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Robert Bell

Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Only Selling!

We fear what we don’t understand. Let’s debunk the myths and find the truth!

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SELLING. I can’t think of another behavior that crosses most businesses and is, to an incredibly great extent, so integrated into all different types of professions. In fact, “integrated” may not be a strong enough word. The success of most professions is dependent on selling skills, especially the eyecare professional.  

This fact isn’t lost on any of you. You know this! You do. You know how vital sales skills are for our profession and yet, as important as they are, it is the most misunderstood and least practiced skill you have. 

Think about it … think about the hours, days, weeks, years, you’ve spent studying and learning your optometric or opticianry skills. Now, think about the years you’ve spent practicing what you’ve learned to apply all that knowledge. Now, compare all that time to the time you’ve spent learning and practicing sales skills. Pretty infinitesimal, isn’t it? Pretty illogical, too, considering how important selling is. Don’t you think?

So, if you actually know selling skills are important to the profession, why haven’t you invested any time in becoming good at it? Because it scares the hell out of you!

Why? Because you’ve bought into some, or all, of these myths about selling:

MYTH: Some people are just natural born salespeople and I’m not, so why bother?

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TRUTH: This is patently false! Like anything else, sales is a skill that can be learned. The key is to learn from professional trainers.

MYTH: It is about persuasion.

TRUTH: It’s not at all! This isn’t a myth, this is an out and out lie. But most people buy into it.  No wonder you’re scared. No one likes to be persuaded and most people push back, sometimes hard, when confronted with someone trying to persuade them. Thankfully, true selling isn’t about persuasion at all. It’s about helping someone acquire what they need.

MYTH: Good salespeople are good talkers, with snappy comebacks and can tap dance around objections to avoid dealing with them.

TRUTH: Nope. Good salespeople learn how to ask great questions and listen for the answers. Great salespeople listen more than they talk. 

MYTH: I don’t need to learn selling skills; people will just recognize my expertise and buy.

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TRUTH: Oh, dear sir or madam … you are in complete denial. I don’t blame you. You’re scared outta your mind, at this point.

MYTH: Good salespeople need to be pushy.

TRUTH: Yeah, no. Bad salespeople need to be pushy.

MYTH: If I come off as a “salesperson” it will lessen my credibility as an ECP.

TRUTH: Well, based on these myths you’ve believed for so long, I agree. But, the thing is (I repeat), good salespeople help their customers acquire what they need. That’s a lot easier than trying to persuade or push someone into buying.

MYTH: It always comes down to price, anyway. So, why do I even need sales skills?

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TRUTH: This is hardly ever true. What it comes down to, always, is the customer’s needs. Most of the time they have no idea what they need so sales skills, here, are of utmost importance to help the customer uncover those needs.

Think of it this way … like optometry and optics, selling is a science that requires constant study and evaluation in order to improve its success. It’s time to get over the fear of selling, don’t ya think?

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

Don’t Just Ask Questions, Actually Listen to the Answers

Sounds simple, but many don’t do it when trying to sell eyewear.

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A LONG TIME AGO, I overheard a conversation between two people:

Person 1: “Ugh, I just wish there was a magic potion you could drink to lose weight!”

Person 2: “There is. It’s called water.”

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Makes me laugh, every time, because of its sheer simplicity. Anytime I put myself on a weight loss plan, drinking lots of water a day is on the regimen. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. The not so simple part is actually doing it. To drink all that water per day (… hold on, I gotta go refill my water bottle…) isn’t easy. It is, however, very doable.

Well, it’s the same thing with selling.

There isn’t a magic potion for selling (trust me, I’ve drunk a lot of red wine just to be sure) but there is a magic wand. Know what it is? Listening. I mean really listening! The best salespeople I ever meet, in any industry, are always, hands-down, the best listeners. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. The hard part is doing it. I’ll share with you how to make that easier.

One of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received was from one of my first clients, Dr. Robert Ratzlaff of RealEyes in Taos, NM. About a month after his EyeCoach training, he told me I had made him a better doctor. Hmm, strange I thought. I’m not a doctor nor did I attend optometry school.

“Doctor, how the hell did I do that?”

“By making me a better listener.”

“Ah, and how did I make you a better listener?”

“By teaching me to ask better questions. It forces me to listen to the answers.”

It forces me to listen to the answers.

If you’ve read my sales columns before, you know I’m all about the questions. The more questions, the better. The questions I ask have a “share with me” or a “tell me” element to them. Meaning, with each question I ask, I could have “Tell me” or “Share with me” as a preface. It implies we’re on the same team. It says, “Look, I’m not trying to persuade you, I’m trying to find out exactly how I can help you.”

“Tell me… when you’re reviewing your children’s homework, do you notice you’re moving the paper further away to read it?”

“Share with me… what’s happening with your eyes and vision when you’re at your daughter’s soccer games in the late afternoon? Just how harsh is that sun?”

“Tell me… how often is the baby grabbing the glasses off your face?”

“Share with me… how often are you rubbing your eyes and exactly what part of the day do you start to feel most fatigued?”

Wait for the answers. Don’t interrupt them, ever! When they’re done responding, ask another question until you have all the information you require to help them purchase all the eyewear they need.

I tend to nod my head up and down while they’re responding. Why? For me, it actually feels good and reminds me that I’m an active participant in this conversation. For them, it shows them I’m being an active listener and I care about what they’re talking about.

Listening. What a concept!

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Robert Bell

“Thank God, Yes! It’s Monday!!!”

Channel that sort of excitement every Monday with your own Monday Morning Mission Statement.

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“Monday, Monday … so good to me. Monday mornin’, was all I hoped it would be.” — The Mamas & The Papas

YOU’RE ASLEEP. The alarm goes off.  You awake.  Your first thought is, “Oh lord no, it’s Monday morning.” Groan!

You’re asleep. You awake a minute before the alarm goes off. Your first thought is, “Thank God yes! It’s Monday!!!”

Who do you think is gonna have a better week?

(If you’re currently the former, try re-reading my February 2017 article, “Go to the Hat!” at invisionmag.com/021901 for a jump start!)

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The biggest challenge for a sales trainer and coach, like myself, is to change someone’s attitude. It’s hard enough accomplishing this in person but even harder, still, in a magazine. Yet, I’m gonna try by challenging you today. We’ll call our challenge the Monday Morning Mission Statement.

I want you to write out two personal mission statements for Mondays but I’ll add a little twist.

First, a personal mission statement can be defined in a variety of ways but, for our purposes, let’s define it as a statement of what you’d like to achieve, what goals you’d like to accomplish… on a Monday. Here’s the twist: I’d like you to write these statements with a very specific challenge in mind.

The specific challenge for the first mission statement is: write it in a way that makes the experience your patients/customers have with you blasé and where you recommend products that make their lives unproductive. Here’s an example: “My mission on Monday is to work with my customers in an ‘I don’t give a rat’s behind, half-assed’ sort of manner and to not make any effort, whatsoever, to share with them the products available that would certainly improve their lives.”

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Don’t use my example, write down your own. Yes, I’m serious!

The specific challenge for the second mission statement is: how will you make your patients’ lives more dynamic today? Here’s an example: “My Monday Morning Mission is to recognize and act on the fact that I have the skills and products to dynamically change my customers lives at home and at work. I will always be exuberant in my efforts.”

Don’t use my example, write down your own.

Now, take these two Monday Morning Mission Statements and on Sunday night, put them, side by side, somewhere where you will see them before you leave for work the next morning. Read them. Decide how you’re gonna spend your Monday. By the way, this will most likely dictate how the rest of your week will go.

Or, if you’re a practice/business owner, write out these two Monday Morning Mission Statements and post them in your break room. Perhaps, have every employee (including yourself) initial the statement they’d like to follow before they begin work. Maybe in following weeks give each of your employees the opportunity to post their own two Monday Morning Mission Statements to place in the break room?

Monday morning, so good to me!

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Robert Bell

Be a Sales Contrarian

Just like Robert Bell.

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OVER THE YEARS, people have said the most illogical things to me. So, I thought we’d start the new year by debunking some irrational thinking when it comes to sales and selling.

“Selling is persuading or convincing someone of something.”

On the contrary … selling is helping someone acquire what they need.

“Selling is really hard, especially for eye doctors and opticians.”

On the contrary … selling is the easiest thing in the world if you’re not trying to persuade someone of something. And, if selling is helping someone acquire what they need (see above) and since eyecare is a “needs” based biz, helping someone with their visual needs is pretty simple. Why are you making it difficult?

“Eye doctors and opticians aren’t really salespeople.”

On the contrary … who told you that, anyway?  Eye doctors and opticians don’t see themselves as salespeople because they think selling was about persuasion. So yes, I agree, if ECPs think selling is about persuasion then, you’re right: eye doctors and opticians aren’t salespeople (or, at least, they shouldn’t be). Again, selling is helping someone acquire what they need. ECPs are in a needs-based business so isn’t being a salesperson (with our new definition) more of a natural extension of who you are anyway? Isn’t it your primary job to help patients and customers acquire those products that will help them alleviate their visual needs?

“But Robert, don’t we already do that? I mean, we tell them about their needs, we tell them about all the products they need to help them and we tell them why they need them. Isn’t that helping them acquire what they need?”

On the contrary … every time you use the word “tell” you’re actually saying you’re trying to persuade them that they need these products. No one, and I mean not a soul, likes to be told what they should do. When you’re “telling” someone something, you’re talking at them. Their defense mechanisms flare up and they are resisting everything you’re saying.

What, then, would a sales contrarian do instead of tell? Ask! Instead of telling people, you should be asking people. Ask a question. Why? Because asking a question or a series of them is the best way to get people to engage in conversation. When you’re telling someone about something, it’s a monologue. You want a dialogue!

“But, I just don’t know the right questions to ask.”

Au contraire, mon ami … you’re just afraid to ask them. You think asking customers questions makes you look less professional. Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s what a true professional does: asks questions. Lots of them. Inquire about how they use their eyes during the day … at home, at work, at play. C’mon, you know this!

After asking all these questions and gathering all this information, ask them for their permission to help them. Sounds like, “Ok, great. I think you and I pinpointed the challenges you’re facing. Would you like me to talk about how we can best help you?”

This is the only time you can tell them about the products and services you provide. Why? Because you just asked them for their permission to do so.

“Well, I can’t sell like you, Robert.”

On the contrary…You can sell better than me!

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