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Robert Bell

Be a Sales Contrarian

Just like Robert Bell.

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OVER THE YEARS, people have said the most illogical things to me. So, I thought we’d start the new year by debunking some irrational thinking when it comes to sales and selling.

“Selling is persuading or convincing someone of something.”

On the contrary … selling is helping someone acquire what they need.

“Selling is really hard, especially for eye doctors and opticians.”

On the contrary … selling is the easiest thing in the world if you’re not trying to persuade someone of something. And, if selling is helping someone acquire what they need (see above) and since eyecare is a “needs” based biz, helping someone with their visual needs is pretty simple. Why are you making it difficult?

“Eye doctors and opticians aren’t really salespeople.”

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On the contrary … who told you that, anyway?  Eye doctors and opticians don’t see themselves as salespeople because they think selling was about persuasion. So yes, I agree, if ECPs think selling is about persuasion then, you’re right: eye doctors and opticians aren’t salespeople (or, at least, they shouldn’t be). Again, selling is helping someone acquire what they need. ECPs are in a needs-based business so isn’t being a salesperson (with our new definition) more of a natural extension of who you are anyway? Isn’t it your primary job to help patients and customers acquire those products that will help them alleviate their visual needs?

“But Robert, don’t we already do that? I mean, we tell them about their needs, we tell them about all the products they need to help them and we tell them why they need them. Isn’t that helping them acquire what they need?”

On the contrary … every time you use the word “tell” you’re actually saying you’re trying to persuade them that they need these products. No one, and I mean not a soul, likes to be told what they should do. When you’re “telling” someone something, you’re talking at them. Their defense mechanisms flare up and they are resisting everything you’re saying.

What, then, would a sales contrarian do instead of tell? Ask! Instead of telling people, you should be asking people. Ask a question. Why? Because asking a question or a series of them is the best way to get people to engage in conversation. When you’re telling someone about something, it’s a monologue. You want a dialogue!

“But, I just don’t know the right questions to ask.”

Au contraire, mon ami … you’re just afraid to ask them. You think asking customers questions makes you look less professional. Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s what a true professional does: asks questions. Lots of them. Inquire about how they use their eyes during the day … at home, at work, at play. C’mon, you know this!

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After asking all these questions and gathering all this information, ask them for their permission to help them. Sounds like, “Ok, great. I think you and I pinpointed the challenges you’re facing. Would you like me to talk about how we can best help you?”

This is the only time you can tell them about the products and services you provide. Why? Because you just asked them for their permission to do so.

“Well, I can’t sell like you, Robert.”

On the contrary…You can sell better than me!

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

After 6 Years and More Than 50 Columns, Robert Bell Has One Last Thing to Say

But before he goes, let’s review some key points of The EyeCoach Selling System he’s been sharing these past several years.

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IN OCTOBER 2013, I began writing this column for INVISION on selling techniques for eyecare professionals. It’s been an incredible six years but after writing over 50 columns, the time has come to end my monthly contribution so you may grow from a new perspective.

Mark Hinton will be following in my footsteps. I first met Mark in one of my EyeCoach workshops 10 years ago. Trust me, I am leaving you in very good hands!

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Before I say my goodbyes, I’d like to review some key points of The EyeCoach Selling System I’ve shared with you these past several years (my full archive is available at invisionmag.com/robertbell).

  • Selling is not about persuasion as most of you have come to believe.
  • Selling is helping someone acquire what they need! Understanding the difference between the two will make your professional life much easier.
  • To help someone acquire what they need, you must get your customers to understand their needs.
  • To do this, you must ask a series of “Pain Questions.”
  • Four questions should always follow the pain questions:
    1. How often does that happen?
    2. Does that bother you?
    3. How much does that bother you?
    4. Would you like me to help you with that?
  • Never make a presentation unless you get a “Yes” to that last question!
  • When making a presentation, only talk about the features of the product/service that speaks to their “pain.”
  • Never tell a customer how the product/service will be beneficial. Instead, ask how it will be of be of benefit to them! This has the customer closing the sale, themselves.
  • Isolate and overcome almost every objection with just five words: “Other than the fact that [insert objection], are there any other reasons why you wouldn’t want to purchase these today?”
  • Never upsell! It doesn’t work.
  • Ask questions! Keep asking them!
  • What is your story? What is your brand? How does it inspire your customers? Know why you do what you do because it’s the reason they buy from you.
  • Be powerful. Don’t play small. It won’t serve you or your customers.
  • Volunteer your eyecare talents to local charities within your community. You won’t believe how it changes lives, sharpens your skills (even your sales skills) and most certainly changes you!

Now for my goodbyes; I’d like to thank the amazing folks at INVISION: David Squires, Matthijs Braakman, Julie Fanselow and a very special and heartfelt thank you to Deirdre Carroll. I’m also very grateful to my dear friend, Lisa Trippi, who inspired several of my best pieces. Most importantly, I thank all of you who have read my columns and written me all those lovely emails. I hope you’ve found me helpful in making you the ECP you’ve always wanted to be.

So … fare thee well, adios, adieu
oh, and best of luck to all of you!
I ain’t no saint and I don’t pretend to be,
but I hope you all found a friend in me.”

With true love, humble respect and a gracious bow … Robert️

EDITOR’S NOTE: Six years ago, Robert Bell took a chance on an upstart magazine. When doubters said another trade publication could never succeed, he saw our vision and embraced it. Robert, you have our sincerest thanks and appreciation. Though you may no longer be appearing in our pages each month, you will always be a part of the INVISION family.

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Robert Bell

Peak Performance Selling Techniques

Plot twist: Robert Bell decided not to teach you a damn thing a long time ago.

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GUESS WHAT? THIS issue of INVISION marks my five year anniversary writing this column for them. That means I’ve written about 50 articles for INVISION on selling philosophies, strategies and techniques. The challenge, for me, has been: How do I teach you how to sell in 500 words?

It can’t be done. So, I decided not to teach you a damn thing.

Instead, my goal was, and remains, to make you think! To make you think in ways you never had before. To inspire you to look at things from different angles or points of view. To encourage you to let go of your traditional ideas of what selling is and to join me in embracing a new experiment in sales strategies and techniques.

So, let me dedicate this month’s column to those of you who want to be Peak Performers in sales with the following:

  • Let go of those traditional selling techniques that continue to fail. Where did you pick up those techniques, anyway? Think about that. Did it come from observing others who are mediocre at selling? Is what you were observing actual sales skill or was is just someone with a charming personality? You understand that’s it’s next to impossible to adopt someone else’s personality and make it your own, right? Sell like you, not someone else (including me). Customers can always pick up on someone being disingenuous and that never bodes well.
  • Read my articles (you can find all of them at invisionmag.com/robertbell) or hire me to come in and train you and your staff. Take the techniques I share and make them your own. It’s easy to do.
  • Lose your ego! Embrace your mistakes and foul-ups. It’s part of the learning process. When you screw up a sale, think about it. Is this a one-time thing or is it a pattern? Write down what it is you think you can do better next time.
  • You don’t have to do this alone. Ask for help. Go to your boss or co-workers and ask them what they think you can do better. Hey Bosses… ask your employees what they think you can do better at selling. Again, lose the ego. Accept the fact that there are no sales courses in optometry school and ask for help!
  • Find an article of mine that has meaning to you. Read and discuss it at your next staff meeting with everyone.
  • Ask your state optometric or optical association to bring in a speaker. I’m available. How cool would that be? We’d get to meet each other in person.
  • Ask one of your top vendors (frame, lenses, labs, etc.) to sponsor a training for your area or, specifically, for your practice. Trust me, they want you to sell more! The more you sell, the more you buy from them. Talk about a win-win.
  • Successful selling is not about you, it’s about the customer. Folks, I’m not going to comment on this as it’s fairly self-explanatory. If you don’t really get this, you’re doomed. If you get this and embrace it, your customers will buy enthusiastically.

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Robert Bell

In Sales There Are Not Two Sides to Every Story.
 There Is Only One — the Customer’s Side

You’re about to get much better at selling.

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YOU MAY NOT REALIZE THIS, but you’re a salesperson. Yes, I know, you don’t see yourself as such … you see yourself as an eye doctor or optician or ophthalmic tech or office manager in an optometric practice, etc. Yet, you are a salesperson as well. Why? Because whether you know it or not, if you’re not selling your eyecare services and products, you’re out of business.

I’m sorry I’m the one who had to break this news to you but, then again, who better than a professional salesperson and sales trainer?

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But, there’s a difference between you and me. I’m pretty good at selling and, you? Well … you’re about to get much better at it.

Do Your Homework

Know what you’re selling. Everyone who works in the business should be familiar with all the services and products offered. Know them inside and out, up and down, and know it better than anyone else … especially the customer.

Know Your Customer

Understand as much as you can about them and how what you’re about to sell them will precisely be of benefit to them.

Know Your Competition!

I don’t mean, “know of them.” I mean, know them!! Know what they’re good at and what they suck at. Know what they offer. When you know this, you’ll understand a lot better how to excel at what you do. You’ll understand what differentiates you from them. How can you expect your customers or patients to understand this if you don’t?

Ask, and Ye Shall Receive

Now that you’ve done your homework, and you’re so incredibly prepared, you’re probably bursting at the seams with all this knowledge and passion for what you do. You can’t wait to tell your customers about everything you know. Yeah, don’t! Why? Because you’ll come off as pushy. You’ll come off as a know-it-all. You’ll come across as it being all about you when it should be all about them!

So, ask them questions. Ask them if they have any concerns. Ask them about what they’re hoping you can do for them. Ask them what their visual and/or style goals are. Ask. Keep on asking questions. Oh, and listen! Listen very carefully.

You’ll gather all the information you’ll need to help them with their specific challenges. You’ll hear about what really matters to them… and this is where “doing your homework” comes into play.

Make a Connection and Establish Trust

Without a doubt, salespeople cannot sell if there is no connection or trust. But, here’s the good news: by asking genuine questions about what’s important to the customer/patient, you’ve already begun making that connection. You’ve showed them you’re concerned about them and not about yourself or “making the sale.”
When you begin to share with them (“share” being the key word) the solutions to their needs, they’ll need to understand how this benefits them. Share with them a story of how this solution was able to help another customer/patient (without violating HIPAA laws, please) in a similar situation. Share with them the success of the product(s) you’re helping them acquire. This is when trust begins to become established.

Are There Two Sides to Every Story?

Not in sales, there aren’t. There is only one side. The customer’s side.

Even though you may, physically, be sitting on the other side of the dispensing table from them, truthfully, you’re really on the same side.

How important do you think it is for your customer/patient to know this? Critically important! Your customers/patients need to know you’re on their side, that you’re partners, together, in helping them achieve their goals and acquire those items to get them there.

When your customers/patients realize your genuine desire to help make them successful, make their lives more dynamic with the right vision solutions, your sales will dramatically increase and it will make you feel incredibly good.

You’re a salesperson? Yes.

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