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Using stories to connect with clients

Liz DeCarlo

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Fok combines technology and human touch to build long-lasting relationships.

Gregory Fok, CFP, is a storyteller. For him, successfully working with clients starts with telling stories about people in similar situations, and how the solutions he created for them can apply to the new client.       

Fok kept that philosophy in mind when the Singapore government recently announced it would allow the sale of insurance online. “I was initially very worried,” said Fok, a 12-year member from Singapore.

“But insurance is rarely bought; it’s mostly sold. People don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’m going to buy insurance.’ It’s normally sold by people who tell you a story.” Fortunately, it has turned out to be only a small percentage of people buying online.

Fok also applies his storytelling to social media and a book he wrote to engage clients and obtain referrals. Every few days, Fok writes a short story to post on his Facebook page about people who have done financial planning well, or those who have not done it well and suffered because of it.

Ninety-eight percent of Fok’s clients come from referrals, and he believes his strong online presence bolsters this.

“No direct business comes from this channel, but there are a lot of people reading the posts,” Fok said. “After a while, they start asking me questions. ‘Greg, you were telling a story about person A. What happened?’ Then they contact me for help with their situation.”

To share his stories, Fok also uses LinkedIn, which he updates (along with Facebook) regularly with industry information such as tax changes and market conditions. “I’m not sure which is better, Facebook or LinkedIn,” he said, “but I know being active on social media positions us differently.”

Compliance can be an issue with social media postings, so Fok is careful to not use clients’ names. He also makes sure he’s not posting about specific companies and products. “It’s always on a conceptual basis. If I do it that way, I won’t have problems,” he said. “You have to be mindful about what you post.”

Fok wrote a book several years ago that also incorporates his storytelling philosophy. The book features a story about a person and a specific situation in each of its eight chapters, with three questions at the end that help the client apply the situation to themselves. For instance, “How have you protected your business?” or “Have you worked on an estate plan?”

The book is targeted at Fok’s niche market of doctors, business owners and C-suite executives. “I wanted to write a book to differentiate myself,” he said. “Instead of giving a business card, I give my book. When people see the book, it’s different altogether.”

Other advisors also use Fok’s book. “They give it to clients and say, ‘Some things are difficult to talk about. Read story No. 3,'” Fok said. “It helps advisors start conversations with their clients.”

The book, combined with his use of social media, has kept business so busy for Fok that he no longer prospects. “It’s about using technology to our advantage, rather than seeing it as our competition,” he said. “Technology can’t replace the human touch; that is our strength. If we can combine human touch with technology, we can run a successful practice.”

Building trust by bringing people together

As Gregory Fok grew in his financial services career, he realized how much his success was based on relationship management and trust. “We try to find ways to add more value to our clients. So if a business owner is thinking about selling in five years, I’ll find someone with expertise in this area to work with him,” he said. “If someone says, ‘I need to buy an automobile — who do I look for?’ I know people who are selling cars and refer them to someone I know.

“Linking people up with trust makes life a lot easier for everyone,” he said. “I don’t get commission on these. It’s my way of saying, ‘I’m here to help.’”

Fok has also been more selective in finding clients who fit into his goal of relationship management. “Not everyone can be your client. They’re deciding if they’re comfortable working with us. With that selection process, we also can say, ‘Do I want to work with this person for the rest of my life?’ You have to have your own selection process.”

If you enjoy the relationship and the friendship, you want to find ways to work with and help that client, Fok said. “With that, life gets a lot more meaningful and exciting, and referrals will come automatically.”

Contact Gregory Fok at gregoryfok@gmail.com

 

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