The Science of Selling: Strategies for Improving Sales
April 18, 2018
By Steve Vargo, OD, MBA
Why do some practices constantly bemoan that patients only want what their insurance covers, where other practices have little problem getting patients to spend well beyond their coverage? Why do some practices struggle with selling multiple pairs of glasses or annual supplies of contact lenses, where other practices thrive on this? Sure, there can be multiple factors contributing to this, but is it possible that some practices have a better understanding of the consumer mindset?
Fortunately, consumer psychologists now have a much better understanding of “why” people buy and what triggers can influence a sale. Research in neuropsychology has discovered that many of our purchase decisions—in fact, many of our day-to-day decisions—are routinely made WITHOUT conscious deliberation. The older, more primitive parts of the brain (the limbic system or “old brain”) acts as a main switch in determining whether your patients say yes or no to your recommendations. The bottom line is, if you want to sell something, you have to get the old brain’s attention!
Below are some excerpts from a white paper I wrote called “The Science of Selling: The Psychology Behind Why People Buy”. If you would like to read the entire paper, send me an email at email@example.com.
All sales begin with a conversation. Start by asking questions and doing more listening than talking. Don’t assume you know why someone is in your office. Let them tell you in their own words. From a psychological standpoint, it’s important that consumers verbalize their concerns and problems.
While human beings are fully capable of expressing empathy and compassion, the part of the brain responsible for purchase decisions (aka “old brain”) is very self-centered! It’s primarily interested in survival and well-being. Logic occurs in other parts of the brain, but if your message doesn't “flip a switch” in the old brain, this part of the brain will serve as an obstacle to a sale.
People are more motivated to resolve internal frustrations as opposed to external problems. Needing new glasses or contact lenses is an external problem. Experiencing peripheral distortion when putting a golf ball is an internal frustration. Your recommendations will carry more weight when patients understand how your recommendations will not only improve clarity, but also improve their everyday life.
The old brain loves visuals. In fact, the optic nerve is connected to the old brain and processes information multiple times faster than the auditory nerve. Any time you can show a patient a visual (picture, video, etc.) to supplement or reinforce a point, do it! Some studies have found that without visuals, people often forget what you say within 24 hours.
When recommending products, focus on the benefits more than the features. For example, “These lenses have XYZ features. What this means to you is when you hit a golf ball…” Essentially what you are doing is directly linking the benefits of a product to the needs of the patient.
The old brain is risk averse. It wants assurance that the solution you are recommending will provide real value when contrasted with alternative options. An example would be showing a patient a cheap frame purchased online vs. a higher quality frame sold in your optical. The patient can see the difference. The old brain isn’t swayed by claims and data – it needs proof! Without proof, the result is confusion and indecision.
The old brain prefers simple to complex. You might be tempted to discuss 10 different treatment options and your optician may think the patient wants to try on 25 different frames, but most consumers would prefer that someone knowledgeable and trustworthy educates them and directs them in making the best decisions. Keep it simple! The old brain doesn't like complexity. Often times when presented with too many choices, the consumer gets overwhelmed and makes no choice at all.
Dr. Vargo serves as Optometric Practice Management Consultant for IDOC. A published author and speaker with more than 15 years clinical experience, he is now a full-time consultant advising ODs in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.