Robert Bell: Speaking Words of Wisdom

advice from optical sales consultant Robert Bell

Our columnist gives you answers — or, actually, a few more questions.

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

I am asked all the time, “What would you say if a patient said this to you? Or that to you?” I’ll usually respond with, “Well, what I would ask the patient is ...” As you have read during our selling series in this column, in which we learned to ask strategic questions to uncover a customer’s pain, I’m a big fan of the “ask.”

So, let me share with you some of my responses to a few things that you’ve probably heard a hundred times. (A thousand times? A million times?) Let’s start with my all-time favorite:

How come your glasses are so expensive?

1. “How much do you think they should cost?” Ask this, and you’ll probably get a deer-in- the-headlights look from your customer. It’s important to wait for their response. Then nod your head and say, “Interesting, how did you arrive at that?” Listen carefully because they are about to share their pain here. Once you’ve identified their pain, follow up with the tactical questions you’ve been taught in the selling series.

2. “In comparison to ... what, exactly?” “Oh, in comparison to the online eyeglass sites (discount stores, optical chains, mall kiosks, etc.)? We’re not expensive at all. Let me get out and dust off the box of frames we have like those in the same condition. We don’t like to put them out because they’re not up to our usual standards. But, if that’s what you want, we can absolutely match those prices.” You’ll see some interesting facial and/or body language. I mean, wow, they really walked right into that one, didn’t they?

Or, you can go this way…

“Oh, the online eyeglass sites (discount stores, optical chains, mall kiosks, etc.)?” Nod your head and say, “Just so I understand the best way to help you, may I ask, what’s of more importance, price or quality?” (Do NOT say, quality or price.) Look at them gently and don’t move or say a word until they respond. Once they respond, they are going to tell you exactly how to sell them.

Are you loving me yet?

Hi, do you sell _________ brand?

“How funny you ask. We were just thinking of putting in that line but, we found that the quality wasn’t up to our customer’s standards. So, we just put in a much better (cooler, hotter, etc.) line within the same price range. But, if you’re set on (the brand they requested), I can give you the address of one of my competitors who might carry it. What would work best for you?” Period. Do not say a word until they respond.

I have vision insurance and I’m not paying a dime over what my insurance covers, OK?

“I understand. Not a problem at all. As long as you’re OK with your insurance company dictating to you that you’re only allowed to get the lowest quality, most uncomfortable frames we carry and the most basic of lenses, we can absolutely do what you just asked. Or (draw this word out), we can use your insurance to contribute to the frames and lenses you’d be a lot happier with. How would you like to proceed?”

No matter how you respond to questions and statements like this from your clients, always look for the “ask” and not the “tell.” Now, speak your words of wisdom. Let it be.

Robert Bell has trained salespeople throughout North America over 30 years in the optical business and created The EyeCoach Selling System specifically for ECPs. Along with being one of our judges for America’s Finest Optical Retailers, he serves as a special consultant to Project Homeless Connect and oversees their Vision Program. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..