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Adam Tappen on "The Modified Golden Rule"

June 7, 2024
Reading Time: 4 min.
Customer Wants Come Before All Else
two people fist bumping

Adam Tappen | 6 June, 2024

The Modified Golden Rule

It was probably around 2012 when I first heard of the "The Modified Golden Rule." I can't take credit for the rule, I will give that to Joanne Flynn. She was conducting a training session for the company I worked for at the time when it came up. During the training she introduced me and my colleagues to this rule and it has stuck with me ever since.

What Exactly Is the Modified Golden Rule?

Most of us know the traditional "Golden Rule" from the biblical sense that is something along the lines do to others what you would have them do to you. Meaning, treat others as you want to be treated. This certainly is a good rule to live by, treat people fairly and expect them to do the same to you. If we all went around treating others the way we wanted to be treated, the world would be a much better place. However, in the sales world we need to modify the golden rule just a bit.

"The Modified Golden Rule" is that you should treat others as they want to be treated. Make sense? Here is a simple example, say I like vanilla ice cream and you like chocolate ice cream. If I follow the golden rule I would bring you some vanilla ice cream, because that is how I want to be treated. But if I treated you as you wanted to be treated I'd bring you chocolate ice cream. Hopefully you are happy to get ice cream whether it be vanilla or chocolate.

A fictitious example of this is the infamous question that is often asked of sales candidates during an interview. The interviewer holds up their pen and simply asks, "sell me this pen." There is plenty of debate on how to answer this question, but the best answers always revolve around a customized pitch to the specific customer's need. In other words, sell the interviewer the pen they specifically need not the pen you would want if you were them. None of the best answers to the selling the pen question include "well I like this pen and so will you."

To relate this to a more realistic sales scenario I’ll use an example I’ve seen in my current role. Consider a hospital that is looking for ways to move small amounts of material around their hospital in an efficient and cost-effective manner. More specifically, the director of the pharmacy would like to get positive confirmation that a specific type of medication is only received by a specific person, say a nurse who needs to administer that specific medication, somewhere else in the hospital.

The golden rule would say this is simple. If it were me, I would just have the nurse who needs the medicine come to my pharmacy to pick it up. Simple as that. If the medication is handed directly from the pharmacist to the nurse, there is positive confirmation that the right person received the item.

However, if were to apply the modified golden rule you would put yourself in the role of director of pharmacy and the nurse and handle the situation how they would want it handled. Is it feasible to ask a nurse to leave their patient care area and walk to the pharmacy? What if it takes 10-minutes to make the walk to the pharmacy and 10-minutes to walk back? Is that the best use of the nurse’s time? How about putting yourself in the pharmacist’s shoes. Say something bad happened with the patient and the pharmacist needs to attest to the fact the medicine was actually delivered. Of the thousands of medication dispenses that happen in the pharmacy on a weekly basis, do you really want to rely on the pharmacist’s memory to say “I’m sure I gave it to the nurse?” I hope the answer to all of these is no.

Why Putting Customers’ Needs First Is a Must

You see in sales, we need to think more about anticipating a customer's actual needs and wants. Projecting what we would want if we were the customer happens when the customer doesn't know what they want, and we don't probe for answers to the critical questions. Getting to know your customer's needs in a more meaningful way will help you sell the customer a solution that is tailored to them while still utilizing your product and industry expertise to ensure they understand the benefits of your brand, products and offering.

I want to thank Joanne for introducing me to this rule, I think of it often when I'm in sales situations. I hope you find it useful as well.

About Adam:

Adam is the Vice President of Sales at TransLogic, a Swisslog Healthcare Company. With over 30 years of sales experience, his expertise ranges from mechanical engineering to business development. Today, Adam uses his diverse background and his customer-centric approach to help healthcare organizations across North America find the tube system solutions they need to thrive.