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Robert Bell

A Great Question: Are You Giving Advice or Making a Suggestion?

Try softening your language to turn your expert advice into a suggestion.

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ON A RECENT MORNING my girlfriend was deep in thought. She turned to me and asked, “What’s the difference between giving advice and making a suggestion?” Uh oh.

“Um, which one am I about to get, honey?”

She laughed and said, “I’m serious. What do you think the difference is?”

I smiled. “What an incredibly great question!”

At first glance, one might think they’re the same. They’re not. There is a subtle distinction which can make all the difference in the world in successful selling.

One only need look at the optometric and optical forums on social media where everyone has an opinion and cannot wait to give advice. In fairness, sometimes that’s exactly what is asked for. Yet, when it’s not, advice is not only given anyway, it’s given with such passion, one feels there are no other options. In other words, comes off as harsh. I’m not pointing fingers here, I’ve been guilty of this too.

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Thank goodness, I’m dating someone smarter than me who posed this question so I can make the proper adjustment. I’ve giving this a lot of thought and discovered:

Advice, when not specifically asked for, can ignite someone else’s defense mechanisms. We’ve all heard the phrase, and some of you may have even used it, “Well, thanks but when I need your advice, I’ll ask for it!”

Yet, here is the challenge: Whether they’re conscious of it or not, your customers are coming into your office looking for your advice. Still, unless they literally ask you, “What do you think I should do,” don’t give them advice. Hell, even if they ask exactly that, don’t.

What to do then? Well, may I make a suggestion? I propose you soften your language to turn your expert advice into a suggestion.

How? I’ll leave that up to you since each of us has our own style of speech. With that said, I’ll float the idea that you look to tailor your language based on the subtle difference between “giving advice” and “making a suggestion.”

I deem “advice” as something one can take or leave, in an all-or-nothing kind of framework. “If you take my advice, everything will be fine. If you don’t, you’ll most likely suffer the consequences.”

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I see a “suggestion” as something to be considered. Something that’s given so someone can give it some deep thought. It’s giving the customer the opportunity to make a choice. A choice which is best for them based on the expertise of the one (you) making the suggestion. How great is that?

Robert Bell is the founder of EyeCoach, a Sales & Marketing Practice. He is one of the most inspirational, innovative and effective speakers/trainers in the eyecare industry. His workshop “Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Only Selling” is highly coveted. Email him at eyecoachworkshops@gmail.com

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Robert Bell

In Sales There Are Not Two Sides to Every Story.
There Is Only One — the Customer’s Side

You’re about to get much better at selling.

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YOU MAY NOT REALIZE THIS, but you’re a salesperson. Yes, I know, you don’t see yourselves as such… you see yourself as an eye doctor or an optician or as an ophthalmic tech or as an office manager in an optometric practice, etc. Yet, you are a salesperson as well. Why? Because whether you know it or not, if you’re not selling your eyecare services and products, you’re out of business.

I’m sorry I’m the one who had to break this news to you but, then again, who better than a professional salesperson and sales trainer?

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries
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Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

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Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?

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Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team

But, there’s a difference between you and I. I’m pretty good at selling and, you? Well … you’re about to get much better at it.

Do Your Homework

Know what you’re selling. Everyone who works in the business should be familiar with all the services and products offered. Know them inside and out, up and down, and know it better than anyone else … especially the customer.

Know Your Customer

Understand as much as you can about them and how what you’re about to sell them will precisely be of benefit to them.

Know Your Competition!

I don’t mean, “know of them.” I mean, know them!! Know what they’re good at and what they suck at. Know what they offer. When you know this, you’ll understand a lot better how to excel at what you do. You’ll understand what differentiates you from them. How can you expect your customers or patients to understand this if you don’t?

Ask, and Ye Shall Receive

Now that you’ve done your homework, and you’re so incredibly prepared, you’re probably bursting at the seams with all this knowledge and passion for what you do. You can’t wait to tell your customers about everything you know. Yeah, don’t! Why? Because you’ll come off as pushy. You’ll come off as a know-it-all. You’ll come across as it being all about you when it should be all about them!
So, ask them questions. Ask them if they have any concerns. Ask them about what they’re hoping you can do for them. Ask them what their visual and/or style goals are. Ask. Keep on asking questions. Oh, and listen! Listen very carefully.
You’ll gather all the information you’ll need to help them with their specific challenges. You’ll hear about what really matters to them… and this is where “doing your homework” comes into play.

Make a Connection and Establish Trust

Without a doubt, salespeople cannot sell if there is no connection or trust. But, here’s the good news: by asking genuine questions about what’s important to the customer/patient, you’ve already begun making that connection. You’ve showed them you’re concerned about them and not about yourself or “making the sale.”
When you begin to share with them (“share” being the key word) the solutions to their needs, they’ll need to understand how this benefits them. Share with them a story of how this solution was able to help another customer/patient (without violating HIPAA laws, please) in a similar situation. Share with them the success of the product(s) you’re helping them acquire. This is when trust begins to become established.

Are There Two Sides to Every Story?

Not in sales, there aren’t. There is only one side. The customer’s side.

Even though you may, physically, be sitting on the other side of the dispensing table from them, truthfully, you’re really on the same side.

How important do you think it is for your customer/patient to know this? Critically important! Your customers/patients need to know you’re on their side, that you’re partners, together, in helping them achieve their goals and acquire those items to get them there.

When your customers/patients realize your genuine desire to help make them successful, make their lives more dynamic with the right vision solutions, your sales will dramatically increase and it will make you feel incredibly good.

You’re a salesperson? Yes.

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Robert Bell

Stop Educating Your Customer!

You’re just doing it wrong anyway.

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JUST TO BE UPFRONT with you, I want to destroy the concept of educating your customer. Why?

Because it’s likely you’re doing it at exactly the wrong time and your product knowledge and expertise can be intimidating when used at the wrong time.

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries
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Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?
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Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team

Think about this: Have you ever been in front of a customer and felt they were starting to get uncomfortable when you began telling them about your products or expertise? I know you’re an expert at what you do but people tend to get a little uneasy when you start using technical language and optical jargon when describing products.

This leaves your customers in a situation where they really only have a few options:

  • They can stop you and ask you to explain, in layman’s terms, what you’re talking about … (this rarely happens.)
  • Their eyes glaze over, their listening stops, and they just nod their heads waiting for you to give them an opportunity to say “no” when you mention the price, or
  • They begin to feel so uncomfortable that they look at their watch and say, “Oh, look at the time. I really have to run back to my office (or pick up my daughter from soccer practice, etc.)” and they get the hell outta Dodge! Where do they go? Probably online, maybe to a Big Optical store but they’re definitely not coming back to you. Ouch!

C’mon, you’ve seen this happen … more times than you care to admit. It sucks! But, you keep on doing it. Why? Well, let’s take a look at that and see if we can’t turn this around for you.

When I ask ECPs why they do this, I’m told it helps establish them as the expert, and builds credibility and trust with the patient/customer. But something else, entirely different, is actually happening.

Look, it’s great to finally get to the point when you truly are an expert. It comes from years of hard work. In truth, it’s incredible and you should be proud! So, when you start talking about your expertise and product knowledge, it actually feels good. It’s actually meeting some kind of inner need … your inner need. Yes, it’s important to know your products; it builds your confidence. But, this expertise of yours should enable you to ask the appropriate questions to determine your customer’s needs … and that’s the part that usually gets lost in the shuffle. But, guess what? That’s the most important part of being an expert!

What I’m saying is you tend to shoot yourself in the foot, from a selling standpoint, when you start to use your product knowledge, technical terms, jargon and expertise to make yourself feel better about you. Don’t feel bad about this, it’s common in the selling process. But, now that you’re aware of it, you can correct the situation.

Your value, as an eyecare professional, is in the information you gather from your customers, not about the information you dispense. Once you gather all that info on your customer’s needs, then, and only then, is the right time to “educate” your customer.

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Robert Bell

The Single Best Tool to Help Your Staff to Sell In and Outside the Office

Plus it has the added benefit of showing them you value them.

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JUST BETWEEN US, have you ever fantasized about wanting to give a playful smack to a patient or customer because they did something incredibly stupid? Or, they didn’t do something they were supposed to do in the no-brainer category?

No? Liar!

Well, here’s a no-brainer scenario in which I’d like to smack (playfully!) a hefty percentage of optometric business owners. Ok, honestly, I wouldn’t hurt or embarrass any of you. However, I’ll tell you this: this “no-brainer scenario” makes me pull my hair out of my head. And, folks? I’m bald!

What’s the no-brainer scenario? Business cards.

“But Robert, I have a business card.” I’m sure you do, doctor. Does everyone on your staff have one, too? Everyone? Uh huh. I’m losing more hair as we speak!

From your front desk personnel to your licensed opticians, everyone on your staff should have printed business cards with their name on it, their title (if they want one), the name of your practice, your location(s), your phone number and your website.

Everyone on your staff should be required to carry a few in their purses or wallets 24/7.

Why? So many reasons! Here’s one example from one of my favorite conversations with an optician:

Optician: I was in a Target once and standing behind this woman wearing the most G-d awful glasses. I was thinking, “Omg, who the hell did that to you?”

Me: Did you say anything to her?

O: Um, no.

M: Why not?

O: Whaddya mean, “why not?” What was I going to say?

M: Oh, any number of things. How about, “Hi there. I’m Darla. I was looking at your glasses. I’m an optician. Then … are you happy with them? … or how long ago did you get them? … or where did you get them? Anything to get her talking about her glasses.

O: Why?

M: So you could engage her, find out if you, as an optician, could be of help to her. If so, then you could’ve given her your business card and said, “Here, take my card. Next time you need glasses or an eye exam, come in and ask for me and I promise I’ll take very good care of you.” Then, before you give her the card, you say ‘I’m gonna write on the back of my card to give you $20 off on a pair of sunglasses, if you’re able to come in within the month.’

O: (spurts out a laugh) Yeah, right. Like my OD would pay for business cards for me. Get real. She’s too cheap.

Lord, I’m so bald.

Doctors, by purchasing business cards for your staff (such a minimal investment that can reap in beaucoup rewards), you do the following things:

  • You’re telling them they, as your employee, are important to you.
  • You’re telling them they are an integral part of your team.
  • You’re telling them you’re proud to have them on your team.
  • You make them think you appreciate them and show them so with something tangible.
  • This usually makes them proud of where they work and proud of working for you.

Either you’re proud of your practice and the people who work for you, or you’re not. If you’re not, please disregard what you’ve read here. If you are, well, you know what to do next.

The next step is have a business card sales training at your next staff meeting. Here are the key things you want to touch upon:

  • Everyone should have their business cards on them when they’re out in public.
  • Though not required, everyone on staff is empowered to talk to anyone wearing glasses and ask certain questions about those glasses.
  • Everyone on staff, no matter what their position is in the office, is empowered to tell anyone “Next time you need glasses or contacts, you should really check out this great eye doctor I work for. Ask for me, and I promise I’ll take very good care of you.”
  • Everyone on staff is empowered to write an “incentive” on the back of the card like: “$20 off a pair of sunglasses if you come in this month.”

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