of appointments: Have you mentioned me to anyone recently? And, if they had, he asked “What exactly did you say to them?” It was an epiphany.

After half a dozen of these conversations, he realized that clients could not remember the key elements of his description of what set him apart from other advisors. They could not remember his description of the ideal client – exactly the kind of client he wanted them to refer. Even though Sam had spent a lot of time developing a detailed description of who he most wanted to meet and the specific services he had to offer them. They ended up talking about how much they liked him and what good service he provided. Nice things to hear, to be sure, but he could easily see why it did not bring in calls. They were not enough to get people to pick up the phone. Today. Like I need to talk to that guy Sam right away.

He made another discovery that was even more interesting, and had him slapping his forehead. Of course! What WAS successful at getting friends to call? When a client told their own story of how Sam had solved their problem creatively and successfully and their friend had the same problem!

People don’t remember facts and features and benefits.  People remember stories about people. They probably won’t remember your positioning statement or value proposition. They may remember a story about how you solved that same problem for another client.

A lot has been written about the importance of storytelling when explaining things to clients, whether it be so that clients understand the recommendation you are making to them or to help them understand your marketing message. Stories move people. We are wired to respond to them. You have seen this point made in articles and books aimed at financial advisors.

But there is another reason to tell stories – because clients are more likely to remember them and be able to repeat them to others.

Referral marketing is about spreading your expertise and your reputation through people you know to people you don’t know. You may be able to get clients to repeat the carefully worded positioning statements and elevator pitches you have put together but my suspicion is that clients are not that interested in studying to be your sales representatives. They may, however, remember an interesting story you tell them and be able to recall the key points when someone reminds them of a similar scenario.

Want people to tell their friends about the amazing solution you provided them in a way that will have them writing down your name and looking you up when they get home? Well, let me tell you about one client who had EXACTLY that problem…


  1. Ronald SierMay 1, 2013

    Hi Stephen,

    My name is Ronald Sier and I am financial planner from Holland. I really love your article. Great stuff. It echoes one of my articles about storytelling and gaining trust:

    Thank you for sharing.
    – Ronald Sier

    PS: reading your book right now. Very powerful!

  2. Stephen WershingMay 3, 2013


    Thanks for the nice compliment. I hope there are lots of ideas you can use in the book!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top