Selling with Style: “The Platinum Rule” is Key

By Scott Zimmerman, Business Editor

We all know someone who is as nice as can be–yet when you see them approaching, you know the conversation will be like nails screeching on a chalkboard for you. Unless you learn the skill of adapting to the observable behavior of others, you are that person for other people; they’re just too nice to tell you. In this article, I will teach you how to practice Dr. Tony Alessandra’s The Platinum Rule®, which states, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them,” or, “Treat people the way they like to be treated.” 

Prior to discovering this concept, I had studied DiSC, the enneagram, and Myers-Briggs. While I found these methods of personality profiling to be interesting, it was The Platinum Rule mantra of being “outwardly focused” that I found to be not only simple to master, but also the most effective way to improve relationships. In fact, within days of learning and applying the art of adapting to the observable behavior of others, my personal as well as professional relationships began to improve significantly. 

The Platinum Rule is a more modern, sensitive version of The Golden Rule, which teaches us to “Do unto others as we would want done to ourselves.” However, not everyone wants or likes to be treated the way that we do! Some people enjoy slow, warm, friendly conversations, while others prefer conversations that stay on topic, stick to facts, and aren’t emotionally driven at all.

To determine how another person likes to be treated, you only need to pay attention to two dimensions of their observable behaviors. One is the speed with which they talk, walk, and even eat. The second is the degree of warmth (or lack thereof) that they exhibit when they’re around you. I like to picture a dashboard on someone’s forehead during our conversation.

Adapting to another person’s observable behaviors provides two benefits: it reduces interpersonal tension while increasing levels of trust. Can you imagine the advantage a professional salesperson would have if they could accurately predict both when and how their customer would be comfortable making their buying decision? As the only salesperson for my own business, I enjoyed a 450% increase in my sales within the first ninety days of applying The Platinum Rule with my own clients.

The first dimension of an observable behavior is “Directness,” or the speed at which the person appears to do things. Someone who is more Direct than Indirect typically talks fast, walks fast, eats fast, and makes quick decisions. Conversely, some people are more Indirect than Direct. These people appear more quiet, calm and introverted. They speak, eat, and walk at a slower pace, and they want and need both time and space to make any decision.

When you’re in a conversation with someone who is exhibiting more Direct than Indirect behaviors, they’re trying to tell you that–now–they’re driven by a need to either accomplish something, fix something, move something forward, or arrive at a decision. They’re showing you that they are not afraid to take risks. They tend to come across as confident, assertive, and extroverted.

On the other hand, when you’re in a conversation with someone who appears to be more Indirect than Direct, they’re telling you that they are driven by a need to be certain. Therefore, they are very slow to change things or take any risks. They tend to come across as a little more easygoing and cooperative. Being introverted, they tend to ask more than they tell. Direct people tend to tell more than they ask.

For example, upon entering an Indirect person’s office, they might ask you, “Would you like to have a seat?” A Direct person, on the other hand, might say something like, “Nice to see you. Have a seat and let’s get started.”

When I’m in a sales conversation with someone who’s exhibiting Indirect behaviors, they are telling me that they want both time and space to decide–so that’s exactly what I offer them. You can witness them visibly relax when I’m the one who says, “We’re not going to be making any decisions today. I just want to present you with all the facts and research that you need to make your own decision in your own timeframe. Would you mind if I followed up with you in a week or two and see what you think about what we’ll be discussing today?” By adapting my speed to match their speed, I not only reduce interpersonal tension by delaying the buying decision for the Indirect customer, but also make it easy for the Direct customer to buy from me immediately.

The second dimension of observable behavior is the amount of warmth–or lack thereof–that someone is exhibiting. Warm people can be considered “Open,” while cooler people who aren’t exhibiting much warmth are “Guarded.”

Open people are easy to read and easy to get to know. They’re friendly, animated, and natural “touchers” and “huggers.” Their primary focus is mostly on relationships and people, and they are free with your use of their time. They love conversations that tend to meander. They smile easily and they’re just naturally warm and friendly. These people tend to make emotional buying decisions. They like stories and testimonials.

Conversely, Guarded people are harder to read and harder to get to know. Whatever they are thinking or feeling generally remains on the inside. They are tight with your use of their time, and when they’re done speaking, they stop speaking. Their primary focus is not on feelings and relationships, but rather on facts, tasks, data, work, and results. It’s not that they don’t share the same feelings as Open people–they do! It’s more that they don’t express those feelings in the same way. For instance, they’re much less likely to cry in a movie theater than an Open person. They also like conversations to start and end on one topic. When that topic is covered, they want you to stop speaking–it’s time to go back to work. They tend to base their buying decisions solely on provable facts about a product or service offer. Their buying decisions are very unemotional; you will not win them over with stories and testimonials. 

If you put these two dimensions of speed and temperature together, you can accurately predict what mode a person is operating in, as well as when and how they want to make a buying decision. If the person appears to be warm and friendly and operating at a quick speed, they are in a “Socializing” mode. They tell great stories and want to be the life of the party—the center of attention. They make very quick buying decisions as soon as something feels right. However, buyer’s remorse is a possibility for someone in this mode, so a good salesperson will have to be ready to reassure them with reasons why their decision is a good one.

If someone is exhibiting warm and friendly behaviors, but they’re quieter and more cooperative, they’re in a “Relating” mode. They like stories and testimonials, but they want time and space to reconcile their feelings about the decision they’re going to make. They also need reassurance regarding how their decision will impact other people on their team, so they want to think things through very carefully. They will frequently ask other people for their opinions. They are loyal, warm, and friendly, and they want you to be the same. They don’t want to be “sold;” they just want to feel as though you are helping them make a proper decision. 

If someone is coming across as quiet and cooperative, but they seem more Guarded than warm and friendly, they’re in their “Thinking” mode. They want time and space to make their decision, and you’d better be prepared to give them all the facts and data they need, because as soon as you leave, they will begin shopping for other solutions. They tend to be the most intelligent–and the most difficult–to sell to. 

Finally, if someone is coming across as Guarded, or not very warm and friendly, but also fast-paced, confident, and assertive, they’re in a “Directing” mode. They want to decide as soon as possible, but you’d better give them just the facts. They will fly at 40,000 feet…until they swoop down and start asking you very pointed questions; they’re only doing this to see if they can trust that you know your stuff. Once you’ve established trust, someone in a Directing mode will make a very quick buying decision; they will also hold you accountable to every hint of any promise you may have made during your conversation.

The concepts I just shared with you come directly out of the first book that I wrote with Dr. Alessandra called, The Platinum Rule for Sales Mastery. Year after year, this book is voted top 50 in Top Sales World magazine, and it remains there today. In the sales coaching I do for people, the very first thing I do is analyze their natural style. Then, I teach them not only how to successfully apply the benefits of that style during a sales conversation, but also how to avoid things they’re likely to do that may erode trust between them and their potential client.

In closing, mastering the art of adaptability will not only make you a better salesperson, but will improve every relationship in your personal life as well. By nature, I’ve never considered myself a great “people person.” However, by mastering just this one skill, I’ve noticed that now people seem to really enjoy their conversations with me. And the best part is that it’s not manipulative—it’s simply being considerate of how the other person likes to be treated.


About the Author: Scott Zimmerman had the vision to combine his cutting-edge marketing technology with Dr. Tony Alessandra’s proven sales psychology. The result was a proprietary communication platform that could automatically send customized marketing messages that matched each recipient’s interests and even their personality type. Today, that platform has evolved into a done-for-you service that helps salespeople and professional service providers build—and maintain—meaningful relationships with (literally) hundreds of their clients, prospects, colleagues, and referral partners.

Scott invested his career in the study of graphic design, branding, positioning, psychology (as related to influence) business-to-business selling and one-to-one marketing.

Also in 2005, they co-authored “The Platinum Rule for DISC Sales Mastery”, which was recently voted Top 50 sales books by Top Selling Magazine. Scott and Dr. Alessandra went on to write additional books on entrepreneurship and trade show marketing.

Today, Scott is helping build a team of marketing and sales experts in a new company called Cyrano Service. They help sales teams and professional service providers build strong personal brands and provide them with one-on-one coaching, mentoring and tools to help them with their personal and professional development. Scott also enjoys crafting custom webinars and keynote speaking. To reach Scott: Scott@CyranoService.com or via cell: 330-618-4251

One thought on "Selling with Style: “The Platinum Rule” is Key"

  1. Joel says:

    Wow! What a great read and AND the tools to put it all in action. I’ve put some of these skills to use in my daily life and I can attest to the fact that they do work! Thanks for the excellent article!

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