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Sales and the Human Touch

I was having dinner with my mom when something strange happened. I couldn’t read the menu. I squinted. I furrowed. I moved the menu back and forth. I moved the candle closer for more light. Finally my mom handed me her glasses. The words came into focus as did the realization that for the first time in my life, I needed glasses. I wasn’t sure what kind I wanted or where to buy them, so I went online.

I did Internet searches for the “best eyeglasses for oval face” and “best eyeglass design for women 2012.” I searched “eyeglasses” on Pinterest. I printed out my favorites and checked manufacturer websites for retail locations in Boston. Yelp reviews narrowed my shopping destinations.

I went to Vizio Optic first because it had numerous “Best of” awards online and because my global positioning system told me the address was fairly close. But what I saw when I entered Vizio Optic made me a customer.

Owner-optometrist Galina Rabkin was hugging an 11-year-old named Molly. The staff and customers smiled at the embrace. Post-hug, Molly stepped back and exclaimed, “Thank you, Dr. Rabkin!” Then, facing a mirror, she flashed a huge smile and announced, “I LOVE them! I look SO great!”

Rabkin hugged Molly’s mom, too, and turned to greet me with a smile. “Hi, I’m Galina. Welcome to Vizio Optic. Try anything on, open the drawers, have fun and let me know if you see anything you like.”

As we chatted, she explained her passion for eyewear. “Your glasses should make you feel like a million dollars. You spend so much time thinking about what shoes to wear—what about the glasses you put on your face?” I trusted her immediately.

We talked about her business, being a working mom, and what it was like fresh out of graduate school to take a risk, get a loan and open her own store. I asked about her business philosophy, and she said it was to make every customer feel like an old friend.

I was reminded of important, often-forgotten distinctions between sales, marketing and technology: In this era of computer search engines, blog reviews and Yelp directories, technology and marketing get people in the door. But human beings, not computers, decide to buy.

The human touch played a part in the technology that guided me to Vizio Optic—the glowing online reviews and the “Best of” awards came from people who loved buying from Rabkin. In sales, however, the human touch must ultimately trump people’s universal resistance to making a decision and their tendency to look for a better deal.

I see many business owners focusing their efforts on search engine optimization, websites and local listings. But once customers walk in, it’s all about how you make them feel. Rabkin and her staff made me want to buy there. They appealed to my emotions by treating me like a friend; they nurtured my trust with their honesty (“Take ’em off!” they advised about some of the frames I tried on). I depended on their judgment.

When I returned to pick up my glasses, I understood Molly’s excitement. I was reuniting with friends and was so thrilled with my purchase that I hugged Rabkin, too.

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