Robert Bell: How Well Would You Like To See?

advice from optical sales consultant Robert Bell

Stop being so defensive about eyewear’s worth.

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 edition of INVISION.

I know you’re frustrated. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear some variation of this question: How come eyeglasses are so expensive?

A while back, an optician asked this question in an optical group on Facebook. She was going to give a speech to a group of local small business owners. The topic? The high cost of eyewear. Her optical peers weighed in with advice in the forum. Though very well meaning, the advice came from frustration and pain. It all came off sounding extremely defensive.

Aren’t you sick and tired of this? Then stop defending yourselves! When you take a defensive stance, you sound desperate and guilty. You play right into the accusation. Besides, we know better, don’t we?

Someone tagged me on the thread, noting the column I wrote last year for INVISION on how I answered the cost question from an airplane seatmate. (Remember the one where I offered to buy his glasses for $500? You can re-read it here: This time, I offered to write a speech for this optician. Here’s some of what I coached her to say.

As I thought about what I should share with you tonight, something occurred to me. Though our businesses are unique, as we offer different products or services, there are many similarities.

In those similarities, we probably share, without a doubt, the dumbest question we get from our customers: “How come it’s soooo expensive?”

Why are clothes are so expensive? Why are tires are so expensive? Why are shoes are so expensive?

Why are glasses are so expensive?

I found when I tried to justify the expense of what we provide, I realized I might sound defensive. I’d run into brick walls, people rolling their eyes ... you know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?

So instead of justifying, let me ask some questions.

How do you use your eyes? Well, how do you use them at work? Do you find yourself having to sit a certain distance from your computer screen?

How do you use them at home ... watching TV? Reading a book? Looking at your kid’s homework?

When you take a defensive stance, you sound desperate and guilty. You play right into the accusation. Besides, we know better, don’t we?”

How often are you using your eyes? Yeah, you heard that correctly.

And, how well would you like to see? at 53 percent? 67 percent? 84 percent? 100 percent?

How much should eyeglasses cost? Let me ask that again, in another way. How much should that custom-made medical device, with precise digital optics, in a very fashionable frame be?

Well, online you can get them as cheaply as eight bucks. Now, of course the online company won’t be taking up to six very precise and exacting measurements to ensure your best fit. And the online company wouldn’t have an optician’s soft touch as I custom fit a pair of frames for the contours of your face so they will fit you like a glove. No, it’s OK. Go online. It’s about the money, isn’t it? Well, isn’t it? Or are quality and comfort more important to you than cost? Hmmm?

Well, if you were to buy your glasses online, who would you buy them from? No, not the name of the online company. What is the name of the person who will make these glasses for you? What’s his name? What is her name?

“My name is Vicki Thompson. I work at Grandville Optical. Thank you for your time ... and your eyes.”

Count the question marks in this speech I wrote for this optician. There are 28 of them. I’m not making statements here. I’m posing very simple, logical questions. I believe it’s a better strategy to ask questions then make defensive statements. Do you? (Oh no, I asked another question ... hee hee.)

Robert Bell has trained optical salespeople throughout North America for over 30 years and created The EyeCoach Selling System specifically for ECPs. In addition, he oversees the charitable Vision Program at Project Homeless Connect. Email Bell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions about his columns.