How to Position Yourself as a Professional Painkiller

How long has it been since you’ve been to the dentist?

For me, it had been over a year… until last week.

I knew I needed my routine six month cleaning, but I kept putting it off. Other things came up, and frankly I wasn’t all that worried about it.

Then, something on my gum line felt funny. My wife, being the good sport that she is, took a peek in there for me.

“Babe! What is that?” She said in a tone of disgust. “You need to go to the dentist.”

My thought process:

  • Oh no, I have an abscess.
  • I’ve heard that all sorts of diseases start from infections in your mouth.
  • I have to get to the dentist quick before I contract Ebola.

Two days later I was in the dentist chair for my emergency appointment.

It turned out that nothing was wrong. I just have a messed up jaw line with some excessive bone growth (TMI, I know).

Since I was already in the chair, the dentist gave me a long overdue cleaning. It felt great to have clean teeth without any plaque or build-up making my mouth feel scuzzy.

But why did it take the fear of a major problem to get me into the dentist?

Oddly enough, the answer to this question offers an insight that could make you a lot of money.

Pain as a motivator

It turns out that us humans are more motivated by avoiding loss or pain than we are by realizing a gain.

There’s a fantastic podcast on this topic by Derek Halpern of Social Triggers. He interviews Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide.

Lehrer has done extensive research on why humans make one decision over another. In the podcast, Lehrer sums up this research:

What it demonstrates is, losses hurt more than gains feel good… Loss aversion is a powerful bias.

The gain of having clean, healthy teeth didn’t motivate me to get into the dentist. But the fear of losing my health due to infection sure did.

In fact, it didn’t just motivate me. It motivated my dentist. He skipped me to the head of the line and scheduled me for an appointment immediately.

So what does this have to do with you and your professional success?


Positioning yourself as a painkiller

Looking to land a client, get a job, or raise your rates?

Do NOT blindly list all of your benefits and all of the ways that you could be of service.

Instead, find out what specific pain your client or employer is trying to get rid of and position yourself as the Professional Painkiller for that ailment.

Want to get paid more? Position yourself as a Professional Painkiller.
- Click to Tweet

I serve as an Executive Coach for a handful of start-ups in San Francsico. It’s a role that I love and is a real asset to the companies that I serve. (It’s good pay too.)

However, I do NOT land clients by pitching these services. I land clients by offering to fix operational pain points that they have. Clients hire me to:

  • Set up business infrastructure (like payroll)
  • Implement a hiring process
  • Complete due diligence for a major deal

They hire me to make those pains go away. Then, in the process of working with me they see the value of my “softer” skills, like Executive Coaching, and retain me to do that work on an on-going basis.

I get to do what I love, but I don’t pitch the work that I love. I sell relief to my client’s pain.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you think through how to position yourself as a “Professional Painkiller”:

  • What worries keep my client* up at night?
  • What services would provide instant relief to a nagging pain for my client?
  • How do I position my skills in a way that meets my client’s pain-points?

*You can replace the word “client” with “future employer” or “boss”

Help me help you

Alright, now it’s your turn.

The more clear that I am on your pain points, the better I can serve you as a “Professional Painkiller”.

Leave a comment as to the #1 pain point that you are feeling in your professional life right now.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “How to Position Yourself as a Professional Painkiller

  1. Hi Ryan,

    Great article. This is similar to what I tell friends that are able to secure internships and not jobs in this tough environment. I tell them to do all the work that no one wants to do, to go knock on doors and try to get more work, saying things like I want to know the “nuts and bolts of the business” and take on mundane tasks. Similar to your approach, I tell people that they will definitely get hired from intern to full-time when they realize they have to start doing all these tasks again if they get rid of you as the intern. If you take their pain away they will want to keep you and eventually teach you the real exciting parts of the job.


    • Thanks Henry! I love your approach of taking their pain away by starting with an internship. It feels easy and minimal to them but once you do a good job then they “need” you – unless they want their headaches to come back :)

  2. Great piece, Ryan!

    Professional pain points right now:
    + Having lots of ideas and needing to choose which ones to execute
    + Trying to decide whether to grow my biz and team (and make more money) or stay small for my lifestyle’s sake

    Like for any small business owner though, they change by the day :)