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Tip Sheet

Saying No and More Tips for November and December

Better listener, better sales.

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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 21 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Personality Clashes and More Questions for This Month

Read the answers to some of your holiday questions.

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Our holiday events are approaching. What are the best finger foods for an in-store event?

Balancing what tastes good — usually greasy or gooey food — with what looks sophisticated and doesn’t leave crumbs around the store or sticky fingerprints over your eyewear or frame boards is a tough balancing act. But store trainer Kate Peterson thinks she’s seen the answer: small, clear plastic drink glasses. “One presentation had a small amount (about three-quarters of an inch) of ranch dressing in the bottom of the cups, along with a variety of veggie sticks (carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, squash). The glasses were all arranged on a tray, so instead of having to pick up the veggies and scoop dip onto a plate, guests simply picked up an easy-to-handle, pre-made serving, which could then be dropped into a trash bin when they were done. Peterson adds that she saw a similar but more “savory” twist on this treatment with cocktail sauce and jumbo shrimp (tails removed). Don’t want ranch dressing in your store? Try cubed cheese and seedless grapes, which are always a crowd favorite, and easy to prepare.

I need ideas on how to give my optical a quick, cheap facelift before the holiday season starts.

The problem with quick, cheap facelifts is that they look exactly that — quick and cheap. Take a hard look at your store and if you find worn fixtures splash out and get them refinished. Then focus on creating a killer (but easy-on-the-pocket) winter-themed display. Bare branches, lots of white, big candles, spray-on snow… Be bold about moving your merchandise to new locations. Try them in higher or lower positions, with new props or with more space than usual. And if you’ve got a boring wall you just don’t know what to do with, throw up another mirror. People are endlessly fascinated with themselves.

I’m thinking of opening a new retail optical outlet in what’s possibly the most crowded market in the country; there are over three dozen optical retailers here in a college town of 400,000. I feel I know this market but should I look elsewhere?

A crowded marketplace isn’t necessarily a bad sign; conversely, it may be an indicator of the huge demand for a product or service. The secret to business success isn’t finding an empty field, it’s filling a need, and that generally means a niche. Sometimes niches are created because everyone is chasing the big-ticket-buying crowd or the youth market or there are changes in fashion or technology that the existing players may have missed. The real question is whether you can do something better or differently. “Just don’t think you can do it by being the cheapest,” says marketing expert Brad Sugars. “You’re the little guy; you don’t have economies of scale. The big guys can make up in volume what they lack in margin. You can’t.”

I’m a junior member of a front office team of eight. They’re all good people but one of the older girls bugs the hell out of me. It’s purely a personality thing. What do I do?

Focus on the positives. Remind yourself of the contributions she makes. If that’s too hard then at least don’t fall into the trap of recruiting allies to your cause. Sure, it feels good to have someone confirm she’s annoying but it also makes her presence a bigger issue. Try to minimize contact and ask yourself, does she irk everyone or is there something about you that has you grimacing like this?

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Pulling Off a Successful Event and More Questions for October

Your questions answered by our experts.

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Where can I find good local art to decorate our walls?

This is one of those areas where the reward will reflect the effort. Eisenbrei Plaza Optical in Canton, OH, was facing a similar challenge and decided to confront it with a clever campaign they called #EyesOnArt. “The talent pool of local artists in Canton is deep and our team sought them out by visiting local galleries and by reaching out to some on social media,” explained owner Mark Eisenbrei.​ The store currently has the work of four artists on display, many of which draw inspiration from the local area. The works, says Eisenbrei, have breathed fresh life into the 55-year-old business, while also underscoring its local credentials. All proceeds from any art sold go to the artist.

Re-dos have surged at our practice and it’s mostly because of doctor error. It seems like in today’s world of automation and insurance, docs have little incentive to take their time. I appreciate refractions have become more complicated but what can we do to cut down on re-dos? 

You have good cause to be worried. The typical American practice is losing nearly $10,000 in labor costs due to lab re-dos (based on 2,000 exams per year). And then there is the impact on the patient’s confidence in your practice and the morale of staff when a patient complains. These figures from Hoya show doctors account for about half the issues (slightly higher in an ophthalmology practice due to post-operative situations) with the rest generally due to fit, patient satisfaction, the lab and AR warrantees. Take-away? Yes, docs make errors, but so does everyone in this part of the business. That means everyone has to work better together to lower the rate of remakes. A good system includes checklists, increased training, and doing the proper homework (does the patient, for example, have a history of making complaints? Is this their first pair of multifocals? How big an adjustment to an RX is an old patient going to be able to adapt to?) Hoya provides a handy list of its “Top 10 Things to Do to Avoid Remakes,” find it here: invmag.us/10180.

How do I get better at verbal comebacks? 

We have a lot of fun collecting such imagined retorts for our Woulda Coulda column but there’s a reason we call it Woulda instead of Whatdya — there’s not a lot to be gained from liberally dispensing withering put-downs. As one of our Brain Squad regulars puts it, “Don’t spend a lot of time trying to think of one-liner comebacks to zing your customers with. That kinda stuff just makes you bitter.” Too true.

I still struggle with finding ways to do in-store events that will make a difference in our community. We partnered with organizations, but it just hasn’t caught the spark I wanted. Suggestions?

Events are your chance to roll out new lines, educate, and move old stock. They drive traffic and energy and get consumers in a buying mood. They make you relevant. But, of course, they are none of those things if they don’t get people excited. Kate Peterson, CEO of Performance Concepts, says first and foremost, events have to be unique and interesting. “Look for ideas that are innovative and that have not been done a hundred times by your business or others in the area.” Second step, she says, is to be sure to sort your client list carefully with a focus on the people who are most likely to have an interest in the product you’ll be promoting. “Most importantly, make it personal. The greatest successes will come from personal outreach — phone calls, emails and follow up — not from mass mailing,” she says. Note that events tied to charities or organizations only work if the store owners, management and staff are completely committed to the cause, and if the people at the head of the charity are committed to the event. “You can’t fake it or take it half way!” she warns.

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Tip Sheet

Avoid the Political Fracas and More Tips for October

Will there even be airtime for your advertising during election season?

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Political Interference

Record sums of money are likely to be spent on the mid-term campaigns and advertising will be crowded as TV and radio stations offer low rates to candidates with cash. Andy Malis, co-founder of ad agency MGH, suggests not even trying to compete via traditional channels. “Avoid the 45- and 60-day windows prior to the elections,” he says. “If you can hold your own by concentrating on your current customers via social media, email, direct mail, personal notes, phone calls, etc., then you should do fine.”

management

Brown Bag It

According to a tale in Bob Nelson’s book Please Don’t Do What I Tell You, Do What Needs To Be Done, when an ice-cream store in Texas ran out of job application forms, a quick-thinking employee handed each remaining applicant an empty paper bag with instructions to do something creative with it. This brainstorm forced job-seekers to show their creativity and ability to entertain others, important attributes in the ice-cream business — and eyecare.

sales

Upgrades Trump Discounts

What’s better than a discount for your patient and your bottom line? A free upgrade. Eye Designs of Westchester in Scarsdale, NY, offers free upgrades to blue light blocking lenses instead of discounts for new patients and “those referred to us by local eye doctors,” says Harris Decker.

merchandising

New Frames Fridays

How can you build the visiting habit in customers who only want to see the latest and greatest? Establish one day a week, or one day a month, that becomes known as when you set out your newest offerings. Perhaps “New Frame Friday,” or, if you’re open on Sundays, “Sunnies Sunday,” to let your customers know that they can see your latest new arrivals on the first Friday, Sunday, or even Tuesday of every month.

marketing

Make It Rain

Your business cards do no good sitting in a drawer. Get them out, says Paul Timm, author of 50 Powerful Ways To Win New Customers. He cites one company that included a business card in every piece of first-class mail sent out, even the bills they paid. It led to a call from the local electric company asking about their product. Another manager tossed his cards in the air at football games when the home team scored.

sales

Giftcard Face Lift

Gift certificates take care of the anxiety of giving eyewear as a Christmas present. But a piece of paper still makes for an uninspired gift. Charlie Blankenship of The Spectacle Shoppe in St. Paul, MN, remedies by giving gift certificates a “face lift.” “Wrapping them in a designer case complete with cleaner, a cloth and a POS bag it’s a win-win for everyone,” he writes on the Daily Optician website. “Our guest has something to wrap, the recipient picks out the pair they really want, and our inventory stays on the board vs. in a box waiting to be returned.”

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