Forget the golden rule

Motivational coach Roger Ellerton makes his case for why you should abandon that guiding principle if only to better figure out client needs

Forget the golden rule
As a professional, you are constantly influencing others to accept you, your ideas, products or services. Many people have difficulty with influencing others because they tend to use the same strategies and emphasize the same needs and values on other people that they would like other people to use with them. Or they take the “spray and pray” approach, hoping their client will find something useful in the information provided.
To be truly effective at influencing others, you need to view the situation from their perspective. That is, determine what is important to them and how they like to purchase.
Determine your client’s needs and values
Far too often, we think it’s the product or service that people want to buy. In reality, however, people buy the benefit that the product or service provides.
If you are not certain of what is important to your client, you will not be able to present your products or services clearly. Having an understanding of your client’s needs and values can:
• Shorten the whole influence process
• Provide a better understanding of how to present your offering
• Lead to a better agreement for both parties – may give you an opportunity to suggest something the other person forgot, did not think was possible or was out of their awareness
• Create a firmer foundation on which to conclude this and future interactions positively
So how do you become the difference that makes the difference? Begin by asking questions. Listen for what is important to your client and how they express what is important to them.
As you know, some clients come to you with their minds already made up as to the best choice for them -- having obtained “expert” advice from their friends or an Internet search. Rather than telling them why their choice is not a good idea given the current financial climate or simply offering the best available rate, acknowledge their choice and explore the reason behind it. Once you have clearly identified the underlying need or value, you can raise the possibility that this need could be addressed in ways that provide additional benefits.
For some people, you may have to ask lots of questions. For others, you may have to interrupt politely to ask questions to get them back on track.
Having an understanding of your client’s specific needs and values will provide clarity on what truly is important to them and will help you recognize where you can compromise, suggest trade-offs or hold firm.
Although not comprehensive, I have found that specifying your client’s most important needs and values in terms of the acronym RIGHTS can stimulate your thought processes, encourage you to take a more concerted look at their needs and values and help you remember what is important for your client.
To begin, take a moment and for your typical client determine their RIGHTS. Identify at least one need or value that corresponds to each of the letters in RIGHTS. To get the most out of this exercise, you may wish to act as if you are a typical client:
Possible suggestions are:

R – reputation, (minimize their) risk, reduce (costs), respect (their view point -- you don’t have to agree with them, just respect they have a different perspective), responsive (to their needs).
I – information, investment
G – guarantee, green (environmental, e.g. electronic rather than paper documents).
H – health (reduced stress), helpful, (feels respected and) heard.
T – (convenient meeting) time, time (to closing), timely (response to requests).
S – safety, save (money), satisfaction (with process and results).
Having the RIGHTS specified for a typical client is a good starting point. As you meet each client (in person, by email), customize this list to focus on their specific needs. For each subsequent meeting, use this list to refresh your memory about this client and modify as you get new information.
The more RIGHTS you satisfy, through the way you interact with your client and the package you arrange, increases your closing success rate and provides more motivated referrals.
This is a slightly amended version of an article written by Roger Ellerton author, Win-Win Influence: How to Enhance Your Personal and Business Relationships. It has been shortened to make it suitable for web publishing.