Optometric Management Tip # 408   -   Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Do you ever speak to your staff about sales?

Let's face it; we are pleased when our optical dispensaries do well. If we sell a high number of eyeglasses and contact lenses, we're happy about it. There is nothing wrong with that; your optical is a business and the goal of all businesses is to generate a profit. And the bigger the profit, the better. Given that, do you speak to your staff very often about selling? Do you encourage them to sell and train them in sales techniques? Probably not, but with this tip I'm going to make it easier for you to start by sharing some ideas I use to motivate my staff to sell.

Understand selling yourself

The first step is to educate yourself about sales and to get over any professional hang-ups you may have about it. If you're an optometrist, you probably have no background or training in sales and maybe no interest. But if you own a practice the business owner side of you should care. CEOs understand the core principles that drive revenue. I'll give you some quick ideas here, but buy a book or two on sales techniques at your local bookstore. There are many but Jeffrey Gitomer is one author I like very much.

Encouraging sales

Many ECPs today take an approach that the best way to motivate staff to sell is through some sort of incentive pay system. I don't believe incentives or bonuses work as well as most people think and the other approach is to position selling as part of the optician's professional responsibility. I find staff respond very well to this. They view finding out about the patient's visual and lifestyle needs as their job. Educating people about eyeglasses and contacts is their duty and they take it seriously. They understand that generating profit for their company is also their job and that is how they advance in their career and receive raises.

My staff knows this because we talk about it often. It is a regular topic at weekly staff meetings, but we occasionally close the office for an entire afternoon for a more detailed presentation on sales and other business topics. A key part of those meetings is to allow the staff to discuss and share their experiences and techniques.

Presumptive selling

Teach your staff to presume the patient wants the best in eye care, not the cheapest. Of course, if the patient tells us or implies that he wants more economical options we are responsive to that. But short of that, we presume he wants to get glasses and contacts from our office today. We presume he wants the best glasses and contacts. We presume there is some interest in multiple pairs of glasses since one pair can't provide the best vision for all a person's various needs. Why would we presume otherwise?

Teach your staff to never prejudge what they think a person wants or can afford. To do so based on a person's age or clothing would be a big mistake and it's actually a discriminatory insult. Some of those overall-wearing 70 year-olds are millionaires.

The F-A-B technique

You may have heard this one, but it is a great place to start with staff. Every product has features, advantages and benefits and it's important for the salesperson to know all three, but he should know above all else that people only buy products for the benefits. A feature is a physical characteristic, an advantage is a performance characteristic and a benefit is the result the buyer receives. Benefits are the only things consumers care about and the smart optician will quickly concentrate on that.

Great salespeople focus on what the customer is really buying. The classic example is the hardware store salesman who is not really selling quarter inch carbide drill bits he is selling quarter inch holes! People buy the product of the product.

Using an example from vision care: a patient does not buy the multilayer chemical, oleophobic, hard lacquer, anti-reflective coating that is applied to ophthalmic lenses (a feature), and he does not buy the increased light transmission and decrease reflectance of the lenses (an advantage), but he does buy the reduced glare when night driving (a benefit).

If we take the F-A-B sales approach one step further, we should have asked the customer about his lifestyle wants and needs before we even started. We may have found out that this person does not care much about reducing glare, but an attractive appearance is most important. In that case, the benefit the optician should play up is the cosmetic benefit of an AR coating; that it makes the lenses virtually disappear and other people will see the wearer's eyes and not lens reflections.


To help your staff remember the thrust of great selling techniques, here are some old sayings that I like:

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management