Novelist & nonfiction author

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Tarnish the Golden Rule

I’m sure our forefathers meant well, but their advice to “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you” is perhaps the most presumptuous cliché of all time. It also represents one of the key stumbling blocks in the development and enhancement of effective rainmaking and marketing skills. When taken literally, the Golden Rule suffers from the center-of-the-universe syndrome that, unfortunately, afflicts most of us modern folk – whether consciously or subconsciously.

Of course, in their defense, the world of our forefathers was quite different from today. The Golden Rule was derived in a world where most people were indeed very much alike. People lived in homogenous communities and typically lived their whole lives within a few miles of where they were born. Because of their proximity – in terms of geography, experiences, and DNA – people tended to have the same basic needs, the same aspirations (or lack thereof), and the same measures of happiness and fulfillment.

Not so today. High-speed transportation and communication systems have changed the world. Even people who live next door to each other in suburban or rural areas tend to be highly diverse. The traditional family structure of two heterosexual parents with two kids has been replaced with a wide array of living arrangements and personal lifestyles: unmarried couples, single parents, gay partners with or without kids, empty nesters, and lots more. Even the seemingly well-defined designation of “single parent” can have multiple meanings: never married, divorced, or widowed; biological children or adopted children. What commonality could there possibly be between the mindset of a widowed 45-year-old mother of three teenagers, who has not worked outside the house for ten years or more, and the 32-year-old lesbian executive who has just adopted a baby from China?

There is no one exactly like you or me. So we can’t presume that a client or prospect wants to be treated the way we would like to be treated. We don’t matter to the client. The only thing that does matter is that they get what they want, when they want it, in the way they want, and at the price they want. Everything else is noise.

The realities of the modern world require that the Golden Rule be changed to something along the lines of “Do onto others as they want to have done onto themselves.” This approach moves you away from the nonsensical one-size-fits-all mindset that undermines successful marketing and long-term relationship-building. On the other hand, this approach also requires a much deeper knowledge of what the client truly wants. Virtually all salespeople, marketers, and rainmakers talk about delighting the customer and exceeding customer expectations. Very few of them actually accomplish that, however, because they don’t spend the time to understand what the customer is expecting. In the end, it’s a lot easier to sell what you’ve got rather than learn what the customer wants and then respond accordingly.

The fundamental problem with the Golden Rule is that it’s all about you – whereas effective marketing is all about the customer. The complicating factor, however, is that our customers are all different as well, so we can’t assume that Customer A has the same needs, goals, and hot buttons as Customer B. In Predatory Marketing, Britt Beemer and Robert Shook point out that “no one ever sold anything to a composite.” Nor can you have a relationship with a composite. The trick is to identify commonalities among your clients and prospects – which in most cases is the need for whatever you’re selling – and apply nuances that reflect the customer’s specific industry, position, temperament, personality, attitude, aptitude, and every other idiosyncratic trait or thought process that impacts how he or she feels about you, your product, or your service.

The good news is that it’s not as hard as it sounds. Today’s Golden Rule is as simple as doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. A.G. Edwards, one of the largest financial services companies in the nation, has successfully used this approach for over 120 years, believing that “putting the interests of your customer first is just plain smart business.” That is the ultimate bottom line, because if your client succeeds, you’ll succeed. Win-win scenarios in life and business are relatively rare, and thus should be aggressively pursued and relished. Which, of course, is a Golden Rule onto itself.

THE GOOD PARTS OF THE GOLDEN RULE
Notwithstanding any of this, the traditional Golden Rule does have relevance for rainmakers – most of which relates to common business courtesies like saying please and thank-you. Returning phone calls immediately. Treating all shared information—whether personal or professional—as confidential. Remembering names and using them at the beginning and end of all meetings and conversations. Not overusing names in a feeble effort to inspire rapport. Listening intently with ears, eyes, hands, face, head, heart, and every other part of the body that can communicate interest and respect. Not interrupting someone who’s speaking. Pausing a moment when it is your turn to speak. Setting expectations upfront. Meeting budgets and deadlines. Communicating issues before they become crises. Avoiding shortcuts that shortchange you or the client. Being positive and enthusiastic with others even if you’ve had a bad day at home or the office. Focusing on expressing rather than impressing. And, most importantly, follow the lead of John Wesley, the eighteenth-century theologian, who advised:

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

Phil Fragasso


MARKETING FOR RAINMAKERS

If you're a successful business person, entrepreneur, or independent professional who's indecisive about marketing, this book will help you and your company stand out from the crowd, inspire customer loyalty, and increase profits. Marketing for Rainmakers: 52 Rules of Engagement to Attract and Retain Customers for Life presents practical concepts, helpful tips and real-life examples to help you take your business to the next level with marketing that focuses on customer needs. the book's 52 business-building ideas will inspire you to take immediate action and develop a marketing mindset.