Article Date: 1/1/2013

How to �Sell� an Annual Supply of Contact Lenses
contact lens sales

How to Overcome Obstacles to the Elusive Annual Supply Sale

By executing a strategy based on a customer value proposition, you can achieve high levels of sales in 2013 and beyond.

Amir Khoshnevis, O.D., CHARLOTTE, N.C.

Sales of annual supplies of contact lenses remain a challenge for most optometrists, accounting for less than 30% of contact lens sales in a typical practice. If we assume a practice prices contact lenses competitively, offers value added services (such as free shipping and rebates) and prescribes the best contact lenses available, then seven out of 10 patients are not realizing the value of the annual supply at the point of purchase because of the practice’s lack of strategy and/or execution.

With annual supply of contact lenses established as a Key Performance Indicator, our practice consistently achieves our objective of greater than 70% annual supply sales per month. In this article, I’ve outlined three fundamental steps to achieving the same high level of success in your practices.

STEP 1: Create a customer value proposition (CVP) to define your commitment to value and in turn, disqualify the competition.

Wikipedia defines CVP as “a business or marketing statement that describes why a customer should buy a product or use a service.” Many practices use a quote sheet and some have great levels of success bundling services and products, but you must have a culture of projecting value to customers (where Value = Benefits - Cost) throughout the care process. Your CVP should define your presentation, behavior, and delivery process of said goods and services. Once your staff becomes aligned with your practice’s CVP, they will become fully engaged advocates of your philosophy.

Here’s an example of a CVP: We place our patients’ quality of vision and ocular health above all other considerations. The products prescribed by our doctors match this commitment. Our products are priced competitively and our complimentary, added services make us the best value on the market.

STEP 2: Bring your proposition to life.

Start with staff training. Focus on getting your staff’s buy-in of your core values as a healthcare practice. Place great emphasis on patient-centric beliefs (e.g. trust, integrity, empathy) and less on making money. The staff will respect you more, and rest assured, everyone inherently understands that with greater sales comes greater profits. Once staff believe in your patient-centric approach, they are far more prepared to discuss value with a sense of conviction. Role-play the sales process in order to remove the novelty of the situation, reinforce proper verbiage, and help them understand and address common objections. Next, teach proper disclosure of insurance and practice-driven benefits at the time of the contact lens evaluation/dispense.

It’s Rarely About the Price
Over the years, I have visited practices across the country to witness the many ways providers prescribe and dispense contact lenses. The key to success in sales, I learned, has more to do with psychology, culture, and process than it does with the price of the product you’re selling. Generally speaking, we should understand behaviors, on both sides of the transaction, prior to formulating sales strategies.

STEP 3: Utilize a quote sheet to professionally and simply disclose the value of the prescribed lenses.

Side note: Notice I didn’t say “annual supply” of lenses. As a matter of practice culture, we don’t say annual supply or yearly supply unless we absolutely must. We assume all contact lenses are dispensed in annual supplies. Removing the psychological barriers of your staff may be the most important early cultural conversation and training objective in this entire process.

Now back to the quote sheet. When the time is appropriate for your team to quote the price of contact lenses, consider using the following system for clearly and effectively displaying the value of purchasing from your practice.

List usual and customary (U&C) price of all rendered services along with the prescribed contact lenses. Immediately after each item, show the appropriate reduced fees should insurance benefits or discounts apply. Here, you create awareness of significant savings insured patients enjoy (while simply disclosing all fees to the non-insured). You are establishing value by reminding patients of the large difference between your U&C exam and contact lens management fees vs. their small co-pays (if insured).

Next, list the supply of contact lenses. Write the brand name and the retail price of the annual supply immediately followed by your “instant rebate” (if you offer any in-house savings on annual supplies). Instant rebate has a greater emotional appeal than discount and is more marketable.

If the patient has insurance benefits, fill in the “Insurance Contribution” field with this amount. Side note: Never refer to patient benefits as an “allowance.” It is a negative term and may make the patient feel he or she has a limit to spend (like the child who receives an allowance). Contribution is our favorite term, followed by benefits.

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At this point, subtotal all services and products after appropriate reductions in order to disclose the patient’s exposure at the time of check out.

Put the icing on the cake by further reducing the patients actual “cost of ownership” by applying any available manufacturer’s rebates. When disclosed too soon, the patient assumes these rebates will be applied the same day, leading to an uncomfortable experience at check out.

This is also the time to explain to those who wear daily disposable lenses that they do not have to buy the seven to 10 bottles of solution each year, which amounts to substantial savings.

Lastly, list the “total” amount after all applicable savings. This dollar amount is often very reasonable, especially when the patient is offered free shipping. There is no need to ask for permission as those who are not willing to move forward will simply push back in some way. In the case of objections, you can reassure the patient of value by reiterating your position and reviewing the quote sheet.

A magic bullet

In the off-chance someone still decides to purchase elsewhere, this is the only “magic bullet” I can offer: Take the price of the supply minus instant rebate, insurance contribution, manufacturer’s rebate and divide this new total by the number of boxes in the supply. This becomes your “per box” price. Since our competition uses this tool to display prices, you owe it to yourself to give the patient an apples-to-apples comparison.

I hope this methodology and approach to dispensing annual supplies of contact lenses helps your practice to achieve high levels of success in 2013 and beyond. OM

images Dr. Khoshnevis founded Carolina Family Eye Care in 2003. He specializes in specialty contact lenses and works on projects related to practice management. E-mail him at drk@carolinafamilyeyecare.com. To comment on this article, email optometricmanagement@gmail.com


Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: January 2013, page(s): 31 32 33