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Robert Bell: How To Be a Professional Dummy

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advice from optical sales consultant Robert Bell

Being very knowledgeable about what you do can hurt your sales.

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 edition of INVISION.


The Dummy Curve. It shows us all, no matter where we are in our careers, how we start off as Dummies, matriculate to Morons and (hopefully) graduate to what I like to call a Professional Dummy.

This story will illustrate my point:

Dan, a 19-year-old young man, gets his first job in a large department store. (Think Sears, Walmart, J.C. Penney.) Since Dan has no prior experience, the store manager isn’t quite sure what to do with him. The manager, shrugging his shoulders, decides to have Dan sell air conditioners. “But I don’t know anything about air conditioners,” Dan tells the manager. The manager replies, “Do the best you can.”

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On his first day, an older woman comes into the air conditioner department. “Hi, may I help you?” Dan asks. “Yes, do you know anything about air conditioners? I’d like to buy one.”

Dan says “Not really, this is my first day, but I know we keep them over here.” He walks her over to the aisle where there are 50 different types of air conditioners. “Here they are,” Dan exclaims. Dan notices that the older woman seems a bit overwhelmed by all the choices.

“Let’s see here,” Dan says approaching the first box and reading off the label, “It says here that this air conditioner has 18,000 BTUs, three cooling modes and three air speeds, cools a room of 1,000 square feet, has a temperature sensing remote and is $950.” He looks at the next two boxes and reads off the features and benefits of each and quotes a price. Each one with a complete list of technical jargon longer than his arm.

He looks at his customer. She’s obviously frustrated and confused. “Um, can you tell me why you want to buy an air conditioner?” he asks. “I have this small room that I watch TV in and it gets very hot in there in the summertime. I just need something that will keep me cool. That’s it,” she says. “Ah, OK,” Dan replies. He scans some more boxes and says, “This one here just says it will keep an entire room cool. It’s $150. Do you want me to bring this up to the cash register for you?” “Yes, thank you.”


“To become a Professional Dummy, like me, ask lots of (pain) questions before telling everyone what you know.”


A few weeks go by and manager sees that the sales of air conditioners are skyrocketing. He runs down to the department, finds Dan and exclaims, “You don’t know anything about air conditioners and you’re outselling everyone in the department. We’re sending you to air conditioner school. Can you imagine what your sales are going to be like after you learn all about them?”

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Dan goes to school. Learns everything one can learn about air conditioners.

He returns to work. A customer walks in, “Hi, do you know anything about air conditioners? I need one.”

Dan beams, “Do I know anything about air conditioners? I know everything about air conditioners!” And, he begins to tell all the customers who come in to buy an air conditioner everything about them. People are walking out, sales plummet. Dan, unfortunately, becomes a Moron.

The manager, befuddled by these results, yells at Dan, “What the hell happened?”

You already know what the hell happened!

Knowledge is great and you should absolutely know everything about the products you sell and the services you provide. It’s essential! But, if you want to aspire to the ranks of Professional Dummy, like me, and increase your sales, ask lots of (pain) questions before telling everyone what you know.

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Robert Bell is a Professional Dummy and has trained salespeople for over 30 years, throughout North America, to become Professional Dummies, too. He has created The EyeCoach Selling System specifically for ECPs. In addition, he is head of Vision Services at Project Homeless Connect. Email him at rbell@eyecoach.org.

 

 

 

 

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Editor's Note

Sometimes Bad Things Happen

It’s how you deal with them that really matters.

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EVERY ISSUE, WHEN I write this Editor’s Note it feels like I’m writing to the future you. I write it several weeks before it appears, but it needs to sound like I wrote it yesterday. And a lot can happen in a few weeks. In this case, we’ll be in a new year and a whole new decade when you read it.

Personally, the end of 2019 was difficult for me. Regardless of the specifics, I am sure I am not alone. Normally, we greet a New Year with a renewed sense of optimism, but a lot of ECPs are worried about changes in the industry. 2020 naturally has us looking to the future of optometry, so we reached out to industry experts to share what they believe to be the biggest trends we can expect this year and beyond. (Big Story, page 34). Spoiler alert: Many will be scary to independent ECPs.

Don’t worry; there are fun things to look forward to. In this issue, we’re introducing some new mini-columns — like ECPs Tell Jokes, Tough Jobs and What I Know for Sure, where ECPs share the things they know to be true. We’re also debuting three new regular contributors. First up is Autianna Wilson, you may know her as The Optical Goddess (@goddessofoptix), and her new column — DiscoverEyes by The Optical Goddess (page 28) — where she will be introducing INVISION readers to truly independent eyewear brands each month. 4ECP’s Cameron Martel (page 52) will be alternating a column with Kaia Carter on marketing and human resource topics. Lastly, eYeFacilitate’s Mark Hinton will be sharing sales wisdom in his monthly column (page 51).

When bad things happen, I like to focus on the positive … the lesson the bad thing is meant to teach me to turn it into a positive. I hope that’s how you approach the predictions our experts are sharing.

Best wishes for your business,

 

Five Smart Tips From This Issue

1. Do your docs straighten up the frame boards? They probably should occasionally. We tell you why. (Manager’s To-Do, page 18)
2. Can you wait just 10 minutes? That’s all experts say you need to increase willpower and break bad habits. (Tip Sheet, page 46)
3. New sales columnist, who dis? Say hi to Mark Hinton and his ideas on dispensary sales. (Columns, page 51)
4. Lift your business out of mediocrity by setting some standards. (Ask INVISION, page 55)
5. Wondering if you should accept Friend Requests from patients? Readers weigh in. (Do You or Don’t You?, page 60)

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Columns

3 Major Marketing Trends for 2020

They aren’t the only game in town, but they are currently among the most overlooked from small businesses.

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AS WE ENTER 2020, many businesses are looking at their budgets. Marketing is always an important consideration but it can be difficult to determine where to focus.

One constant: marketing is ever-changing. Knowing that most of us have finite marketing dollars, let’s break down a few trends that are likely to perform well in 2020:

Local Influencer Marketing

If 2018 and 2019 were the pinnacle of national and international influencer marketing, 2020 will be the year of the local influencer. Local influencers — high-visibility people and organizations that reside near your location — are extremely effective if their local reach is strong.

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These influencers often do not have the six or seven-figure follower counts that their national/international colleagues do, but that is a strength in the context of local marketing. A local Instagram influencer with 25,000 followers likely has higher engagement, and when it comes to getting people in your back yard to take notice, engagement is key. And those smaller local influencers almost certainly cost less than their national counterparts.

How to Get the Most Out of Influencer Marketing
  • Have a well-defined measurement of success (link clicks to a website, sales of an item, etc.)
  • Implement as much tracking as possible (tracking URLs, call tracking #s, etc.)
  • Engagement is more than just “likes;” look for shares and commenting activity.
  • Offer an incentive if the influencer hits certain performance thresholds.

Digital PR

Public relations, in its traditional sense, involves trying to get your brand mentioned on the radio, TV, newspaper, etc. The same is true for digital PR, but replace those more traditional media outlets with their digital equivalents. This ties in with search engine optimization and is likely to get more intertwined with SEO over time.

PR is a time-involved and challenging process. However, when it works, it works extremely well. This is not only due to the brand exposure that your business receives, but the SEO benefits.

How to Get the Most Out of PR
  • Focus on stories that have broad appeal, such as how parents can address eye teaming problems in infants versus something generic and overplayed (“Did you know kids need an eye exam?”)
  • Don’t pitch your services or your business; being mentioned is enough to accomplish the SEO/branding benefits you’re looking for.
  • Build relationships with local bloggers and journalists, as they may come to you in the future asking for your opinion.

Engagement in Local Social Media Communities

Younger audiences are rejecting traditional media and favoring social communities. Millennials, born 1980-2000, are the driving force behind this trend.

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Websites such as Reddit and Facebook allow people to create their own hyper-focused communities, and the broader trend is creating communities that are hyper-localized. Reddit, traditionally a content curation/aggregation site, has a community for just about every major city and state, and I’m sure we’re all familiar with the popularity of FB groups.

Look for ways to engage these communities. Often, the administrators will allow you to advertise if you follow certain rules or pay for the privilege. The hoops you jump through are worthwhile.

How to Get the Most Out of Social Engagement
  • Reddit hates when businesses hock their services/wares. Instead of selling yourself, look for ways to add value to the conversation — people will come to you on their own.
  • Avoid generic messages (“It’s back to school time!”) and focus on information that is more regionally relevant (“Dry eye is pervasive in Las Vegas, here’s why…”)
  • When linking back to your website, link to a helpful blog post versus your homepage or service pages. People hate being sold but love to go shopping — let them find your sales channels on their own.

The above trends aren’t the only game in town, but they are currently among the most overlooked from small businesses. Actioning them now with smart strategies will give you a leg up over your peers.

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Columns

Remember This Uplifting Fact About the Eyecare Business Next Time You’re Dealing with a Tough Customer

Sometimes the biggest impacts we make are the ones we don’t notice.

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IT’S A POWERFUL thing. I am an optician and a writer. As a writer most people think that my goal is to make a fortune by having a best-seller and getting some studio to pick it up and turn it into a movie. While I will be the first to tell you that is a thing we all dream about, my motivation is different.

I want to make an impact. I want my words to carry meaning over the years to come. I want what I have to say to make a difference in people’s lives. Hopefully in a positive way. I would wager that most of us have similar motivations. What does that have to do with opticianry, you ask? As it turns out, quite a lot.

It was a busy day in my office. There were at least four people waiting for me to help them. We’ve all been there. A patient that I help on a regular basis popped in for an adjustment and made idle chitchat with the other patients waiting for me. The patients were patient that day.

It was a nice change of pace.

As I finished up the sale I was working on, I heard the man say something that caught me off guard. “I’ll bet Will has no idea how many lives he’s touched in here.” I looked up, trying to hide my shock at the comment. He was 100 percent correct. It’s something that I had never thought about.

Everyday, we help people see. Some of us have been at this for decades… how many people have you impacted? How many have they impacted? The thought hit me hard.

Every interaction makes an impression. We tend to focus on the “customer satisfaction” end of things to a fault. Once they are out of our offices we forget what we did for them. Frankly, for the most part we don’t care as long as they don’t come back complaining. But the thing is, we are literally a part of their every waking moment. They wear our work on their faces, and in a small way their contributions to the world are ours too.

That pilot you fit for glasses flies people all over the world because you helped him see. That engineer that just designed the newer, better, longer-lasting lightbulb did so because you helped her see. That local business owner can sign payroll because you fit them flawlessly in their first progressive lens. We as a community make the world as we know it work.

As far as my writing is concerned, you are reading it right now. Who knows, maybe my words will carry some meaning to you. Maybe you’re struggling to remember why you get up every morning and drag yourself in to the office to get yelled at by angry impatient people. Maybe, just maybe, you needed to read this to get your head back in the game. Comically, that’s exactly why I needed to write it; to remind myself why I do what I do.

No matter how small you think the difference you make in this world is, it could be everything to someone else. Sometimes the biggest impacts we make are the ones we don’t notice. Once in a while, like at the start of a new year, it’s important to stop and reflect.

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