The Art of Storytelling

 In Coaching Calls, Podcast, Professional Development

Michael Futterman, Head of Knowledge Labs™ Professional Development, spoke with client engagement experts Julie Littlechild and Stephen Wershing for their biweekly podcast, “Becoming Referable.” In the interview, he explains why advisors need to have a compelling catalyst that allows them to make meaningful connections with clients and prospects.

The Art of Storytelling
Michael Futterman

Michael Futterman

Key Takeaways

  • To differentiate themselves and connect with clients on an emotional level, advisors must be able to communicate why they do what they do in a meaningful, resonant way.
  • Having meaningful conversations about financial planning and investing requires going beyond the transactional aspect and tapping into a client’s emotional relationship to money.
  • Advisors can draw on storytelling techniques from films and novels to hone their own narrative approach; for example, the most effective stories contain some element of a struggle or a challenge to be overcome.

Julie Littlechild: Welcome to another episode of “Becoming Referable,” the podcast that helps you be the kind or advisor people can’t stop talking about. I’m Julie Littlechild, and on this week’s show, Steve and I are speaking with Michael Futterman. Michael is the head of Knowledge Labs Professional Development at Janus Henderson Investors, where he works with the Professional Development Team on both research and curriculum development for their professional development programs. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Michael and his team on some research projects and wanted him on the show because he brings such a unique set of experiences to bear on the work that he does with advisors. We talked to Michael about a few key concepts and tactics that I really think are critical for any successful financial advisor. We started with the idea that you need to have a compelling catalyst, a meaningful “why” that helps clients and prospects understand who you are, what you do and why you do it.

But we also went much deeper on how to communicate that compelling catalyst, and Michael shared some of the work that they’ve done with the great storytellers of Hollywood to help you tell your story. He has some great examples of what a powerful story sounds like and the impact that will have on those that hear it. And we get into a lively conversation on what it means to “wow” a client in a hypercompetitive industry. And with that, let’s turn to the conversation with Michael.

So, Michael, welcome to “Becoming Referable.” So glad to have you here.

Steve Wershing: Yeah, welcome, Michael.

Michael Futterman: Yeah, thank you.

Littlechild: So, I was excited to talk to you, Michael, because you and I have had the opportunity to be on a couple of panels together, and I just loved what you had to say, so just jumped at the chance to see if you would join us and give us a little more detail, because it’s really interesting work that you do. But before we even jump into the specifics of any of that, can you just start by sharing a little bit of information on your background and the role that you play at Janus Henderson?

Futterman: Yeah, absolutely. And I come from kind of a weird little background.

Littlechild: I seem to recall that.

Wershing: We specialize in that.

Littlechild: Yeah, that’s right, you’ll fit right in, thank you.

Futterman: Yeah, so I got involved in this business because I wanted to help change people. And my background, I went to school, my undergraduate degree is actually in recreation. My diploma from Ithaca College says that right on it, which is always…

Littlechild: So that’s a thing?

Futterman: That’s a thing, and it’s a great conversation starter. And then recreation was really all about, it was about experiential education. That’s really what I focused on. And after college, I went and I became and Outward Bound instructor, so I was running field trips for them out of New York City. And then, I got involved in a consulting company running their phone system. I knew nothing about phone systems, and I learned it on the job, and it was a way for me put a couple of extra dollars in my pocket. And after doing that for a number of years, I realized that really, my passion was working with people and helping them to change and helping organizations to be as effective as possible. And so, I went back to school and I got my master’s degree in organizational psychology. And I started at my first job after college was after graduate school, I was working as a learning and development professional for one of the big wire houses in New York City. And then, you know, followed that pathway and ended up here at Janus Henderson, where I am the head of the Knowledge Labs Professional Development Team.

It’s a mouthful, but really what we do is we seek to build relationships with our clients that extend well beyond product. What we know is that product is fungible. It can be replicated and duplicated. And performance, while we have great products and they do well, there’s always things that happen in the market that you can’t predict and things that cause performance to go up and down. So, it’s this third piece that is around developing deeper, more meaningful relationships. And we do that by creating cutting-edge content and then also support that content through coaching and training that is advisor focused. And my team, the group that I work with, brings a really diverse background that spans sales, training and consulting. And that’s really what I do on a day-to-day basis.

Littlechild: And so there’s quite a broad range of topics that you have, you and the team have expertise in delivering.

Futterman: Yeah.

Littlechild: And so what I thought might be interesting, if we could focus in on a few of the things that you talk about to get a little more specific. And one of the things that I know you talk about is the need for advisors to have what you call a compelling catalyst, which I thought was a really interesting concept. Can you tell us a little bit about what it is, but why it’s so important?

Futterman: Absolutely. The bottom line on compelling catalyst is there are 500,000 financial advisors in the United States and why should I work with you versus any of the 499,999 that are out there? And a lot of advisors understand what they do and there are plenty that have a way that they do it or how they do it. But the compelling catalyst is really focusing in on what Simon Sinek calls their why. So you have a unique why. You have a unique reason why you do what you do, and it should be a personal story. And then, the other part of compelling catalyst after you really come to understand what that is, what your why is, is being able to articulate it to your clients in a compelling way. So in this module, we really studied the work of Simon Sinek, and then we also worked with another gentleman named Robin Cowie, who was a producer of “The Blair Witch Project.” And why we worked with that individual is because we wanted to understand what are some of the dynamics and the features of creating a compelling story? And that’s really the components of compelling catalyst. It’s understanding why you do what you do and being able to communicate it in a meaningful, resonant way with your clients.

Wershing: And so, Michael, Simon has some great stuff about that. And his process is fairly deep. It involves some really probing questions and some work with a partner to help reflect back things, but, you know, so a lot of advisors, of course, haven’t gone through a process that significant. What do you see advisors doing in the absence of having that kind of compelling catalyst and, you know, what are some of the consequences of that being the case?

Futterman: Yeah, so a lot of advisors, if you ask them, “Tell me why I should work with you?” They’ll begin with, you know, pretty standard messaging. “Well, I have deep history, I have deep knowledge about the markets. I really care about my clients. I’m always available.” And those are features, but really, what a lot of advisors fail to realize is that everybody else out there is saying the same thing. I don’t think you’re going to find an advisor out there that’s saying, “Well, I became an advisor because I wanted to make a ton of money, and, you know, I have to top rate my clients.”

Wershing: “I have very little expertise and, you know, don’t call anybody back,” yes.

Futterman: Right, of course you have expertise. I expect you to have expertise. That is the basic premise behind what you are doing. I don’t know how to do this. I am coming to you because you do that. But we connect with advisors. We connect with service providers on all levels because they get us and there’s something about their story that is meaningful. So the consequences of advisors not necessarily stepping back and thinking about how do they communicate this attribute of who they are is that they end up getting clients accidentally. They end up getting clients that may not believe in the same things that they do, and not that we have to be homogenous in our client base, but it’s much more fun to work with people that you want to work with. It’s much more fun to work with people that buy into what you’re trying to do rather than fighting you every step of the way. So this compelling catalyst idea is really around connecting with an audience and a client base and prospects that allows you to have more fun. It allows you greater satisfaction because these are people that want to be with you for the right reasons.

Littlechild: And so, you’re touching on something that is more of an emotional connection, is that right?

Futterman: Yeah, there’s a big emotional connection. We make decisions with our gut, and behavioral economics is all about this, and we can believe this what we do is based in logic and facts and figures. And certainly, for some people that does play a role, but most of the time, we’re making these decisions because it just feels right, and Simon Sinek talks about this pretty frequently in his work. But it’s this emotional connection with people. We like to see ourselves in our service providers. We want to know that our service providers are part of our tribe, whether it’s our hotel chain, that’s why all of these… Marriott has how many different brands? One of the reasons why they have all these brands, aside from collecting them through acquisition, is because they recognize that not everybody wants to stay in a Conrad, well, Conrad is Hilton, but not everybody wants to stay in a J.W. Marriott. I prefer to stay in a W. It’s the same category of hotel, but the W speaks to more of my sort of generation and my design ethic and all of those things. And they’ve gone to continue to differentiate that design. It’s the same thing with any kind of provider is that you want to connect with them on not just a logical level, but an emotional level.

Wershing: Well, can you also address, you know, going a little bit more… So some advisors’ response to that would be, “You know, I have a passion for helping clients achieve their goals” and those kinds of things, which is pleasant to say, but it’s not the kind of thing you’re talking about, I don’t think. And so how would you encourage advisors to go beyond that and find that deeper why that would really grab people’s emotions?

Futterman: Well, you’re talking about, I think what you’re talking about is two different things. Number one is it’s really understanding why you got into the business and being able to use that as a motivator for having people work with you, articulating that story. So if you say, “I like, I became an advisor because I want to help people retire with dignity,” I think that’s not a bad tagline, but if you tell people, “I became an advisor because I watched my parents make bad decisions about money, and even though they were really educated people, they had the opportunity to work with an advisor and they felt, “Well, we’re very educated, we should be able to make these decisions on our own.” They were in some ways embarrassed that they didn’t know the answers to the puzzles that are economics and investing. And as a result of that, they are not in a place where they’d like to be in their retirement years. I became an advisor…”

Wershing: Yeah, I’m sorry… yeah, go ahead.

Futterman: Well, this story of being able to tell something that speaks to… everybody has parents, right? My story that I just shared with you, everybody that I’ve met has parents on some level. They, we had to come from somewhere or they had people that guided them, and at some point in their lives, they saw those people as, you know, god-like or deities, and they said, “These people are infallible. They can’t make mistakes. They know everything.” And then as you get older, you start to realize, “No, we’re all human. We all make mistakes and we all have insecurities and we all have these things.” So those elements of your story are really important in connecting with your clients, because your clients are coming to you because they need help. And if they’re doctors or lawyers or accountants or people that are educated, and not that those are the only ways to be educated, you know, there are people that work with their hands and run businesses that are extremely educated. But the point being is that people are coming to you because they want help, and they want help and some people are going to feel embarrassed by that. Everybody knows what it’s like to be embarrassed. Everybody knows what it’s like to feel like they should know the answer, but they don’t, and that’s really what I’m talking about there is turning on your understanding of what your clients are coming to you for. Now that’s one part of the puzzle.

The other part of the puzzle is really getting to know your clients on an intimate level, and this is really stretching into our client retention program, which we call “The Art of Wow.” But it’s about understanding what is important to your client. And that may be very different than what’s important to you, but I think it’s answering the other part of your question. When people feel that emotional connection, it’s because you have distributed or displayed to them that you get them, and that is well beyond sending them a gift basket at the end of the year. So let me stop there. There’s a lot that we could go through here.

Wershing: Yeah, so one of the things that you’re saying here that I think is worth distilling out is it sounds like you’re talking not so much about principles, I want to help people retire with dignity or retire comfortably, but connecting, but pulling up the story that’s behind that principle, because people will connect with the story better than they’ll connect with the principle. Is that right?

Futterman: Yeah, I think that that’s well said. Certainly, a lot less words than I used.

Littlechild: And how do you or do you find that advisors if, well, I won’t say advisors, any of us, if said why do you do this work? Do you find it takes some probing to really peel back the onion and get to the core of that answer?

Futterman: Yeah, absolutely. This is you know, this in particular is a business where we are focused on did we ring the register today? Did I make a sale? Did I do something that moved the needle? And we’re very focused on daily, quarterly, weekly, yearly results, and it’s very quantifiable. What we’re asking people to do is step back and really have more of that existential chat with themselves about why am I here? What is my purpose? What do I want to bring? How do I bring the best of myself to what I’m doing rather than just a job?

It’s fine, I don’t suggest that this is for everybody. I am willing to work with anybody, but certainly the work that I’m talking about doing is not for everybody. There are plenty of advisors out there that say, “You’re full of hooey.” They use more colorful language than that, but it’s fine. The point is that it takes some real introspection and that can be challenging for people.

Littlechild: It can be, and I’ve witnessed situations where advisors try to sit down with a piece of paper and answer these questions and it ends up coming out quite formulaic. And yet, when you get them in a quiet moment and just say, “Hey, you know, like tell me about your experience or how you got in,” then it just flows. And I’ve often found that just finding, even having somebody else ask them those questions, which as I imagine, some of the work that you guys do really can bring that out.

Futterman: Yeah, a lot of the coaching work that I do is sitting down with the clients one on one, giving them activities to do, and some are more willing to do this than others. But, you know, having a worksheet is nice and doing it in a workshop is a good place to start. But like I said, this work isn’t for everybody, and there are some people that are much more inclined to step back and say, “How can I focus on this in a different way and take the time and where am I going to see the benefit?” And, you know, I use this joke a lot in my presentations, “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?” And the answer is it only takes one, but it takes a very long time and the light bulb has to want to change. I mean the process, the process of doing this is iterative, there’s no right answer. That’s the other thing is that this is not like, “Oh, I have found the answer.” You find the answer that’s right for you at that moment, and I think it’s important to have sort of a moral core, but the way in which you articulate things may change over time. But knowing it is valuable.

Littlechild: Yeah.

Wershing: Is it fair to say, Michael, you know, that it’s, you probably don’t have the right engaging story until it’s really uncomfortable or at least uncomfortable to a certain level? Because as I’m listening to you talk, it occurs to me that one of the reasons that some folks may not want to pursue this is because if it’s going to work, it’s going to be uncomfortable, and some people aren’t really seeking that. Is that, am I off base there or is that, is there something to it?

Futterman: You know, that’s an interesting line of thinking here. I’ve never thought about it that way. I do believe that discomfort is a powerful motivator. And understanding where your discomfort is coming from can be really, really revealing. So if you ask yourself, “Why did I get involved in this business?” and you start to back out into, you know, some of the line of thinking and the line of decision making that led you there. You know, for some people, like, “Wow, I got into this business because my parents really pressured me, and I don’t really like it.” That’s a hard thing to realize. And how do you then use that story to articulate that to your clients? You may not want to use that story. You may have to find sort of the silver lining in there. But knowing it is valuable. I think there is a value in exploring the areas, the darker corners of how we think and what we believe to be true in helping us to develop these stories. I think that people, if you go back to the storytelling that we learned from Robin Cowie, movies work and novels work and stories work because of things like the hero’s journey. They work because it’s not all easy. There’s a struggle involved. We all relate to the struggle. So, there’s something here that resonates for me about what do we have to overcome. Because people relate to that, and I think that that may be what you’re getting at. But, you know, again, I hadn’t really taken the time…

Wershing: Yeah, you know, I’m going back to an old girlfriend’s advice that, you know, yeah, I know, right, wait until you hear it, right? “Steve, you know, you haven’t really gotten anywhere in therapy until you’ve cried,” which I pooh-poohed at the time, and of course she was correct. But I think, but going back to the storytelling, I think it’s, you know, people want to prevail. People want to take that, you know, to follow the journey along with the hero because, you know, they, you know, if you set aside a little bit of your income for a long period of time and it doesn’t really cause any pain, and you have a, you know, nice, comfortable retirement, that’s not necessarily an accomplishment. But if you make trade-offs and, you know, there’s something that, you know, you have to either, you know, if you have to make a compromise or if you have to do something that’s not the easiest thing to do, then, you know, it makes getting where you’re trying to get, you know, that much more rewarding. I think that’s one of the things that people relate to in heroes. But…

Littlechild: Go ahead.

Futterman: Well, I think what you’re saying there, and I really emphasize this to everybody listening, remember the money is not an end in and of itself. Money is a means to an end. And so, as an advisor, if we don’t understand, money allows you choices. I mean that’s essentially what it is, it’s a tool that allows you choices. So, if I’m an advisor, and I don’t understand what choices are important to you, if I don’t understand what is important to your family, then the money somehow becomes, there’s a disconnect there, and that’s what we talk about in the advisors creating these long-lasting, meaningful relationships. If I can’t understand that education is really, really important to you and your family or philanthropy or, you know, keeping the family business alive or whatever it is, then how do I help you achieve your goals? And that, I think, is what you’re talking about there. If it’s only about, “Well, we invested the money, you got a 13% return or whatever it is, and you’re where you wanted to be, you wanted this number and here you are,” that’s a very transactional thing.

Wershing: Sure.

Futterman: But if I understand you on an emotional, visceral level about why that number is important, well, now, I can really be different in the relationship that I have with you.

Littlechild: Can we, because we’ve got the storytelling which, and all of this I think relates, but I want to make sure that we go back and unpack that a little from a tactical perspective, particularly, and it’s a good way to, you know, you did bring up “The Blair Witch Project” at the outset, which is an unusual reference. But the work that you did, it was Cowie, right?

Futterman: It was Cowie.

Littlechild: Yeah, so can you tell us about, like, what the work can mean for advisors? How they can think about that work in relation to their own storytelling?

Futterman: Well, it’s about understanding what is the journey that you’ve been on? What is the journey that you’re taking your clients on? Who’s the hero of your story? “The Blair Witch Project” worked. It is very simple premise, right? We had these people that found this footage and went into the woods to try and figure it out, and they go on this terrifying, harrowing journey and, you know, that’s the essence of storytelling. And, you know, “Blair Witch” is a very specific example in that it’s a horror story, and it was really brilliant though at its time for being viral in the way that it marketed itself. And so, you got to get people interested. I think that that’s one of the pieces of the puzzle here that we’re trying to help advisors instill in their story is how do you create drama and emotion in your story? There’s got to be a situation, there’s got to be an obstacle that needs to be overcome. There’s a hero of the story and ideally, if the advisor can tell the story where there is somebody other than themselves that’s the hero, then, then that’s great. So telling a story about, “Well, I became an advisor, and why I’m an advisor is because I help people like the Futtermans, who struggled and saved for their kids to go to college, and because of the investments that we made, their children, you know, were able to get scholarships and then they were able to do these things that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.” And whatever that struggle is, I think that’s the takeaway here with the work that we did around screenwriting is understanding the arc of your characters in the story and identifying with the hero through common elements like I told about having parents and feeling embarrassed. Like, those are things that everybody can relate to, and that’s really what we want tactically advisors to start thinking about is create emotion and drama in your stories that resonates with your clients.

Wershing: But I also want to just highlight something in there, because a lot of advisors, when we talk about storytelling and creating that journey that they tend to, some of them tend to put themselves in the role as hero and that doesn’t work, because if it’s going to work, then, you know, you want your listener to put themselves in the role of the hero, so it needs, you know, whoever you’re telling the story about, it can’t be about you, because you don’t want them to be you, you want them to be the client. Right, so,…

Futterman: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, telling stories about how your clients were able to achieve their goals by the things that clients did, not what you did. I mean, you can be part of the story, but really, it’s about choices that their clients made, sacrifices, achievements, whatever. That’s what’s going to resonate with other people, because then they will place themselves in the client’s shoes.

Wershing: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And even the example that you use about, you know, “My parents made bad decisions, and they were really embarrassed about, you know, the mistakes they made and those kinds of things,” you know, you want to craft that so that, you know, so it’s my passion, it’s my overwhelming mission to make sure that other people don’t do the wrong things because they’re embarrassed, and so you’re making the client the hero who’s overcoming the embarrassment with the help of the person who’s motivated that way.

Futterman: Exactly, exactly. I became an advisor because I never want my clients to feel embarrassed about asking a question they think they should know the answer to.

Wershing: Yeah, yeah.

Littlechild: Can you talk about when to share stories as well? Because I think that, I think there’s a real art to crafting them, and I think we could go on much longer about that. But then there’s just this idea of, okay, so, you know, “Hey, Michael, what do you do?” And you say, “Well, let me tell you a story,” and, like, how do you do it comfortably?

Futterman: Yeah, I think that’s going to be unique to every advisor, and I hate to, that sounds like a cop out, but the reality is is that everybody has their own sort of sales process and sales cycle and prospecting cycle. But if people ask, one of the best answers I ever heard from an advisor was when somebody asked them, “What do you do?” Their answer was, “I make money boring.” And it’s like, “Huh?”

Littlechild: That will clear the room.

Futterman: And then, it provokes more questions. So I think that if you can create a story or, you know, people talk about their elevator pitch and their 30-second thing. I think that those things are valuable. You should be able to have a story there and have sort of a hook. You know, they talk about music having hooks or advertising having, you know, like the line, like Alka-Seltzer, right, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz.” You know, there’s something to that sort of encapsulating the whole message, “I make money boring.” “What do you mean you make money boring?” It provokes another question. “I make money boring. My clients don’t ever have to think about the money part of what we do. What we talk about is what they’re going to do with the money.”

Littlechild: Right, okay, so, and that might lead into stories that you share with prospects or with clients at the right moment, at whatever moment feels right for you.

Futterman: Yeah, and the advisor, you know, the client may ask, like, well, “How do you do that?” Well, you know, and that’s a trap in some ways, how do you do that? An advisor may then say, “Well, I have a comprehensive investment process to help people, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” and it’s like, “Great, so does everybody, but how do I do that? Well, I start by really understanding my clients. Tell me what’s important to you. What are three things that you’re excited about this year? What are three things you’re concerned about this year? What is your relationship to money? Did you come from it? Did you have to scrimp and save it? Do you spend it the minute you get it? I want to understand who you are and what your relationship is to money, and that informs how we’re going to work together. What I do? I invest money on behalf of my clients. That’s the, you know, nuts and bolts of what I do, but why I do it and how I do it? That’s a whole other thing.”

Wershing: So, you know, we’ve been talking a lot about how the, how to explain things to clients about the story or how to explain things through story and how to start developing your own story. And so I can see how stories would help with persuasion when you’re in front of somebody, but is there a way that stories can help stimulate referrals?

Futterman: Absolutely. When you, so when you get your clients to articulate your story without you asking them to, so if a client is asked without you in the room as the advisor, why do you work with your advisor, you want them telling your story.

Wershing: Right, okay, sure.

Futterman: You don’t want them telling, you want them articulating the story that you’ve crafted, because that’s going to draw the right type of client to you. The beauty of this business is that you get to choose who you work with. People don’t often approach it that way, they swim around like a big whale, and they take in all the plastic and all the garbage that’s in the ocean, right? They’re not selective about eating the right nutrients. But you really do have that choice, and a lot of advisors have built their business by just taking all comers, a pulse and money. But I think that’s probably not the right way to go about it. This is a business that requires a lot. It’s a business that is a 24-hour-a-day business in many cases. People expect you to be there. It’s a very intimate business, and so all of those factors, why would you want to work with people that are hard to work with? Why would you choose that? So, your story helps you to define the type of client segment that you want to work with. We call it unique business tranche. We want you to be focused on developing a tribe. We want you to have this story that your clients articulate to other people, and part of the way that you do that is by creating these memorable moments that we call wow moments.

So a quick story about this is we were advising an advisor on how to wow one of their clients that was going to play a golf course. The client was going to play this very exclusive, exciting golf course. And what we had the advisor do is send along a sleeve of golf balls to the club house, and it was in a just brown paper wrapper, a plain wrapper, not really revealing what’s inside. And it said, “Do not open until 17,” where there was a very challenging hole on 17. And so the client shows up at the club house, gets this package, it says, “Do not open until 17,” and obviously, with the foursome that they were playing with, they’re all excited to learn what’s inside this, and they finally get to 17, and they tear open the wrapper excitedly, and inside of this sleeve of golf balls, the kind of balls that the client uses obviously, and a note. And the note says, “I know you’re a great golfer, this is a tough hole. You might need some extra help. Enjoy your trip.” Right.

Now, it’s not just the client that’s being wowed there, but the other people that this client is playing with are now seeing the relationship that the advisor has created with that client, and they’re going to ask, “Who sent this to you?” “Well, that was my advisor.” Right. And those little things add up to a greater bank account of good will. When you go out of your way to wow people, when you go out of your way to create these moments that are memorable and resonant and of the moment. And it doesn’t always have to be gifts. It can be simple things like writing handwritten notes, they can be simple things like phone calls, it can be donating time or energy to things that are important to the clients. I mean, building that wow practice, when you build up that bank of good will, you’re in a far better position to then have your clients be talking about you in a way that you want them to talk about you, rather than a way that they figure out how to talk about you, if you catch my drift.

Littlechild: So, it sounds like, I mean, if you tie it back to the whole storytelling there’s, you get clients to tell stories about, that you’ve crafted that are about challenge, that are about experience, but you also tell stories about these moments that get shared as well. And I imagine both of those things drive referrals.

Futterman: Absolutely. There’s a company out there called Lovepop Cards, and there are plenty of other companies that do this. I just happen to know this one company, and they make pop-up cards. Right. You open them up and it’s like…

Littlechild: They were on “Shark Tank.”

Futterman: They were on “Shark Tank,” that’s absolutely right. So imagine if you send, when you send a handwritten note to somebody, right, they generally keep it, especially if it’s in, like, a card, like a Hallmark or a recycled paper card, they will keep it. Or even just a plain note card with your, you know, your stationery, they’ll hold onto that. Maybe not an actual letter, but they might hold onto a greeting card. So these greeting cards are meant to be displayed. So if you send your client a card, they’re going to display it, and somebody’s going to say, “What is that thing?” And then they’re going to say, “Well, this is from my advisor.” “Wow, that’s kind of cool that your advisor sends you that, who’s your advisor?” And that starts that conversation, right, so trying to figure out ways to create those moments where your clients are inclined to talk about you is a really valuable way to generate unsolicited referrals, because people will be talking about you and talking about you in a way that you want rather than in a way that they just happen to end up talking about you.

Wershing: Well, and I also think, you know, that, and forgive me, I just have this aversion to the whole idea of wow, so I’m going to think about it a little differently, if that’s okay with you.

Futterman: Sure.

Wershing: To me, what that’s saying is not just the wow, because there are a lot of ways of getting to wow, but what you’re talking about really is intimacy, is client intimacy. You know, there are a lot of things, flashy things you could do that are wow but really, what matters here is that, you know, you have your why and you’re creating a story about your why, but you’re also in touch with what their why is and, you know, the more you can communicate on that level, that’s really, you know, the intimacy is not, “You told me your Social Security number, and I know what all your assets are,” the intimacy is, “I know what you love, I know what’s important to you. and I’ll reflect that back to you to let you know that.”

Futterman: Yeah, and I want a snippet of you saying that, because that’s exactly what it should be hopefully…

Wershing: Well, I think it will be on podcast hopefully sometime soon.

Futterman: Yeah, it would be great if somebody is recording all this. It is absolutely what we talk about in The Art of Wow is that it’s creating these meaningful, memorable, customized and personalized experiences that go above and beyond expectations. And the only way to do that, the only way to make it personalized and meaningful is to have information. And the information that we’re looking for is not name, Social Security number and rank. It is “Where are you in the arc of your career? Do you like your job? What do you aspire to? I know that you take vacations, where do you go? Who do you go with? I know you have dogs, is this a series of dogs or have you just always gone and gotten dogs from the pound and they’re all mutts and different? Or are you on your fifth standard poodle?” Right?

Understanding that level of detail allows you the opportunity to really connect with people on an emotional level. You all know people out there that give the perfect gift. And they give that perfect gift, and you’re like, “How did they know that this was sort of the perfect gift?” It’s because they just pay attention. And some people are more inclined to do that, but it’s something that can be taught. And what we teach is looking at a variety of information points, you know, the basics like know your client, recreation, family, occupation. But then even beyond that, we talked about, you know, some people don’t respond to getting gifts. If I’m really wealthy, I can buy most of what I want. But if somebody gives me recognition or acknowledgment or somebody donates their time or their energy to something that’s important to me, that’s meaningful, because you can’t buy that. You can only get it through affection and intimacy, and very often, the only relationship that’s more intimate than the one with the client and the advisor is the one with the primary medical caregiver, the family doctor.

Littlechild: Yeah, absolutely. So, well, look, you’ve come a long way from recreation. Congratulations on that. We could go on, but I know we’re at time, so just let me ask you though, where can advisors learn more about the resources that Janus Henderson has to offer?

Futterman: Absolutely, so they can go to and there, under the Advisor Resources, there are a variety of links. We’ve got a blog that we publish pretty regularly. You can follow me on LinkedIn. Those are all different areas where you can hear more about what we’re talking about and what we’re doing. And then for those of you that are interested more in our Art of Wow program, we’ve got the Art of Wow website, which is, and it’s just a consistently updated list of wow ideas sorted by occasion and interest and all of those different categories. But we’re out there. It’s not hard to find us, just go to our website.

Littlechild: Well, appreciate your time. Thanks so much.

Futterman: Thank you.

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Reproduced here with permission from Becoming Referable. First published on August 22, 2019 at Neither Janus Henderson nor any of its subsidiaries are affiliated with Becoming Referable.

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