THE BIRTH 0F A “SALESMAN”–The Mindful Approach

Let me introduce myself. I come from a family of salesman. My dad was one. My son is in training to become one. I have come to realize that I am one too.  

Do we still envisionArthur Miller's Willy Loman when we think of the salesman–pushing, cajoling, sweating through one   after another ? I guess I suffer from the same reaction to the term that many of us do–"A salesman, hmmm. What do they want from me. How can I trust them?" Are salesman even obsolete in this age of instant information and communication? Will  , internet based business render them obsolete? Can medical care be obtained on-line without the need of a physician? Was my Dad's insurance business obsolete when anyone can purchase insurance on line as well?

I knew, for instance, that my dad was one of the most ethical human beings on the planet. I knew that his successes in business were modest but more a result of his lack of desire to make tons of money at the expense of his personal time. He did very well for the effort he exerted. His tools were simple–we was a smart individual who understood his product, he was pleasant and outgoing, he was totally sincere, honest and stood by his reputation. Sales, for him, was merely being himself and presenting information. There was no need for him to study strategies, acquire learned skills on how to close the deal, or take seminars on the art of doing so.

I became a physician. I never understood what it meant to be a salesman.  I had never believed I possessed the skills necessary. I was not as outgoing or as personable by nature as my Dad.

Medical practice put me in direct contact with many individuals. I soon came to realize that I was offering my opinion and skills to them. They could choose to follow my recommendations or not. I came to realize that what they were doing was evaluating me–as a physician and as a human being. They could not possibly comprehend all the medical aspects of their own problems. So at some point they were going to have to turn themselves over to someone whom they trusted. That might be me. I was doing sales. I guess what has propelled my career are those same qualities that my Dad possessed.

The Buddhists might say that I am practicing Mindfulness when in their presence because I attempt to be  completely with them in the moment.  I try to be mindful of them as human beings and sense their emotional, physical and spiritual state of being. I embrace a Kabbalistic notion that their presence in my office is a spiritual gift to me. They are offering me an opportunity to do good and I appreciate it.

I want them to feel the sacred place my exam room becomes. I want them to feel as if they are the only patient in my practice. I will then produce a proposed diagnosis to help their situation, a plan of action and then listen and "feel" their response. Are they in line with what I have proposed? Are they doubtful? If so, why? Can I offer alternative therapies, options? I need to perceive their reaction  and address any concerns at that moment.

I believe that personal contact will never be duplicated by a computer based interactions.  

I observe what takes place when intelligent layman obtain their medical information from the Internet. They are confused. They are often unable to evaluate what information if really knowledge. I need to provide answers to their questions or at least to assure them that I will follow up. I need to speak with confidence but not bravado. I need to understand their point of view, what will make them comfortable or uncomfortable.

But I need them to realize that I have the knowledge and experience that they seek. I need them to understand that our sales meeting is not over when they leave the exam room. If I recommend a procedure I am selling them a product. They need to believe that I am capable of providing that product safely and competently. They need to "feel" that I will guide them through the process of their illness. They also need to understand that when they become my patient they are entering a relationship with me–for the duration of their treatment. They also need to know that our relationship is a process, one that must deal with outcomes–positive or negative.

When a service is provided that can only come from a living, breathing, reacting human being, when an ongoing relationship defines the process—then a salesman is essential. And there is nothing wrong with that.

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