We have the best of intentions when we abide by the Golden Rule in our work interactions. It’s hard to talk yourself out of the idea that if something is important to you, it will be important to others, too. The truth is that — to succeed in business relationships — “do unto others as you would have done unto you” needs to become “do unto others… as others would have done unto them.”
I've started to think of this practice as “The Rule of You.” While it's incredibly simple, it can be transformative — for your relationships, your communications, and the way you approach any given interaction with someone. "The Rule of You" is simply about starting with the “you" in all situations, phrasing what you have to communicate in terms of the benefits, impact, or importance to the client. Starting with YOU will make a difference in...
How you structure a presentation or a talk
You won’t connect with your audience unless you’re able to formulate your key points so that they speak to something that’s important to that audience. Why should your audience care? Whatever you responded, start there, and make sure every main point of your presentation loops back to that central "why should they care" concept. (In my past blogs on building "ramps" to get people to listen to you and ending presentations with "dessert," I give some specific strategies to help you begin — and end — presentations with the all-important "you.")
How you sell
How often has your sales pitch missed the mark because you were unable to connect what you had to sell with what the client genuinely wanted or needed? By approaching proposals and client meetings with a lens that begins with the “you,” you're able to showcase your value prop in a way that feels real and relevant to your client.
Miller Heiman's approach to "strategic selling" — another endlessly valuable gift I received during my time at EY — provides a tactical approach to developing value props that are genuinely relevant to what your clients want. Miller Heiman teaches you to analyze the decision makers in great detail, looking at their roles, levels of influence, competitive preferences, modes (e.g., do they believe they're in "trouble" or are they on an "even keel"?), likely ratings of your solution, and "personal wins" (i.e., what's in it for them personally, such as a promotion, recognition, a way to build their reputations, a way to win back trust, and so on). Looking over your analysis, you isolate what your strengths and weaknesses are in the eyes of the decision makers. Then, you formulate your central value props in a manner that *directly responds* to what their concerns are and what's important to them, mitigating your perceived weaknesses and capitalizing on your perceived strengths. (If you'd like to learn more, Miller Heiman offers regular trainings, or you could check out the seminal book that summarizes this approach.)
In the proposals I wrote, I did my best to use "The Rule of You" to begin every paragraph and each new thought. So instead of starting out by saying something self-serving about me and my organization — let's go with the classic "Our experience serving your industry is unparalleled" — I'd start with something like this: "You need to work with someone who understands your business and your market. You don't have time to bring your service provider up to speed on what you do and why," and only then proceed to, "Our experience serving your industry is unparalleled." So again, the idea is to start with "why they should care" in all things.
How you interact with your clients or colleagues
Each of your clients and co-workers brings a unique profile when it comes to making decisions, managing time, and interacting with others. They also bring a unique cultural background, personal history, and set of personal goals. By focusing first on the “you” in each client interaction, you'll be more mindful of these different factors as you plan your communications and direct your own behavior.
For example, if you're working with someone who has an analytical social style, they tend to require time (as well as a great deal of data) for decision making. If you have a driving social style — which tends to want decisions ASAP and doesn't like to delay for anything they view as unnecessary info — you and your analytical colleague are likely to butt heads, unless you're able to come to a better understanding about what each other needs.
For another example, imagine that you, a highly driven American who has been told to speak up and challenge others' ideas, are working with an Asian who comes from a country and cultural background in which respect and deference for authority are central to the way they do business. How do you think things will turn out if you both approach each other in your usual modes? Most likely, the Asian will leave offended and the American will leave feeling misunderstood. (Clearly, there's a ton more I could unpack on this one. But I'll have to save that for a future blog.)
While I'm still a sucker for that good old Golden Rule, "The Rule of You" is a rather excellent way to go if you want to get better at communicating. Because when the ultimate goal is communication, it's crucial to think first of the person on the other end of that communication. So remember, ask yourself first, "Why should they care?" and begin there. Then, sit back and see what a difference following "The Rule of You" makes.