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Robert Bell

Don’t Think Outside the Box, Use ‘Inside-Out Thinking’ To Get Inside the Box

The most successful sales strategy is getting the customer to think and talk.

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“THINK OUT OF THE BOX.” Oh, please. Kill me now. Try this instead: first, build a box. Your own box. If you build it yourself, you’ll know what’s inside of the box and what’s outside and you can act accordingly.

“Been there. Done that.” Yeah? Were you any good at? If you were, keep on doing it. If you weren’t, get good at it. Or are you above that now?

“Seek a win-win situation.” Does this really need be spelled out for anyone … if your patients/customers win, you win too? You’re too smart for that.

“Push the envelope.” Where? Shouldn’t you open the envelope first and deal with the contents? What if you “push the envelope” too far and there are explosive situations in that envelope? Ka-boom!

“The customer is always right.” Umm…

I’m a big fan of doing the “opposite” or what I call “inside-out thinking.” I like (gently) throwing curve balls as it gets people thinking and talking. And, that’s the most successful sales strategy I know: getting the customer to think and talk. Y’see, I don’t like taking things at face value; especially customers. I call this The Anti-Concept because it flies in the face of conventional thinking.

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I was told, when I was younger, that I always looked for the easy way out. That I didn’t want to invest the hard work it took to succeed at whatever was laid in front of me. It implied I was lazy.

Yet, more often than not, I had the same outcomes as others who went the traditional way. So, I always wondered: if the “easy way out” garners the same results as the “hard way,” wouldn’t it be illogical (in most cases) not to take the easy route?

And, when I say route, most of the time, I’m talking about heading in the right direction.

Most folks start from the outside and try to move inside. The outside is easy, they think. The outside is right in front of us. It’s the proverbial “book by its cover.” It’s so easy to judge a book by its cover, isn’t it?

Do you know what’s in the inside? Context. Meaning. Reasoning. The “whys” and “hows” of things.  

As a sales professional, I know the “inside” is where all the problems and challenges exist. I know I need to get to them quickly to determine whether or not I might offer the solutions, be it a product or service. I know, right off the bat, I need to delve and investigate by asking specific questions that bring the inside out! It doesn’t take long to do this. In fact, it’s very easy and extremely efficient.

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Too many times, I’ve seen salespeople making their presentations to the “outside” without knowing anything about the “inside.” In other words, they aren’t delving. They aren’t asking questions to the inside. They are just chipping away at the outside and that, my friends, is extraordinarily hard work.

Change direction and go right to the inside. You won’t believe how easy and effective it can be. Besides, I’m here to tell ya, it’s a lot of fun too!

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

After 6 Years and More Than 50 Columns, Robert Bell Has One Last Thing to Say

But before he goes, let’s review some key points of The EyeCoach Selling System he’s been sharing these past several years.

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IN OCTOBER 2013, I began writing this column for INVISION on selling techniques for eyecare professionals. It’s been an incredible six years but after writing over 50 columns, the time has come to end my monthly contribution so you may grow from a new perspective.

Mark Hinton will be following in my footsteps. I first met Mark in one of my EyeCoach workshops 10 years ago. Trust me, I am leaving you in very good hands!

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Before I say my goodbyes, I’d like to review some key points of The EyeCoach Selling System I’ve shared with you these past several years (my full archive is available at invisionmag.com/robertbell).

  • Selling is not about persuasion as most of you have come to believe.
  • Selling is helping someone acquire what they need! Understanding the difference between the two will make your professional life much easier.
  • To help someone acquire what they need, you must get your customers to understand their needs.
  • To do this, you must ask a series of “Pain Questions.”
  • Four questions should always follow the pain questions:
    1. How often does that happen?
    2. Does that bother you?
    3. How much does that bother you?
    4. Would you like me to help you with that?
  • Never make a presentation unless you get a “Yes” to that last question!
  • When making a presentation, only talk about the features of the product/service that speaks to their “pain.”
  • Never tell a customer how the product/service will be beneficial. Instead, ask how it will be of be of benefit to them! This has the customer closing the sale, themselves.
  • Isolate and overcome almost every objection with just five words: “Other than the fact that [insert objection], are there any other reasons why you wouldn’t want to purchase these today?”
  • Never upsell! It doesn’t work.
  • Ask questions! Keep asking them!
  • What is your story? What is your brand? How does it inspire your customers? Know why you do what you do because it’s the reason they buy from you.
  • Be powerful. Don’t play small. It won’t serve you or your customers.
  • Volunteer your eyecare talents to local charities within your community. You won’t believe how it changes lives, sharpens your skills (even your sales skills) and most certainly changes you!

Now for my goodbyes; I’d like to thank the amazing folks at INVISION: David Squires, Matthijs Braakman, Julie Fanselow and a very special and heartfelt thank you to Deirdre Carroll. I’m also very grateful to my dear friend, Lisa Trippi, who inspired several of my best pieces. Most importantly, I thank all of you who have read my columns and written me all those lovely emails. I hope you’ve found me helpful in making you the ECP you’ve always wanted to be.

So … fare thee well, adios, adieu
oh, and best of luck to all of you!
I ain’t no saint and I don’t pretend to be,
but I hope you all found a friend in me.”

With true love, humble respect and a gracious bow … Robert️

EDITOR’S NOTE: Six years ago, Robert Bell took a chance on an upstart magazine. When doubters said another trade publication could never succeed, he saw our vision and embraced it. Robert, you have our sincerest thanks and appreciation. Though you may no longer be appearing in our pages each month, you will always be a part of the INVISION family.

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Robert Bell

Peak Performance Selling Techniques

Plot twist: Robert Bell decided not to teach you a damn thing a long time ago.

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GUESS WHAT? THIS issue of INVISION marks my five year anniversary writing this column for them. That means I’ve written about 50 articles for INVISION on selling philosophies, strategies and techniques. The challenge, for me, has been: How do I teach you how to sell in 500 words?

It can’t be done. So, I decided not to teach you a damn thing.

Instead, my goal was, and remains, to make you think! To make you think in ways you never had before. To inspire you to look at things from different angles or points of view. To encourage you to let go of your traditional ideas of what selling is and to join me in embracing a new experiment in sales strategies and techniques.

So, let me dedicate this month’s column to those of you who want to be Peak Performers in sales with the following:

  • Let go of those traditional selling techniques that continue to fail. Where did you pick up those techniques, anyway? Think about that. Did it come from observing others who are mediocre at selling? Is what you were observing actual sales skill or was is just someone with a charming personality? You understand that’s it’s next to impossible to adopt someone else’s personality and make it your own, right? Sell like you, not someone else (including me). Customers can always pick up on someone being disingenuous and that never bodes well.
  • Read my articles (you can find all of them at invisionmag.com/robertbell) or hire me to come in and train you and your staff. Take the techniques I share and make them your own. It’s easy to do.
  • Lose your ego! Embrace your mistakes and foul-ups. It’s part of the learning process. When you screw up a sale, think about it. Is this a one-time thing or is it a pattern? Write down what it is you think you can do better next time.
  • You don’t have to do this alone. Ask for help. Go to your boss or co-workers and ask them what they think you can do better. Hey Bosses… ask your employees what they think you can do better at selling. Again, lose the ego. Accept the fact that there are no sales courses in optometry school and ask for help!
  • Find an article of mine that has meaning to you. Read and discuss it at your next staff meeting with everyone.
  • Ask your state optometric or optical association to bring in a speaker. I’m available. How cool would that be? We’d get to meet each other in person.
  • Ask one of your top vendors (frame, lenses, labs, etc.) to sponsor a training for your area or, specifically, for your practice. Trust me, they want you to sell more! The more you sell, the more you buy from them. Talk about a win-win.
  • Successful selling is not about you, it’s about the customer. Folks, I’m not going to comment on this as it’s fairly self-explanatory. If you don’t really get this, you’re doomed. If you get this and embrace it, your customers will buy enthusiastically.

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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 yourself as such … you see yourself as an eye doctor or optician or ophthalmic tech or 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?

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But, there’s a difference between you and me. 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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