Can You Measure Pain Like A Doctor

I nearly entitled this post Hedonic Flipping. Love that phrase.

I vividly remember an early sales training course in the darkness before the digital dawn.

Way back then Consultative Selling was all the rage.

During those essential “pain identification” discussions early on with prospects, we eager learners were advised to channel the approach of a doctor.

Not the quack who grunts away while scribbling as you list your symptoms, never makes eye contact, then rips an illegible prescription from their pad and ushers you quickly out the door.

Rather the empathetic carer, who asks you what happens upon certain movements, gives you either-ors, and seems to take a keen interest.

It’s the standing joke about the two polar extremes of doctors.

Yet which one is the more accurate physician…?

So I was fascinated to come across this long read about the medical understanding of ‘pain’.

There’s much to consider parallel to selling.

Are surgeons are new business tigers? “Like all too many surgeons, they had lost interest in the fallout once the operation had proved a success.”

How useful are people’s description of the pain they’re in?

“It’s like I’ve been attacked with a stapler”
“Like having rabbits running up and down my spine”
“It’s like someone’s opened a cocktail umbrella in my penis …”

In short, diagnoses across commerce or medicine shares a key trait;

“There seemed to be a chasm of understanding in human discussions of pain”

We learn of the standard McGill pain questionnaire. Yet their scales produce the “unfortunate quality of sounding like a duchess complaining about a ball that didn’t meet her standards”.

Then a different approach finds “pain descriptors” on a scale of one to ten. Yet, evidence exists that “the obsession with numbers is an oversimplification … it comes with other baggage: how threatening it is, how emotionally disturbing, how it affects your ability to concentrate”.

Perhaps the most intriguing point came from the length of pain;

“Pain can be either acute or chronic, and the words do not (as some people think) mean “bad” and “very bad”. “Acute” pain means a temporary or one-off feeling of discomfort, which is usually treated with drugs; “chronic” pain persists over time and has to be lived with as a malevolent everyday companion.”

My mind raced to those tricky chats with prospects where they don’t accurately know the precise data to demonstrate their ‘pain’. To calm the tension and encourage a range of feasible figures, citing this analogy could be a real winner.

Other options are emerging. There are London biomechanists trying to develop a tool, rather like an “accelerometer”. And moves for “neuromodulation”. A breakthrough pursuit about distracting brain from pain. With perhaps my favourite phrase of the whole insight, “hedonic flipping”. Which converts pain from unbearable to pleasant. Many a prospect should be able to say how such flip would either work or be acknowledged.

So, if there is a paradigm shift, so that we now we think of chronic pain as a shift to another place, then maybe we in Sales can get creative and move to another place ourselves. Using these ideas for a deal-clinching pain-o-meter of our own.

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