The Story That’s Sitting Across From Them (Issue 1001)

In which we are reminded that, as modern as we may be, personal interest and personal connection still matter to some of our clients.

I’ve been thinking, for the last several weeks, that I would like to find a new primary care physician. Until three years ago, one physician had been my PCP for several decades. We became quite good friends. We would have dinner a couple of times a year. He was as much a well-read philosopher as a physician and often our annual physicals would go on for a while because we would talk about our families, our business strategies, medical innovations, marriage, raising kids, and so on. I always learned something. I looked forward to our meetings.

When he retired, I decided to stick with the practice and with the physician who purchased the practice from my doctor. He’s a much younger guy who practices medicine in the modern way which is to say that he hasn’t spent a lot of time to get to know me.

My friends in the medical community tell me I’m searching for something that doesn’t exist anymore, that physicians have to work fast. No time for chit chat, get right to the point, they must see another patient in 15 minutes.

In the course of these musings, I remembered a moment when one of my clients said to me, “I think it’s time to introduce you to the president of the bank. He’s heard about the work that we’re doing and he wants to meet you.” I was at an earlier stage in my career. I had met bank presidents before but this bank was more Southern and a bit more formal than many with which I worked at that time.

I felt some apprehension about the meeting. I didn’t want to waste his time so I prepared thoroughly, mastering the facts and figures I thought I might need to know and thinking and rethinking how this 30-minute meeting with the bank president would go.

His office was about the size of a decent two bedroom apartment. Comfortable chairs and sofas. Wood paneling. An enormous dark wood highly polished desk.

When his assistant guided me through the door, he stood up, stepped around from behind his desk, extended his hand, and invited me to sit down in one of the wing- back chairs near his desk. I was a bit on edge and completely ready for the discussion.

He sat down, smiled at me and said, “I’ve been looking forward to our meeting.” I nodded, said “thank you,” and smiled. And then he looked straight at me and said, “Tell me about you and your family. Tell me about where you’re from.”

I had not prepared answers to those two questions.

A friend I met some time after that described it as, “Here in the South, we like to have some sweet tea before we have our barbeque.”  [And I know there was more to it than that and ‘nuff said for now.]

But, I’ve been wondering, is it too much to ask, in an initial visit or an annual visit, that even a very modern modern primary care physician might say, “Tell me about you and your family” and “Tell me about where you’re from.” Or ask, “How do you feel about your life and health at this point? What is it that you want for yourself over the next 10 years or 20 years of your life? What sorts of challenges do you feel that you’re facing at this point physically or mentally or financially? How do you exercise? What worries you the most? What are you most excited about? What would having a good experience in this practice look like to you?”

Many/most physicians are business people. They’re sales people whose jobs include attracting and retaining patients, diagnosing challenges, recommending solutions. Taking care of their clients so they generate positive comments with friends or on line to attract new patients.

As salespeople and physicians, how can they do that effectively if they jump right to disease lists, lab results, “speeds and feeds”, and “where does it hurt?” before they understand the story that’s sitting across from them.

Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at .

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