Where Do You Feel the Pain (Issue 554)

In which we recommend questions that ask specifically about performance rather than asking "where does it hurt?" 

“Why did you come to the Emergency Room?” I was asked.

I pointed. “My right knee.”

Knee wrapped in an ace bandage, I right-leg-stiff lurched into a local hospital emergency room, then waited….

… until finally I was directed to a treatment room and Dr. Fredericks.

“Sit up here”  Dr. Fredericks motioned to the examination table, dead center in the room. I hoisted myself onto the table.

“Take off the ace bandage, please.”

I did, then let my legs dangle off the side of the table, feet just above the floor.

Positioning himself just to my right, he bent forward, looked at my swollen knee, and poked at it with his index finger.

Still silent, he then grasped my right thigh just above the knee with his left hand while with his right hand he grasped my right ankle and PULLED MY ANKLE UP SHARPLY … so my right leg was now straight.

My vision went black for a moment. I took a sharp, deep breath.

“Where do you feel the pain?” he asked.

Regaining my vision, taking another deep breath, I pointed to all the places in my right knee where I felt pain.

The doctor then proceeded to push, pull, and rotate my lower leg, I suppose to test the stability of the knee. “Where do you feel the pain?” he asked again. I pointed.

When my leg did not break off in his hand, he pronounced that I would be fine and that I should keep the knee wrapped, elevated, and iced for a day or so. And he stepped out to see his next patient.

I later came to call this diagnostic moment “The Coma Test” as in, “If I didn’t go into a coma when he jerked my leg around, I must be fine.”

Maybe it’s just me, and when I hear salespeople ask, “Where do you feel the pain?” I am reminded of the Coma Test and prompted to take a deep breath.

“Where do you feel the pain?” or “Where does it hurt?” are important diagnostic questions in any medical exam. They are old questions, probably asked for the first time several thousand years ago. In the medical context, they’re just as fresh and important now as they were then.

However, in the modern financial services sales world, “Where do you feel the pain?” sounds several thousand years old. Tired. Overused. Trite. A remnant of times in which slick-haired salespeople “administered pain” or “amplified pain” and then provided relief – their products.

The first question the doctor asked me, “Why did you come into the Emergency Room today?” was a great question.  We can use that question when we begin sales calls – “What led you to meet with me today?” or “What would you like to accomplish in our meeting today?”

After that, better to abandon the “pain” tactic, instead to ask more engaging questions like, “What are you concerns about …?” or  “Where is performance falling short of expectations?” or “Where do you feel you’re spending more than you should?”

When we use the “pain” approach, we never know… Some old grump may start to tell us about bursitis or sciatica… and it’s a long way back from there to a corporate payment cycle or cash flow challenges.

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