Smooth Seller: Margot Lanham

top sellers optical sales eyecare business

The most surprising thing about Margot Lanham? She’s been in the optical business less than five years — all at Ulla Eyewear — “although on a good day, it seems I’ve been doing this a lifetime,” she says with a smile. (And you get the feeling she has lots of good days.) Lanham is the Madison, WI, shop’s sales manager, as well as a licensed optician, social media maven and staff trainer. She also helps buy frames. But her most important job? It’s customer service. “The development of those relationships are the best part of the job,” she says. — JULIE FANSELOW

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

I’ve worked in retail for years and this opportunity came into my life at just the right time. Not being in the business long gives me a fresh perspective and a lot of room for growth.

I own at least 20 pairs of glasses and about 20 pairs of sunglasses. My favorites include my neon orange ophthalmic Mykita aviators, hot pink Theo cat eyes and my classic tortoise shell by SALT ... and don’t get me started on sunglasses. If it’s gold, if it’s bold, I want it.

My favorite client is the one who will take a risk. I’m a big risk taker myself. I like to push people because I can see things in others that they can’t see in themselves. I tell them all the time, “Try this on. If you don’t like it, take it off. That’s the worst that’ll happen.”

Three years ago on Christmas Eve, I’d had a rough morning. I slipped in the shower and broke a toe. I was working alone that day, so I had to rally and make the best of it. Business was slow, but a man came in and I worked with him for over an hour which resulted in a $5,500 sale and a great relationship with a recurring client.

When someone tells me they want to bring in a friend or family member as they try on frames, I usually say with a laugh, “I’ll be your (friend, daughter, husband, etc.)” It lightens the mood, makes them laugh and opens the conversation. “You’re the expert on yourself and I’m the expert on the glasses. Between the two of us, we’ve got this!”

I have an extreme relationship with fashion. I’m definitely a “more is more” type person. My clients and coworkers always joke with me because I wear hoops that are bigger than bracelets, big shoes, bold jewelry, loud prints, and my hair changes every six weeks.

My most rewarding sales are ones where the client has a strong positive reaction to the finished product of their glasses. We assist clients who have struggled with strong prescriptions their whole lives and have never had frames they were proud to wear. We’ve made that a reality for them. We have clients who never thought they could wear a funky, fun, unique frame or any frame at all. We’ve changed their perspective.

If I wasn’t working in the optical business, I’d be working in health or fashion or design. I have degrees in women’s studies and sociology and am training for my doula certification.

I will vainly admit that a good day starts with good shoes. I’m a self-proclaimed shoe junkie, and the right pair can really set the tone for my day.

People love our store because they love us. The product is secondary. We have created a space that people want to be in.