By Robery C. Bell

*It is strongly suggested that you read the previous columns in this series before you read this one.
Part I, Part II, and Part III.

A new direction? A negative direction? Yes!

Last month I stated that the biggest obstacle facing salespeople is that they try to move their average patients in a positive direction. Because selling is based on the Law of Motion, moving patients in a positive direction proves to be futile. The harder you try to push them in that direction, the more they resist (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction). Folks? Cut it out. It’s irritating and awkward for them and it’s no day at the beach for you either.

Right now, most of us are trying to move that average patient in the positive direction by making two very big assumptions: 1) we assume, because we’ve told them of their needs, they actually heard us and understood those needs and 2) we then assume they want to hear all about the products that will save the day, so...we tell them. This is how most of us have been trained to “sell” and yet, it doesn’t seem to work to anyone’s advantage.

The remedy? Do the opposite.

The opposite of telling is asking. But, there is a secret to asking questions. Only ask specific questions for which your patients can answer and make sure those questions cause movement. To create such questions, we have to discover what motivates.

Two of the strongest human motivators are seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Of the two, which do you think would be a stronger motivator?

If I told you I would treat you and your family to the finest gourmet meal at the best restaurant in town, order the best wine and have the chef make his world-renowned dessert just for you that would be pleasurable, right? Then, I tell you the only catch is the maitre d’ has to smash three of your fingers with a hammer before you sit down to this fine meal. How would you like your steak cooked this evening (Whack!) or did you spot a McDonald’s down the street?

As much as we enjoy pleasure in our lives, avoiding pain is the overwhelming human motivator.

So we need to formulate questions that start to move the average patient in the negative direction. We need to develop questions that uncover pain. If we start to ask questions that cause movement in a negative direction, questions that uncover someone’s pain, do you think your patients/customers would want to avoid that? Here’s the best part: once your patients become aware of their own pain, they are now going to hang on every word you say to help them make the pain go away.

We need to develop questions uncovering pain based on the following template: How do you use your eyes in a particular situation?

Be specific in your questions. For example, you may want to ask a first time presbyope, “Do you ever find yourself taking your glasses on and off when you are trying to read something?”

Next month, I’ll show you how to combine questions uncovering pain with four simple follow up questions that will bring your patients all the way on the negative side of the pendulum to the point where they enthusiastically swing positive with your expertise. How enthusiastically? Would you like to hear your patient say, “Well, don’t I need progressive lenses?”

Robert C. Bell is president (and head coach) of EyeCoach, an organization designed to teach and coach innovative and industry-specific sales techniques to eyecare professionals. Contact him at