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Robert Bell

Why Do Some ODs Think “Retail” Is a Dirty Word?

Don’t give patients a reason to go elsewhere by rejecting the idea of being a retailer.

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WHEN I DO a seminar for doctors who’ve been in practice for at least a year, I know my audience fairly well. That is, I know their trials and tribulations, professionally speaking. I know their experiences and what they’re up against. But, a few years ago, I was invited to speak at the Practice Management Club at the University of Berkeley School of Optometry. This was a different kind of audience because the majority of optometry students don’t have the faintest idea of the BUSINESS of “real world” optometry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not coming down on these students, it’s just that they’re not “there” yet.

As a speaker, you have to capture the audience’s attention immediately and keep it. My challenge was to get them thinking beyond their fourth year to their lives as doctors.

Here’s what I did:

I threw some words up on the screen that were sure to get visceral reactions:

The name of the largest optical chain in the US.

The name of the most infamous online optical store.

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The word “RETAIL.”

Ding, ding, ding… we have a winner!

I’ve never seen an audience, collectively, scrunch their faces like they did when “RETAIL” lit up the screen. “Problem, folks?”

A young man was squirming in his chair so badly, I thought he was about to implode. Approaching him, I asked, “Are you okay?”

“Um, no,” he replied.

“Whatever could be the matter?”

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“I am going to be a doctor! Not a retailer!” he said emphatically.

I wanted to kiss this kid!

“What year are you?”

“This is my first year.”

“Ok, take out your phone and call your parents. Tell them you’re sorry but optometry school isn’t working out. But, hey, no worries. You can always go to dental school, medical school, hell, you can go to chiropractic school, if you want. But optometry school isn’t for you.”

His face contorted, “What the hell are you talking about?”

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“Simply this: optometry is pretty much the only health care profession on the planet that has ‘retail’ attached to it,” I said as I take off my glasses and hold it up for all to see. “This, right here, will be a result from your exam of your patients. You will have control over it. You! There will be a door with your name on it. Behind that door will be four walls, a ceiling and a floor and everything in between will be yours! How do I know? Well hell, your name is on the door! You’re the boss! You’re the big cheese.”

The moment a patient, in your exam room, asks about the frames in your optical and you don’t know what they’re talking about (too common, if you ask me) is the moment your capture rates go south. There are too many options for purchasing eyewear. Don’t give them a reason to go elsewhere.”

I want all of you to be doctors, great doctors! In fact, I want you to be the very best optometric physicians you can be. Especially if I’M your patient! But, why can’t you be a great retailer as well? Where is it written in the curriculum of optometry schools that being a great optical retailer takes away from you being a great optometrist? Here’s what you don’t realize: if you’re not a great optical retailer, in the eyes of your patients, it chips away at your ability to be a great doctor. That’s how they think.

Something for you to ponder: does being a great eye doctor and a great optical retailer have to be mutually exclusive?

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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Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the U.S. Than We Think?

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Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?

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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?

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the U.S. Than We Think?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the U.S. Than We Think?

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

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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