Story Starters

Here are some story starters covering the Discovery Process and Ongoing Engagement that you can review then download.

Initial Discovery

Stories have many starting places. When you first meet a prospect, after the customary greetings and small talk, set up that first “get acquainted” conversation with this simple script.

“I want to suggest we do two things today. First, I want to take a few minutes and share my background, how I got in this business, and the process we use. The rest of our time together will focus entirely on you—your story, family, work, investment history—and why you are asking us to come along side you as financial advisors. How does that feel?”

Take 2-3 minutes and share a little about you, your family, background, and—most importantly—the process you use. Prospects are initially listening for process more than products, and performance. When you finish, ask, “Tell me about yourself. Where’s home? Education? Family? Work history? Places you have lived? Hobbies? Start anywhere.”

  • Listen for words that suggest PLACE, TIME, PEOPLE, MEMORY, and EMOTION
  • Incorporate phrases like, “You mentioned _________ (PLACE). I don’t think I know where that is.” Or, “When you said __________, I sensed memories. Please tell me more.” Lean in, listen, nod your head. Be engaged!
    • This same exchange can be used for TIME, PEOPLE, and MEMORY
    • With EMOTION, say, “When you mentioned __________, I sensed an emotion. Would you be comfortable telling me more about what you felt?”
  • Ask for stories that will help you—the advisor—paint a better picture of the person’s need, longing, and the information you need to create a financial plan, manage their assets, or help them deal with risk.
    • “In your work as a __________, what was the role planning played in being successful?”
    • “You mentioned a time in your teenage years when your family had to move. How did you handle that change? Do you recall your feelings at the time? If so, what were they? How did that move work out?”
  • Give the other person all the time, space, emotion, and energy they need to tell their story.
  • Make mental notes on where their story and yours may have common ground. Emotional common ground is far more important than a specific experience, work history, or place.
    • No two lives are alike. Acknowledge that saying, “No two people have the same experience. Though I did not ___________, I can and do know what it feels like to be disappointed, afraid, uprooted, successful—and dozens of other feelings.
    • Validate the other person’s feelings even if you cannot identify with them. “I can tell that was a very happy time in your life.” Or, “That set-back had to have been difficult.”
  • The key to unlocking the power of stories is finding COMMON GROUND that reveals who you—the advisor—are and that in this moment, though you have just met, you are receiving and honoring their story. Validation of the other person’s feelings is vital.
  • What now? Near the end of this get acquainted meeting, when you and the other person(s) have explored aspects of their story—and one or two of your own if appropriate—say “I know we have not talk much about planning, your current investments, and our services. Today’s conversation has helped us prepare for the next steps—planning, establishing goals, and the financial management of your assets now and going forward. If you are comfortable with our process, I want to take those next steps with you. To do so, we need information from a list we will use to prepare for our next meeting.”
    • Create a compliance approved document list you can attach to an email you will send them after the meeting. They can email the documents or bring them with them to the next meeting.
    • In that email, thank them for their time and the gift they gave you of learning more about them. Find one—just one—aspect of their story you can affirm. “I especially appreciate you telling me about . . . .”
    • Confirm your next appointment.

© 2022 TL Owings & Associates, LLC


Ongoing Engagement

Discovery will always be a cumulative process. With each client, we listen and retain key turning point moments in their lives from previous meetings, listening for the new they need to share with us. Like a bird foraging for seed, always have your senses attune to what you hear, see, feel, and yes would like to know.

After exchanging customary greetings, meet in a space where you can be adjacent to or near the client. Do not have ongoing client meetings from behind a desk! During the meeting, you may need to access the client’s account or pull up research. When that happens, move briefly to your desk chair, do that check, and return to your seat. Many communication-connection roadblocks exist. Control your space aware that even a desk can be a barrier. If you have prepared reports or planning studies to share, have them ready, but don’t start there. Mental preparation is equally important. Before the client(s) arrive, look back at your notes from previous meetings and note anything you learned that may be a pressure point. For example, the client’s company was reorganizing, or they were considering a career change, an adult child is going through a divorce, a parent is needing more support. No matter what you learned months earlier, have a follow-up question ready.


  • Begin the meeting asking the client “Has anything changed in your life, your business (if still employed), or your family since we last met?
    • Listen for change
    • Look for emotion and energy in what you learn
    • If the change reveals struggle, ask “Tell me how you feel about that?” If the change is good news, smile and say, “That’s wonderful! Tell me more about ________ (the wedding, new baby, promotion, etc.).
  • If and only if you learned something in an earlier conversation that was concerning, now is when you bring that into the conversation. “When we were together last time—or the last time we spoke—you mentioned _____________. Could you tell me how that’s going?” What you will then learn is vital, but equally important is your unsaid messaging. I WAS LISTENING THE LAST TIME AND I WILL BE LISTENING TODAY!
  • Most of the time, the previous section will not be needed UNLESS you learn something of concern that is new. Always put the client’s agenda ahead of yours. Train your senses to notice and hear and feel what the client most needs to tell you. The review can wait a few minutes IF the client is telling you something new that may well need your listening ear and supportive presence.
  • Now shift to business topics, offering a brief market opinion, the review of portfolios, looking at a planning need or suggesting a modified or new investment strategy.
  • As the conversation proceeds, listen more than you talk. As questions bubble up, note responses that could include a story such as “I learned something about myself as an investor a few years back,” or “We have a client who asked that very question not long ago. Here’s what we learned and shared with her/him.”
  • Wrap up the meeting, schedule NOW the next time you will be together, and summarize any action items needing your attention.
  • Walk the client out—some venues need you to walk the client to her car. Thank them for their time.
  • AFTER the meeting, go back to your desk, and write a follow up email to the client(s). Thank them for their time and business. If the client shared something sensitive, note that in your email. “Of all we talked about today, thank you for sharing what’s going on with ________.” Or, “Of all we discussed today, I will always remember you telling me about your daughter’s wedding or the new baby or the vacation.”
  • If something bubbled up in the meeting needing further research or reflection, do that work as soon as you can. Then call the client within the week and report your findings. Checking in with clients for a business reason or frankly no reason is and will always be a good use of your time.

© 2022 TL Owings & Associates, LLC