Along my designing journey, I come across both kinds of clients - 1. Who know what they want and 2. Who don't. No matter what the case is, the following steps can ensure you deliver exactly what is expected of you or even exceed your client's expectations.
When discussing design requirements with a client, I pay very close attention - not only to his/her expectations - but also what interests him, what kind of design inspires him, what his target audience is and his budget. Ask the right questions. They give you an insight into your clients vision. Make notes based on the info provided to you. I have put together a questionnaire for every service I offer and always request it to be filled out before going ahead with a project.
I then do some homework on who my client's competitors are and check out their brands. This includes their logo, stationary, website and packaging (if any).
"To create a design that stands out, you first need to know what you want to stand out against."
The design you create should not be based only on what you like or your own designing style. as a designer, it's your job to deliver what the clients wants/needs or more precisely what will WORK for the client. For example, my own/favorite style of designing is minimalistic however, I work with more colorful and bolder styles if the target audience is not likely to appreciate minimalism.
4. The Client Is Not Always Right
Your client can be totally wrong about what good design is or what will work for his brand. And you need to be polite yet persuasive to convince him otherwise. At the end of it though, if you simply can't change his mind, you need to do your best to make his idea work because as a designer, it's your job to create beautiful designs from whatever resources you've got. If you are providing 5 designs in the cost, you can however, as a nice gesture, provide your ideas as additional concepts.