Listen to that Gallop!

Or how a doctor’s unintended comment brought his patient back to health.

I was listening to a talk show on the radio some time ago when a Boston cardiologist related this story, which I’ll paraphrase.  A patient was brought into the hospital after suffering a severe heart attack.  He was in very bad shape and the medical staff expected him to be hospitalized for many days.

One day, the cardiologist was making his rounds along with a number of medical students, and they came to this man’s bed.  The doctor listened to the patient’s heart, and handed the stethoscope around to the other students, so they could listen too.  The doctor asked the students, “Do you hear that gallop?”  And they all nodded and said, “Yes, that’s quite a gallop!”

Now a heart gallop is not such a good thing.  It is an extra beat, or disordered rhythm of the heart which mimics the sound of a horse’s gallop.  This patient was a very sick man, and the doctor was concerned.

The next day the doctor received notice that this man was due to be discharged that afternoon.  Worried that there might have been some mistake due to the seriousness of the man’s condition, the doctor visited him right away and said, “I understand you are being discharged today.  How are you feeling?”

And the patient said.  “I feel wonderful!  You know, I felt so weak and tired when I came in here and I was deeply concerned, but when you came in here yesterday and listened to my heart and you all said how it was galloping along, I was so encouraged, and right away I began to feel better.  This morning I told the nurse I want to go home.  I feel terrific!”

Well, there is a lesson here isn’t there?  Although the doctor acknowledged he needed to use more care in what he said in front of patients, he also realized that he could do some good, and he began to position his comments to patients using positive language, because of the effect that positive words have on healing.

Now let’s consider what this has to do with selling to people.  If you are selling financial services, wealth products, insurance or the like, you will do far better if you position for your clients how well they are doing:  “I see that your careful money management has worked well for you, and you should be well-poised for retirement. Let’s talk about how we can do even better.”  This kind of positioning statement will endear you to your client, while scare tactics will have just the opposite effect.  The prospect will not warm up to you or engage you if he thinks you are the harbinger of doom.

So next time you sell, consider using language that positions for your customer a desired outcome, a problem solved, a happy ending.  You just have to…

Think Like Your Customer!

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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