Understanding values is one of the most powerful keys to getting what you want and communicating effectively with others.
We may think of values as being the moral code which we live by and therefore don’t think too much about them.
But, in fact, values are very powerful in all areas of our lives.
- Motivate us
- Help us decide whether to take a particular course of action
- Determine how we feel about something afterward
So our values can drive us to success or prevent us reaching it.
Our values help us to decide what to buy and then guide us when to feel good about something and when to feel bad.
So we can get better results in our lives by understanding our own values.
But we can also be more effective in communicating or marketing to others if we take the time to understand their values.
Our values can drive us to success or prevent us reaching it
Our values are formed in the early years of our lives – heavily influenced by the people around us at that time – our parents, our friends and our teachers.
They will also be significantly affected by where we grew up, what the economic conditions of the time were and by our ‘heroes’ from the worlds of sport, cinema and television.
As everyone is subject to different influences, everyone develops their own values. We are all motivated by different things, have different desires and feel differently about the same situation.
How your values hold you back
In order to achieve a goal or vision, it must be in alignment with your personal values. If you think of yourself as a sailboat, your values are like the wind that can help or hinder you in getting to your destination.
If the values (or the wind) are blowing in the right direction, it’s incredibly supportive. On the other hand, if where you’re trying to get isn’t in alignment with your values, it’s like the wind blowing in the wrong direction. It will take you completely off course.
So it’s useful to know what your values really are in different areas of your life so that you know what really drives you.
To understand your values in your business life, for example, start off by answering the question:
“What’s important to you about your business?”
You can use exactly the same process to understand your values in relation to other areas of your life.
So if you are focused on your health and fitness, ask: “What’s important to you about health and fitness?”
Very often, values are quite unconscious, so they don’t come to your mind immediately. So it’s important to keep asking this question until you ‘dry up’. And even after you dry up, go back to the beginning of the process and start again with the question.
Something like satisfaction is a value; reward is a value. These are words ‘frozen’ in time, and have a specific meaning that is motivating to you in the context of that area of your life. And what’s important is what the word means to you – the same word may have a different meaning to someone else.
Once you’ve come up with a list of your values, rank them in order of their importance to you.
Start with whatever is most important. What is the one thing in that area of your life that you couldn’t live without? Work through that process. You don’t need to go all the way down if you’ve got a very long list. Stick to the first eight or so.
Check the list and see if it really describes what is important to you and how you are motivated. If you’re not happy that the list is accurate for you, keep rewriting it until you are satisfied.
Now that you know the values in this area of your life, you’ll be able to ensure that they are supporting you in your goals.
If you find you are doing something that doesn’t align with your values, it’s usually easier to do something different – rather than try to change your values.
How to use values to influence others
Understanding values is also very important in marketing.
If you sell cars, for example, you need to know whether your potential customer puts more store by speed or by safety. Of course they might want both but the key is understanding that values are ranked in a hierarchy with the most important at the top.
Customers will be happiest – and most likely to buy – when something meets their highest ranked value.
Values in all areas of our life are built up using the same process. Most are established before the age of nine or ten and are often instilled before the age of five.
Those values are the things that influence the buying decisions and life choices that people make 20, 30 or 40 years later.
If you take the trouble to discover what is important to others, you’ll find it easier to communicate with them and sell to them.
You have more chance of selling your products if they satisfy what is important for your customers – in other words match their values.
Values in this context are sometimes also known as criteria.
There are some very simple questions that allow you to uncover another person’s values instantly.
Generally speaking, you want two or three main pieces of information.
Q1) What is most important to you in buying (a car)?
Your prospect or customer will tell you what is most important. This may be one word like “speed” or “service” or it may be a long detailed explanation covering many different things.
Let’s imagine, the person has responded with “service”.
Your next question seeks to find out more about this. Depending on the situation, it could be either of the following.
Q2) How do you know when you have ‘service’? or Why is ‘service’ important to you?
The answer to this question will help you understand the value in more detail.
Depending on the information you have been given, you may want to ask a further question to get a full picture of what is important to them.
So you could ask a further question.
Q3) What else is important to you in buying (a car)?
At this point you would need to go back through the process by asking question 2.
That’s all there is to eliciting values. The secret is in making use of the information.
If you can meet their highest value and demonstrate that to them, your chances of them buying from you are hugely increased.
For example, in the above situation, you could say something like: “If you can be certain that this car has the best service record, would you be happy to own it?” Do you think you are half way to a sale? Of course you are.
Without that information, you might have been tempted to say “If I can show you that this car is the fastest on the market, would you be interested?”
Now that approach might work with some customers but not this one.
One of the key secrets of values is that they tell you the difference between your customers.
So understanding your own values and the values of others can help you get what you want and can help you give others what they want.