Robert Bell: The Road Less Traveled

advice from optical sales consultant Robert Bell

How going in the opposite direction will increase your sales

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

ED: Last month, Robert Bell used a pendulum to illustrate how the law of motion applies to selling. This month, he reveals another basic truth that goes unrecognized and kills sales.

In my last article, I asked the following question: In order to sell your average/neutral patient, in which direction should you move them? Positively or negatively?

Most folks will say they would move them in a positive direction. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? In fact, that is exactly what most professional salespeople do.


Moving your average patient — the one who has no movement or motivation to move — in a positive direction is, without a doubt, a colossal mistake and the most frustrating trap a salesperson can set for themselves and their patients. Yet it happens all the time.

How does this usually happen? The method most salespeople use to move their average patient in a positive direction is to make a presentation of features and benefits — or as eyecare professionals like to call it, “educating the patient.”

“Start moving your motionless, average patients in the negative direction, and your sales and the satisfaction of your patients will soar.”

A salesperson will start presenting the wonderful features and benefits of a product, only to be met with a bit of resistance and/or a little objection from the customer. So, the salesperson will become a little more persistent and try again, only to be met with more resistance from the customer. (I call this the “Yeah, buts ...”) The more the customer resists, the harder the salesperson tries (to persuade). The harder the salesperson tries to persuade, the more the customer resists.

And so on and so on and so on. It’s an ugly song and an awful dance. By the way, if you ever wondered why salespeople generally have a reputation of being pushy, aggressive, sleazy, insincere, etc., here’s your reason: the “Yeah, buts!”

This is also the exact reason that all eyecare professionals (and anyone with a brain) are wary of being perceived as “salespeople.” They don’t want that perception to damage their professional reputation. Can’t say as I blame you, if that’s the only way you know how to “sell.” I mean, seriously: Who wants to be in the persuasion or “Yeah, buts” business all day long?

But why is moving a neutral customer/patient in a positive direction such a bad thing to do? Look at the following law of motion and you tell me:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Do you get it now? (If not, that’s OK. Send me an email and I can go into more detail.)

To illustrate, let’s look at the pendulum again:

Any time you try to push an average patient — the one in the middle, not moving — in a positive direction, they will resist and be vigilant about staying right in the middle. Try again and they will resist again with the same effort in which you tried to persuade them.

Are you starting to wonder what would happen if you took the patient on the road less traveled and in the opposite direction? I hope so. Am I actually implying that the key to successfully selling your average patients is to move them in the negative direction?

I’m not implying it; I’m saying it unequivocally!

Start moving your motionless, average patients in the negative direction, and your sales and the satisfaction of your patients will soar.

Scared? Please don’t be. Rest assured next month’s column will make complete sense, cause some of you to have “a-ha” moments, and even make some of you laugh. (What’s the point if we’re not having fun?)

But most importantly, it will make the “chore” of selling vanish. I’m going to give you complete control of the selling process in your office. Hope that sounds good to you.

Yes, lentils and jellybeans, this is where the fun begins. Next month, I will begin to show you exactly how to go about this.