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Robert Bell

To Stand Out From the Crowd, Look At Your Business From a New Perspective

Grab a note pad and make an honest assessment.

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PUT THE MAGAZINE DOWN for a second (yeah, the folks at INVISION are gonna love me for writing that!) and grab a notebook and a pen. We’re going to do a little homework today. Ready?

On the top of five separate pages, write the name of a store or business where you like to shop or receive a service. On each page, list all the reasons you like to patronize the business you put on that page. Write down the last time you shopped or purchased a service there (approximate, if you must). Now, think back a bit and jot down the “good” feeling you had after you made that purchase. Write down everything that made you feel this way. What attracted you there? How do they cater to your needs and/or wants? Will you go back? Why? Write it down.

After you’ve listed all the reasons, write down on the same page, two of that store’s competitors. If you have ever shopped at these competitors, write down the reasons you don’t/won’t shop there now. If you’ve never shopped there, will you give them a try? If not, why? Write down those reasons. If “price” is the reason, ask yourself is the item(s) you’re buying a commodity or is that item and/or brand generally available?

Write down 3-5 online stores you like to patronize (on 3-5 separate pages). Write down the reasons you like shopping with those companies atop the page. This next part is very important: write down where you would shop if these online stores weren’t available to you. Are any of them small businesses like yours? Uh huh.

A quick time-out so you know I’m not here to make you feel guilty or make you feel bad. I’m here to show you two things:

1. A mirror. Look closely and objectively at yourself. Don’t hold your customers or potential customers to consumer shopping standards you, yourself, don’t adhere to. Recognize this part of yourself and your aptitude for empathy will soar. Putting yourself in another’s shoes, knowing where they’re coming from, is everything when it comes to selling! 

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2. The forest from the trees. I’m here to show you how to compete.

OK, let’s get back to it. So, these online “stores” have “won” your business from a local store, how? Write those reasons down. Here is the most important thing: write down what these local stores should or could do to earn back your business. By the way, if one of the reasons the online store “won” your business is because you’re lazy (hey, over here … me too!), write it down. What? You don’t think some of your customers are lazy? Write it down! How are you going to “un-laze” them?

You should have a lot of notes, insights and ideas now. With this new perspective, take a hard, objective look at your business. Would you shop there if you weren’t you?

You now have a new foundation, a new perspective in which to move forward. If you say, “this is great, I’ll start tomorrow,” then you’re in a lot of trouble. Those who talk about tomorrow have already given up on today. Hey, you’ve got a notebook and a pen in front of you. Get to work.  

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

What’s the Best Sale You Ever Made?

Was it the sale with the biggest price tag or where you overcame the most objections? No and no.

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I GET THAT QUESTION all the time.

“Was it the sale with the biggest price tag?” No.

“Was it the sale in which you made the biggest commission?” Nope.

“Was it your very first sale?” It wasn’t.

“Was it the sale when you were so broke and needed a sale desperately?” Heck, no.

“Was it the sale you overcame the most objections?” Nah.

“Was it the easiest sale?” No way, Jose.

“Was it the sale in which the customer referred you to another customer?” No, although that’s always appreciated!

“Was it the time you sold the most amount of ‘widgets’?” No, no, no.

“Was it the sale that put you ahead as ‘salesperson of the year’ that time?” Not even close.

“Is it when you make the sale on a cold call?” No, sorry, it’s not.

“Is it the sale you’ve made after trying for a very long time to sell them?” Again, no.

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“Was it the sale when you oversold a customer?” Never happened.

“Was it the sale when you truly met the customer’s needs?” YES!!!

“Ah, finally. Okay, which sale was that?” All of them!

Get it, folks? That’s what selling is all about: meeting and satisfying the customers need(s). Helping the customer acquire what they need to overcome their specific challenges and for it to be beneficial to them.

So, if that’s what true selling is about, they’re all my best sale! Does that make sense? I sure hope so.

I don’t care how much money I make on the sale. I don’t care what the price tag is. I don’t care how many “units” I sell them. I don’t care if I sell them after meeting with them only once or meeting with them several times before they buy. I don’t care if I get accolades from others on closing a sale. If Jimmy cracked corn, guess what? I don’t care.

Here’s what I care about in a sales scenario (and, in my opinion, so should you): I care about whether or not I can help someone with the products and/or services I provide.

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I either can or I can’t.

If I can and I close the sale, wonderful. Wonderful for them and wonderful for me, because there is tremendous satisfaction in helping someone and getting paid for it.

If I can’t, that’s okay. My product or service doesn’t meet their needs. Nothing I can do about that. Doesn’t make them bad or evil, it doesn’t make me bad or evil. The round peg isn’t bad and the square hole isn’t evil. It’s just not a fit. Pretty simple, yes?

If I can meet someone’s needs but cannot close the sale because of any number of variables that cannot be overcome at the time (personalities, shipping, price, policies, etc.), I don’t get emotional about it. I will stay in touch with them and ask, from time to time, if anything has changed? Why? Because I saw the potential in being able to help them. Who would walk away from something like that?

So, let me ask you: What’s the best sale you ever made?

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Robert Bell

Celebrate Failure, Just like Deacon Blues

Because you can’t have success without failure.

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THEY GOT A NAME for the winners in the world.

I … I want a name when I lose

They call Alabama the Crimson Tide

Call me Deacon Blues”

— Deacon Blues by Steely Dan

I love that lyric. It’s clever. It expresses so much, so powerfully and concisely. “I want a name when I lose.” Brilliant.

Why do I think it’s brilliant? Because no one, to my knowledge, has ever captured that sentiment before on something as common as losing. It’s as though it’s a celebration of failure.

Hey, and why not?

In the movie, National Treasure, Nicolas Cage’s character, says “You know, Thomas Edison failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb … And when asked about it, he said “I didn’t fail; I found 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb,” but he only needed one way to make it work.”

The point is that no one, can be successful at anything without failing first … or 2,000 times. Yes, there are instances of success on the first try but those often can’t be sustained.

Failure makes us stronger! Smarter! And, in most cases, more determined.

Want to know my first failure selling?

I was 21 and starting up a contact lens distributorship with a partner. He was going to run the business end of things and I was responsible for selling. After all, I was the son of an optical sales legend. But, to be honest, I’d never sold anything before. How hard could it be?

It took us about two weeks to set up the business. Every day during those two weeks, I’d pass this optometrist’s office thinking they’re going to be my first call and, hopefully, my first sale. Every day, as I passed by that office, I thought: “You’re mine. I’m gonna get you!”

Finally, the day arrived. It was time to make sales calls. This should have been the easiest call ever. All I had to do was walk in and say, “Hi, I’m a contact lens distributor. We have the lowest prices on brands you probably already buy. Here’s my price list. If you’d like to order, please give us a call.”

Doesn’t get simpler than that.

So, I walked into that OD’s office.

“Hi, may we help you?” the very nice receptionist said.

“Yes. I, uhhh … ummm …” I started to hyperventilate. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was so nervous, my system shut down and … well, I threw up on their waiting room floor. Bent over, I started crying from embarrassment. Thank goodness, the receptionist and doctor — who ran out at the commotion — were the nicest people. They helped calm me down and clean me up.

I drove home, went straight to my room, hit the bed in fetal position (probably sucked my thumb, too) and stayed there feeling like a complete loser. The ultimate failure. Call me Deacon Blues!

Fast forward to today. Here I am, a sales trainer and sales strategist who’s successfully trained thousands of salespeople and has been writing for INVISION Magazine for the past five years. Success borne of failure!

So, don’t get down on yourself when a customer says, “No.” Think, “Well, at least I didn’t throw up like Robert did.” But, also, think about how you might be better next time. What does a successful sale look like and how do you get there?

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Robert Bell

Don’t Just Ask Questions, Actually Listen to the Answers

Sounds simple, but many don’t do it when trying to sell eyewear.

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A LONG TIME AGO, I overheard a conversation between two people:

Person 1: “Ugh, I just wish there was a magic potion you could drink to lose weight!”

Person 2: “There is. It’s called water.”

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Makes me laugh, every time, because of its sheer simplicity. Anytime I put myself on a weight loss plan, drinking lots of water a day is on the regimen. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. The not so simple part is actually doing it. To drink all that water per day (… hold on, I gotta go refill my water bottle…) isn’t easy. It is, however, very doable.

Well, it’s the same thing with selling.

There isn’t a magic potion for selling (trust me, I’ve drunk a lot of red wine just to be sure) but there is a magic wand. Know what it is? Listening. I mean really listening! The best salespeople I ever meet, in any industry, are always, hands-down, the best listeners. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. The hard part is doing it. I’ll share with you how to make that easier.

One of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received was from one of my first clients, Dr. Robert Ratzlaff of RealEyes in Taos, NM. About a month after his EyeCoach training, he told me I had made him a better doctor. Hmm, strange I thought. I’m not a doctor nor did I attend optometry school.

“Doctor, how the hell did I do that?”

“By making me a better listener.”

“Ah, and how did I make you a better listener?”

“By teaching me to ask better questions. It forces me to listen to the answers.”

It forces me to listen to the answers.

If you’ve read my sales columns before, you know I’m all about the questions. The more questions, the better. The questions I ask have a “share with me” or a “tell me” element to them. Meaning, with each question I ask, I could have “Tell me” or “Share with me” as a preface. It implies we’re on the same team. It says, “Look, I’m not trying to persuade you, I’m trying to find out exactly how I can help you.”

“Tell me… when you’re reviewing your children’s homework, do you notice you’re moving the paper further away to read it?”

“Share with me… what’s happening with your eyes and vision when you’re at your daughter’s soccer games in the late afternoon? Just how harsh is that sun?”

“Tell me… how often is the baby grabbing the glasses off your face?”

“Share with me… how often are you rubbing your eyes and exactly what part of the day do you start to feel most fatigued?”

Wait for the answers. Don’t interrupt them, ever! When they’re done responding, ask another question until you have all the information you require to help them purchase all the eyewear they need.

I tend to nod my head up and down while they’re responding. Why? For me, it actually feels good and reminds me that I’m an active participant in this conversation. For them, it shows them I’m being an active listener and I care about what they’re talking about.

Listening. What a concept!

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