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Tip Sheet

Saying No and More Tips for November and December

Better listener, better sales.

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sales

Is That So?

In The Patterson Principles of Selling, Jeffrey Gitomer suggests training yourself to be a better listener by asking a question at the end of your customers’ statements. If you make your own statement, it’s possible you were interrupting. But if you ask a question, you almost have to wait until they’re finished speaking.

management

Make an Impact

Writes former Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson in The CEO’s Secret Handbook, recently excerpted in Business 2.0: “You remember a third of what you read, a half of what people tell you, but 100 percent of what you feel.” When communicating with your staff, your goal is not to tell or teach people what to do, but to make them feel what they need to do.

salesmanship

Just Say No

As Steve Jobs noted, it’s easy to say yes but the real value comes from saying no. Jennifer Leuzzi, of Mill Creek Optical in Dansville, NY, concurs, recalling a customer who came in looking for an “indestructible” drill mount. “She told me she was fussy and hard to please. I told her we don’t carry what she’s looking for. She turned and huffed out the door,” recalls Leuzzi. “I was so relieved I wasn’t going to spend hours and dollars trying to please this impossible-to-satisfy person. It takes years of experience to know when to turn someone away.”

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management

Always Be Evaluating

How often are you doing performance evaluations with your salespeople? Once a year? Twice? Not enough, says George Whalin, author of Retail Success. To truly shape performance requires once a month performance evaluations — at least. And remember: the goal of these meetings should always be improving performance, not simply listing what an associate did right or wrong.

networking

Highlight Yourself

Networking expert Andrea Nierenberg brings a highlighter to every business event she attends. Why? Because highlighting her name on the inevitable computer-printed nametags helps her to stand out from everyone else. The score: Andrea 1, Anonymous Conference Attendees, 0.

optical design

Get Wired

Waiting for the doctor is not what it once was. Take for example Midwest Eye in Downers Grove, IL, where a “data bar” between the reception desk and optical offers additional seating as well as outlets for computers or phones if needed, all with free Wi-Fi, of course.

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marketing

Big as Texas

Dr. Texas Smith of Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates calls it a “trip” when he finds himself “giving a patient their first progressive lens when I gave them their first Rx in kindergarten.” To help him ensure his message is getting across in the school rooms of his local community in Citrus Heights, CA, he gives every teacher who comes in for an exam a 10-foot-high eye chart that has his name and phone number on the bottom. “But most important, I give that teacher one for all the other teachers in the school,” he says of the marketing tactic.

planning

Shop the Competition

Planning for the New Year should include scoping out the competition. A lot of business owners will quietly drop by a rival’s store to see how they do things, what they stock and how much they charge. It’s good practice, but when was the last time you actually bought something from a competitor? If not, you may be overlooking what makes your competitor tick.

marketing

Guerrilla Tactics

Jump-start word of mouth by getting beauty salon owners to wear your eyewear. All day long, they talk to clients about their lives and, best of all, the fantastic frames they’re wearing. Start by offering all beauty salon owners in a five-mile radius a big discount on their next purchase, says Jay Levinson in his book Guerrilla Marketing.

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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Stop Setting SMART Goals, Set Vague Ones and More Questions for February

Plus how to handle suspected shoplifters and under-performing salespeople.

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After reviewing my sales team’s performance for the holiday season, I found I have one who underperformed hugely. She’s a lovely person but her numbers just don’t improve. Do we just persist with training?

It sounds like she has the right attitude and work ethic to succeed, just not in sales. Almost anyone can learn how to describe a product’s features (the knowledge), they can even learn how to ask the right open-ended questions to elicit a customer’s exact needs (a skill), but they’ll never learn how to push that prospect to get excited about a particular pair of glasses or a new vision technology and to commit at exactly the right moment. That is a talent some people just seem to be born with, says Marcus Buckingham, a leader of the play-to-people’s strengths school of business management. And besides, if she’s the worst performer in your store, she can’t be enjoying the work. It’s time to go your separate ways.

How do you suggest handling someone who is shoplifting in my store?

It’s good you’re asking; this is definitely an area where you do not want to be winging it, says Elie Ribacoff, president of New York-based Worldwide Security. Your policy on handling a suspected shoplifter should be part of your store or practice’s manual and developed in consultation with a qualified attorney, or local police to ensure laws are followed and that prosecution is effective. State laws vary but as a general rule suspicion is never enough — you need to observe the crime take place. As for confronting the person, there are obvious risks in confronting shoplifters. They may be violent, armed or working as part of a gang. And then there are the legal risks of trying to detain someone. As a general rule, it is nearly always better to be a good witness than to botch an arrest, says Ribacoff. Usually, the best approach is to have someone with a cellphone discreetly follow the shoplifter after he or she exits the store, and lead police to them.

Year after year, I set carefully plotted SMART goals for my staff, but we never attain them. Any idea what we’re doing wrong?

To the rational mind, it’s hard to argue with the S.M.A.R.T. mnemonic — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely — when it comes to goals. Except, of course, when it comes to managing humans, it’s best to be wary of anything that gives off the clinical odor of rationality. In the place of SMART goals, we thus propose an experiment for you: This year, try some Vague and Seemingly Irrelevant goals (yep, the sort of targets that can’t even be counted on to form a clever acronym). Clear goals such as “increase sales by 20 percent” can be motivating, but also set extra hurdles to fail at, which can throw the human mind into a tizzy. Vague goals, on the other hand, can be liberating.

As for “seemingly irrelevant,” the key word is the first: “seemingly.” This is management at a higher level. Identify the secret drivers to business success, be it the cheery baristas at Starbucks or the actions in your store that result in a positive review on social media, and you may actually get the specific financial results you desire. In his book The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman tells the story of a Formula One pit crew whose members were told that they would no longer be assessed on the basis of speed targets; they would be rated on style instead. Instructed to focus on acting “smoothly,” rather than on beating their current record time, they wound up performing faster.

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Tip Sheet

Devote an Hour to Guilt and More Tips for February

Like watching your ‘buts’ and letting staff win.

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Watch Your Sandwich

By now, you probably know the concept of giving “sandwich” criticisms. (Short version: say something nice, make your criticism, end with something nice.) One other thing to watch out for, according to T.J. Schier, author of Send Flowers To The Living, is using the word “but” as part of the sandwich. That one small word can ruin the taste of the whole sandwich. Instead, use “and.” For example: “John, normally you are my best employee and it’s critical you are here on time so you can do that awesome job of guest service. Now get out there and make it happen.”

Share the Knowledge

Doctors are often hard to understand when it comes to sharing their medical knowledge but a more streamlined approach can be remarkably beneficial says Ryan Corte, OD, a Charlotte, NC-based OD and founder of IntroWellness.com. “You’ll be surprised how receptive your patients will be and you can always shift gears towards more detailed information for those patients who admit to having prior subject knowledge.” There are also a number of high-quality, inexpensive resources available to supplement your educational efforts.

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Try a Guilt Hour

Here’s something to experiment with in the coming slow months: A weekly Guilt Hour dedicated to nagging, uncompleted jobs. New York-based creative consultant Nick Jehlen explained the idea recently to lifehacker.com. “Every Wednesday at 10am, we sit together and look at our task lists [and] identify the one thing we feel most guilty about not having done yet. Then we go around the table and name our One Guilty Task, and commit to spending the rest of Guilt Hour working on it.”

Let Staff Win

You may be the boss, but that doesn’t mean you should win all the arguments. Ease up, says Phil Dusenberry of ad agency BBDO in Fast Company magazine. Cede a debate point, or even ownership of a concept at least once a day, and your staff will praise your open-mindedness and feel freer to act boldly.

Seuss Frosting

Want to give your marketing copy more impact? Try what Roy Williams, the “Wizard of Ads,” calls “Frosting” or “Seussing” it. The first technique, named for poet Robert Frost, means “transforming drab communication into razor-edged wordsmanship.” The second, after children’s author Dr. Seuss, invites you to make up your own words to spice up predictable sales prose.

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Invite and Offer

Want to shake things up on your “last call wall” (the area of your store where you keep your heavily discounted items)? Remove all the prices from the case or boards and put a sign on it which reads “Make me an offer!”

Go South

Outside a major city and want to compete with the big boys? Turn your location into a competitive advantage in your ads, like one suburban used-car dealer profiled in Entrepreneur magazine did … using the phrase “We’re just 16 minutes south of higher prices” in all advertising.

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Tip Sheet

All Sorts of Goal Setting and Productivity Hacks and More Tips for January

Including creating a personal shrine, accepting you can’t do it all and fighting bad habits.

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ROUTINEThe Golden 90 Minutes

How you start the day has an enormous effect on productivity. To get things done in the morning, “Four Hour” productivity guru Tim Ferriss suggests having the first 90 minutes of your workday vary as little as possible. “I think that a routine is necessary to feel in control and non-reactive, which … makes you more productive.”

GOAL SETTINGKeep It to Yourself

You’ve probably heard that you should tell a friend your goals for the year, because such a declaration will motivate to achieve them. But according to Psychological Science you need to make make an exception with “identity goals” because they are less likely to be achieved if made public. Tell everyone you’re committed to being a better boss, a caring doctor or a more active citizen, and you may slack off — most likely because your brain confuses telling people with taking real action, the report says.

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MOTIVATIONTime to Shrine

Need a New Year pick-me-up? Jim Krause, author of Creative Sparks, suggests creating a small “personal shrine” in your office space. Include things that are important to you — a thank-you letter from a patient, mabye—and use it to get yourself in the zone for wow-ing your patients and customers.

PRODUCTIVITYAction = Results

Want a way for your customers to leave your business feeling they’ve done some good? Urban Tails Pet Supply in Minneapolis, MN, offers a register round-up. “Customers can round up to the nearest dollar, with the difference going to a (local rescue),” manager Megan Trombley told INVISION’s sister magazine PETS+.

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PSYCHOLOGYStop Saying Should

I should really work out tonight, I should talk to more strangers at trade shows, I should fill out Brain Squad surveys. The word implies reluctance and guilt. Start saying “want” instead of “should,” recommends Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor at the University of California, Riverside and the author of The How of Happiness. The positive language will help you clarify and prioritize what you really want to be doing at the moment — and it can help you see healthy business behaviors you’re not psyched about (hey, those surveys really aren’t so bad) in a motivating way.

SELF-IMPROVEMENTFight Bad Habits

When it’s too difficult to deny yourself that cigarette, donut, or new coat, tell yourself to wait just 10 minutes before you give in. This “mini” delay in gratification will build self-control over time, says Kelly McGonigal in her book The Willpower Instinct. “Ten minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but with practice, 10 minutes can turn into 20, 30, or 60 minutes, and soon you might be able to put off gratification for as long as you want. According to McGonigal, with this strategy the brain treats this like a “future reward” and takes away the overwhelming need for immediate gratification.

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