“Selling.” “Sales.” “Sealing the deal.” “Always be selling.” “Closing the deal.”

I don’t know about you, but as an entrepreneur, whenever I hear these terms, I get the creeps and hives. And as a consumer, I don’t want to be “closed” or “sold” on something.

The same fears and trepidation about selling exist equally for anyone whose livelihood depends on getting more people to buy their services, programs, and products, regardless of industry.

If you’re afraid of selling, then just STOP SELLING!

I mean that literally. Don’t try to sell anything.

Instead of trying to sell, I recommend taking a more thoughtful and intuitive approach: “THINK DIAGNOSTICALLY.”

Think of doctors. In general, doctors don’t sell. And patients trust them to offer the best possible advice and recommendations.

So there’s a lot to learn from their approach that applies directly to selling. You see, doctors focus on diagnosing a problem that a patient comes in with.

And that’s the “Diagnostic-Based Selling” approach. Diagnostic thinking, applied to the context of problem-solving and turning prospective clients into paying clients, is what I call: “Diagnostic-Based Selling.” This approach is based on the medical approach to diagnosing problems and arriving at viable, practical solutions.

So instead of trying to sell, trying to get someone to buy from you, take a diagnostic approach. Ask good questions that both draw out important details and nuances about a particular buyer’s issues and situation and that provide an opportunity to build a connection, a chance to build a relationship based on trust, sincere interest, and a commitment to help.

First and foremost, adopt an attitude of being of service to your potential buyer. Don’t even concern yourself with making the sale.

To take this on, it takes a willingness to shift your mindset, shift your habits of thinking, suspend your beliefs about how things should work.

Because even if you’re willing, old habits tend to die hard. But even that doesn’t mean we have to make it harder for them to die!

It’s an approach I use to solve problems, plain and simple.

And while it may seem mechanical and totally “Vulcan” logical on the surface, this approach also draws on your intuitive senses to contribute to a thorough process. As a surgeon, this approach is so “obvious” to me, that I have to frequently remind myself that most people don’t think this way or approach growing their businesses with such a mindset.

Interestingly, the author of the Sherlock Holmes series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was a doctor himself. So he naturally infused the diagnostic mindset into Sherlock’s character.

Adopt a diagnostic mindset and you’ll go a long way toward selling more and selling to better buyers.

Ask the Right Questions

The best way to adopt a diagnostic mindset is to first build your skills in asking really good questions that lead down to the person’s core of why they need your help. In my experience, most sales people ask really bad questions that are just down-right boring for me to answer. Too often, I have to jump through a few hoops to get the help that I need. They feel a bit more manipulative than value-driven.

Instead, let your customer know that you care about them. After all, that this is why you do what you do…to help them, isn’t it? They won’t care about what you know until they know you care about them and their situation.

So how do you do this? Start by developing a set of general “diagnostic questions.” With experience, you’ll also develop specific diagnostic questions that you ask when you need to dig deeper at the appropriate times.

A common place to start is with the question: “What your biggest problem, issue, or challenge you are facing right now?” While this is a good place to start, you’ll need to dig deeper than this.

It’s easy to casually move on to questions that give your potential client to share what they’ve tried, what’s working, what’s not working, what strategies and tactics they are planning to apply next.

In medical school, I learned a mnemonic that helped me get my bearings when I was taking a history from a patient. The mnemonic is spelled: “CHLORIDE” and stands for:

CHaracter: [What is the pain like?] Ask questions that inform you about how your potential buyer is experiencing the issues, problems, or challenges that they seek to solve; strive to understand what their world is like.

Example: “Can you describe what this situation feels like?”

Location: [Where do you feel the pain?] Ask questions that tell you where, specifically, the “pain” is being felt or potentially being felt by your potential buyer.

Example: “What people or departments are most affected by this issue?”

Onset: [When did the pain first start? What causes the pain to occur?] These questions give you a sense of when awareness of issues and problems began; they give you indicators of the level of urgency, motivation levels, degrees of resignation and despair.

Example: “What has happened to trigger or escalate the severity of this problem? ”

Radiation: [Where does the pain go?] The purpose of these questions is to discover what other areas, systems, workers, customers, departments, etc. are being affected or potentially affected by the issue(s) of concern.

Example: “What other people or departments are affected by this issue?”

Intensity: [How bad is the pain?] The purpose of these questions is to find out how bad something is. You want to understand what’s at stake for your prospective client, how high a priority is this issue, what the likely timeframe is for making a buying decision, whether there are financial and other resources allocated for addressing this issue.

Example: “What is the priority level for addressing this issue?”

Duration: [How long does the pain last?] These questions give you a sense of the timing and level of effort that has been expended to deal with the issue(s) at hand.

Example: ”How long have you been dealing with this?”

Events associated: [What makes the pain better? What makes it worse?] These questions help you understand other factors, variables, and elements that influence the current situation or may be influenced in the future.

Examples: “What have you tried that worked?” “That didn’t work?” “What are potential unintended consequences of addressing this issue?”

Diagnostic-based selling is an approach that bridges both art and science; there’s form and structure to it and there’s a methodology to it, but it’s not formulaic in the sense of like, “Do this, do this, say this, say this.” It’s not that. There are things to say, there are things to do; but it’s more along the lines of expanding your thinking and expanding your ‘seeing’ into the problem and into the situation from a more comprehensive, holistic view that includes the initial challenge or problem or complaint or issue or desire that a person or a company has, but isn’t myopically focused on that initial area alone.

This approach is based on my decades of experience as a physician and surgeon. It’s an approach based on integrity, core values, and an earnest desire to be of service. That combination positions you naturally as a trusted adviser and a valued expert. And it naturally leads people to want to buy from you, not from someone else.

Like any important skill, this approach takes practice to become comfortable and proficient in thinking this way. If you’re willing to master this approach in working with your clients, you’ll take your business to a level of success that makes the challenges of entrepreneurship well worth it!