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Robert Bell

How Caring About Others Will Increase Your Sales

It helps you realize what’s really important.

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WHEN I FIRST READ about Karen Flynn, the optician who started the Vision Services program at Project Homeless Connect, in the San Francisco Chronicle, I thought, “Homeless people needing glasses? What the hell do I care?” Then I realized, “Hey, I have some leftover frame inventory. Maybe I could get a tax write-off!” I know, selfish and self-centered. I’m embarrassed to share this, but read on. There’s a reason I’m opening up to you.

When I met Karen, she declined the frames (there goes the tax write-off) but somehow got me to promise to volunteer at an upcoming event. Yeesh! “Great. Homeless people,” I thought. “Dirty, stinky, drunk, stoned, criminal, food-stamp, welfare, homeless people. What the hell did I get myself into?”

I was like many of you: too lazy to get involved. Prejudiced. Wrapped up in my own life. But something extraordinary happened to me that first day at PHC over 10 years ago. I was transformed! I gotta tell ya, it is an incredible feeling when you let go of all those false perceptions, once you admit to yourself you were a complete ass for thinking that way and embrace the reality. After my first event, I went home and wept.

I’m going to share two observations from my time so far with PHC:

1. At every PHC Vision event, the participants (and I mean 95 percent of them) were the epitome of graciousness and gratefulness. We were meeting pure need. And they were grateful to the nth degree!

2. During the same time span, I observed on social media how ECPs were troubled by some of their well-to-do, self-important, entitled clientele. Patients made some pretty unreasonable demands and it made these ECPs anxious, upset and angry. One would think well-educated, successful people would be gracious and grateful. Ah, the reality versus the perception.

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These troubled ECPs would go on social media, asking for advice on how to handle these situations. The responses, though well-meaning, only threw gasoline on fiery situations, or else subjugated the ECP to these unreasonable customers. Well, if you ask for free advice, I guess you get what you pay for.

Y’see, we first have to understand the challenge. This type of customer neither appreciates nor respects:

  • You
  • Your expertise (they don’t think expertise is involved)
  • The time and work it takes to make a pair of glasses (from fitting, to measurements, to fabricating, etc.)
  • Their vision (they take being able to see for granted)
  • And a lot more besides, but this is enough to make my point: Overcome all these things with a customer who’s in your face, demanding something ludicrous. You’re on the spot. You have 10 seconds. Ready? Go!

Yeah, pretty hard to do if you don’t know the secret.

The “secret” is this: Go and volunteer your talents to those less fortunate in your community and listen to them. Listen to their stories. Let their appreciation soak in. Do this a few times and I can almost guarantee that when your pain-in-the-ass, entitled customer comes in ranting, you will be awash in self-confidence, knowing what’s really important. There is this calm that now comes over you. You will astound yourself at your ability to handle this in the future.

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

Celebrate Failure, Just like Deacon Blues

Because you can’t have success without failure.

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THEY GOT A NAME for the winners in the world.

I… I want a name when I lose

They call Alabama the Crimson Tide

Call me Deacon Blues”

— Deacon Blues by Steely Dan

I love that lyric. It’s clever. It expresses so much, so powerfully and concisely. “I want a name when I lose.” Brilliant.

Why do I think it’s brilliant? Because no one, to my knowledge, has ever captured that sentiment before on something as common as losing. It’s as though it’s a celebration of failure.

Hey, and why not?

In the movie, National Treasure, Nicolas Cage’s character, says “You know, Thomas Edison failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb … And when asked about it, he said “I didn’t fail; I found 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb,” but he only needed one way to make it work.”

The point is that no one, can be successful at anything without failing first … or 2,000 times. Yes, there are instances of success on the first try but those often can’t be sustained.

Failure makes us stronger! Smarter! And, in most cases, more determined.

Want to know my first failure selling?

I was 21 and starting up a contact lens distributorship with a partner. He was going to run the business end of things and I was responsible for selling. After all, I was the son of an optical sales legend. But, to be honest, I’d never sold anything before. How hard could it be?

It took us about two weeks to set up the business. Every day during those two weeks, I’d pass this optometrist’s office thinking they’re going to be my first call and, hopefully, my first sale. Every day, as I passed by that office, I thought: “You’re mine. I’m gonna get you!”

Finally, the day arrived. It was time to make sales calls. This should have been the easiest call ever. All I had to do was walk in and say, “Hi, I’m a contact lens distributor. We have the lowest prices on brands you probably already buy. Here’s my price list. If you’d like to order, please give us a call.”

Doesn’t get simpler than that.

So, I walked into that OD’s office.

“Hi, may we help you?” the very nice receptionist said.

“Yes. I, uhhh … ummm …” I started to hyperventilate. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was so nervous, my system shut down and … well, I threw up on their waiting room floor. Bent over, I started crying from embarrassment. Thank goodness, the receptionist and doctor — who ran out at the commotion — were the nicest people. They helped calm me down and clean me up.

I drove home, went straight to my room, hit the bed in fetal position (probably sucked my thumb, too) and stayed there feeling like a complete loser. The ultimate failure. Call me Deacon Blues!

Fast forward to today. Here I am, a sales trainer and sales strategist who’s successfully trained thousands of salespeople and has been writing for INVISION Magazine for the past five years. Success borne of failure!

So, don’t get down on yourself when a customer says, “No.” Think, “Well, at least I didn’t throw up like Robert did.” But, also, think about how you might be better next time. What does a successful sale look like and how do you get there?

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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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