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John Marvin

In Sales, You Can Get Everything You Want

Just by helping other people get what they want.




YOU CAN GET everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

If you have not read any of Zig Ziglar’s books or listened to any of his workshops on selling, I encourage you to do so. He had a wonderful way of reducing the sales transaction into a simple conversation. It is, he instructed, just a matter of helping people get what they want.

There is an entertaining story about Ziglar being interviewed by Johnny Carson that illustrates this point. During an appearance on Carson’s show, the host points to the ashtray on his desk and says: “They say you’re the world’s greatest salesman. So sell me this ashtray.” Ziglar replies: “Before I can do that, I’d have to know why you want the ashtray.” Carson looks at the ashtray. “I guess it’s well-made, it looks pretty nice, and it’s a good ashtray.” “OK,” says Ziglar, “but you’d have to tell me what you think it’s worth to you.” “I don’t know,” says Carson. “I guess $20 would be about right.” Ziglar smiles and says, “Sold.”

Selling is simply understanding what someone needs or wants and then helping them get it. In order to do this with confidence and without effort, there are a few things to understand and master.

EVERYONE IS JUST LIKE YOU. We decide that there is something we want or need. With the advantage of the internet, we can spend hours reviewing all of our options. Whether it is a product or service, we typically spend time doing our homework. This can be a great advantage to you as a sales person. The customer is already knowledgeable. Let’s take blue light protection as an example. It wasn’t that many years ago that few people knew blue light even existed. With the substantial increase in the use of digital screens, more and more has been written about the potential damage.

You only have to search for “danger of blue light” to find literally thousands of articles on the subject. We all want to be knowledgeable about the products and services that we decide to purchase. Because we all want to make sure that by purchasing these products and services, we get what we want.


No one purchases a 1/4” drill bit because they want a 1/4” drill bit. People purchase a 1/4” drill bit because they want a 1/4” hole. See the difference?

PEOPLE LIKE TELLING YOU WHAT THEY WANT. Just like Mr. Carson, people are usually open about what they want because you have implied you can help them get it. You have to be able to ask questions in an effective way. In our business, we generally have a good idea about what they want. They want to see better. Your job is to find out just how people use their vision so that you can recommend the best options.

ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS. These are questions that cannot be answered “yes” or “no.” Examples are: “Tell me about your typical day.” “What do you do for a living?” “When you are not working, what do you do with your time?” All these answers will give you information about how they use their vision.

Asking questions — learning what your customer wants — is the key that unlocks the sales process. Remember, you can have everything you want, if you simply help other people get what they want. Helping others get what they want is the reward of selling.

John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. You can email him at


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