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Getting Paid: Why “pay” sounds like “pain”


Have you ever been talking to a company about a job, and felt so certain you were going to get it? They told you, “You’re one of the top candidates and we really like you. We’ll be making the offer in the next few weeks.” And then you never hear from them again. Or if you’re a salesperson or an entrepreneur and somebody says, “We’re going to go with your company. It’s a sure thing – I just have to get the boss to sign off.” And then your follow up calls get ignored and all you get is radio silence. You were led on, and then dumped.

The word “pay” sounds like the word “pain.” Did you ever notice that? There are two key things about the relationship between these two words that will help you get what you want in life.

  • If you don’t get paid, you feel pain.

This one is self explanatory. Fired from the job. Missed the sales quota and earned zero commission. We all know how that feels.

  • If you don’t feel enough pain, you won’t pay.

The selfish need not to feel pain is what motivates human beings. This and only this is what makes us part with our money: we know deep down inside that our lives would be painful to the point of misery without buying an essential item. That is because pain is uncomfortable and creates urgency. If you have to part with your money, so be it, just as long as the pain goes away.

So back to my earlier example of the job interview, here’s what really went on. Here’s why you were led on, and dumped.

    • It was never a deal in the first place. It was an idea.

We get all excited in these moments when we feel upward mobility happening in our careers, and we tell our mom and our spouses that the interview went so well, or we tell our bosses that the prospect is close to signing the contract. Happens all the time. We’ve all done this.

What many people fail to realize is that there is a difference between an idea and a deal. In order to be successful, you have to learn to discriminate between the two.

Anyone can have an idea. You don’t need to get anyone else involved in order to have an idea. For example, the accounting manager contacts your payroll software firm because he wants an upgrade. He had an idea about buying something.

An idea becomes a deal when there is commitment attached to it. It is not commitment, to continue the example above, that the accounting manager says that it is okay for you to call him next week. It is not a commitment that he agrees to read your cost proposal over email. What is he giving up here, what action did he take? Nothing. What are you giving up? A lot of your time and mental energy.

Human beings commit to things they see as essential to removing pain. An example of a commitment in this example would be that the accounting manager gets his boss, the guy who writes the check, to agree to a meeting with you so that you can present the proposal to the two of them. Now that’s a deal. See the difference? He made a sacrifice. You’re asking him to show his boss that he trusts you. You’re asking him to give you credibility in front of the decision maker. You’re asking the boss to create time in his schedule for you. Actions were taken by the prospects on your behalf. Something was exchanged back and forth between the two of you.

There are signs along the way. If you ask for these commitments and are denied, best to move on. It’s just an idea and there is no deal. There’s no way they’re picking up the pen to write the check in the end if they won’t even lift a finger for you in the process.

    • The person signing the check wasn’t in enough pain.

The influencer can love you with all his heart but he doesn’t control the money. If the decision maker isn’t in pain, the check is not getting signed.

Don’t believe any hype about people being too busy or on vacation or in the middle of a restructuring. When the people with the power are suffering and in misery, actions happen more rapidly than the speed of light. There is no red tape, there are no obstacles, there are no delays. Time is created to get it fixed. Conversely, when the process stalls, you’re getting some silent pushback because the person in power feels life can go on without you without too much suffering.

    • The decision maker isn’t sure he wants to pay you, but doesn’t want to lose you, either.

Think about it for a second. What does it cost someone to say, “We’re in the final round of our decisions and will let you know in a few weeks.” It costs them a few seconds of their time to write the email. Now, if you really do wait and expect a call in a few weeks, you’ve made an emotional commitment and they’ve made none. No loss to them. They’ve kept you hanging on the line in case their number one choice falls through. In a way it’s a game.

    • They don’t want to hurt your feelings, get sued, or waste time having an argument.

Remember that time when you had a bad first date with someone, after which you decided you’re not interested. You ignored the person hoping they will fade away, but they kept calling you. What did you do? You sent a text that read something like, “I’m sorry but I’m going to be out of town for the next five years.” That’s how awkward it is to reject someone directly.

Now imagine having to do this in a professional workplace. That’s why HR people have jobs. Rejecting people isn’t something that managers like doing. So they blow you off with some vague and innocuous statement like “we’ll call you when a position opens up” hoping you’ll just fade away.

So now that it’s clear why pain motivates buyers to pay, here’s the critical takeaway. Getting the job or winning a client for your business isn’t about your resume, your elevator pitch, your Zegna or Tahari suit, your brilliant smile, or all your connections putting in a good word for you. It’s not about you. It’s about the buyer and their pain.

It’s this simple. During the process, you must convince the buyer that they will be in so much pain without you that they will be incapable of survival. That you, your product, or your service is the only thing in existence on the planet earth that can rid them of the misery they feel due to some problem they face. There you go – pay, pain, paid. That’s how you get paid.

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