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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

The Single Best Tool to Help your Staff to Sell In and Outside the Office

Plus it has the added benefit of showing them you value them.

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JUST BETWEEN US, have you ever fantasized about wanting to give a playful smack to a patient or customer because they did something incredibly stupid? Or, they didn’t do something they were supposed to do in the no-brainer category?

No? Liar!

Well, here’s a no-brainer scenario in which I’d like to smack (playfully!) a hefty percentage of optometric business owners. Ok, honestly, I wouldn’t hurt or embarrass any of you. However, I’ll tell you this: this “no-brainer scenario” makes me pull my hair out of my head. And, folks? I’m bald!

What’s the no-brainer scenario? Business cards.

“But Robert, I have a business card.” I’m sure you do, doctor. Does everyone on your staff have one, too? Everyone? Uh huh. I’m losing more hair as we speak!

From your front desk personnel to your licensed opticians, everyone on your staff should have printed business cards with their name on it, their title (if they want one), the name of your practice, your location(s), your phone number and your website.

Everyone on your staff should be required to carry a few in their purses or wallets 24/7.

Why? So many reasons! Here’s one example from one of my favorite conversations with an optician:

Optician: I was in a Target once and standing behind this woman wearing the most G-d awful glasses. I was thinking, “Omg, who the hell did that to you?”

Me: Did you say anything to her?

O: Um, no.

M: Why not?

O: Whaddya mean, “why not?” What was I going to say?

M: Oh, any number of things. How about, “Hi there. I’m Darla. I was looking at your glasses. I’m an optician. Then … are you happy with them? … or how long ago did you get them? … or where did you get them? Anything to get her talking about her glasses.

O: Why?

M: So you could engage her, find out if you, as an optician, could be of help to her. If so, then you could’ve given her your business card and said, “Here, take my card. Next time you need glasses or an eye exam, come in and ask for me and I promise I’ll take very good care of you.” Then, before you give her the card, you say ‘I’m gonna write on the back of my card to give you $20 off on a pair of sunglasses, if you’re able to come in within the month.’

O: (spurts out a laugh) Yeah, right. Like my OD would pay for business cards for me. Get real. She’s too cheap.

Lord, I’m so bald.

Doctors, by purchasing business cards for your staff (such a minimal investment that can reap in beaucoup rewards), you do the following things:

  • You’re telling them they, as your employee, are important to you.
  • You’re telling them they are an integral part of your team.
  • You’re telling them you’re proud to have them on your team.
  • You make them think you appreciate them and show them so with something tangible.
  • This usually makes them proud of where they work and proud of working for you.

Either you’re proud of your practice and the people who work for you, or you’re not. If you’re not, please disregard what you’ve read here. If you are, well, you know what to do next.

Once your staff is stocked up on cards, it’s time to train them. For Robert’s business card sales training tips visit invisionmag.com/extras.

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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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