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Don’t Make a ‘Pretty Woman’ Mistake During Your Next 5-Minute Conversation

A long-time optical sales rep offers poignant advice from the front lines that everyone can put into practice.




(Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in ROWT Magazine, titled “Make It Or Break It In Five Minutes.”)

You only have a few minutes to make a lasting impression. The clock is ticking. What do you do?

This is one of my favorite soapbox topics. As a 42-year optical veteran, I have had thousands of five-minute conversations. Thankfully, I learned early on how profound an affect a short conversation can have, not only on your day, but on your career.

First, a little background on me. I love being in an optical. I am at home there. I love meeting and sharing the business. It just makes me happy. And, while it is my name, I am as far away from the let-me-talk-to-the-manager-type Karen stereotype as anyone could be. (This “Karen” phenomenon will not seem to go away!)

However, I recently stopped in an office to introduce myself and inquire about their process of adding new lines to their optical. During this five-minute interaction, I was met with resistance. I didn’t turn into a “Karen.” But I didn’t leave quietly, either.

I pride myself – as many reps do – about being very cognizant of an office’s time and process. It is out of both respect and courtesy. I was a buyer and administrator for numerous practices for more than 25 years. One thing I would say is I always took five minutes to chat if a rep took the time to stop by and get out of their car. That takes guts, especially these days. So you will not find me dragging in a bag of anything to an office unannounced. I normally carry a small case with a small representation of the lines in a shoulder bag which typically afforded me a great conversation.


Unfortunately, there was no great conversation during this office visit. As I introduced myself while holding my card and the proverbial box of candy, the young man interrupted me and said, “We are not buying.”

“Game on” I thought to myself as this girl was on top of her game that day. I responded politely, “That is great, as I am not selling. I stopped by to inquire about your office process that would allow me to present two frame lines that would make you one of few stockists in your area.”

Brain bubble: What process? Blank stare and again, but even more rudely, he stated, “I said, we are not buying.”

I politely set my card and candy down on the dispensing table as I spied some business cards nearby. I picked one up and I asked, “Is this your card?”

I waited until he responded “Yes.”

My reply was, “No problem. After being in the optical industry for a very long time as trusted advisor to many, I have gained respect and know many people. I have had thousands of five-minute conversations that have forged long-term relationships and even changed my career path.”


I held up his card. There were no patients around so I left him with this passing remark: “These last five minutes could have been different. You just never know where it may take you and who will ask for a reference. I also know and have worked with the great owners of this beautiful practice, have a great afternoon.”

As he stood there with a very different blank stare, what popped into my head was Julia Roberts and the famous line from the movie Pretty Woman: “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”

While we may not be able to choose what comes our way in a day, we do have a choice in how we respond.

I will leave you with this last thought. Opticians and reps are in this together. We are a team. And we do what we do for our patients and customers. Please “JUST DO IT” with care and compassion. Everyone is a customer!

(This article was written by Karen A, Michaelson, ABOC. You can find her at Kare Consulting, LLC, | LinkedIn.)




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