If you're a staff member in an eye care office, you should know that a big part of your job is selling. That may seem obvious for some job descriptions like optician, but it is actually true of every staff member who works with patients; even front desk and clinical specialists. Your success as a salesperson is vital to your practice in ways you may not think about, but if you improve your sales ability, you will continue to grow in your career.
In this article, I'll broaden your view of selling and give you some tips on how to improve your skills. Let's start by figuring out what it is that you are selling! It is not just the obvious things like glasses and contacts.
Consider the following list of goods and services and ask yourself if you ever "sell" them.
Appointments. The goal is to be completely sold out when the date arrives. When you speak to people over the phone, you are actually selling appointments. If someone calls and simply asks questions, be sure to ask for the sale by saying, "Would you like to schedule an appointment? I have an opening tomorrow at 2pm." You are selling convenience and access to high quality eye care.
Reputation. There are many ways that you sell the reputation of your practice. You do this over the phone as you sell appointments and you do it in person if you share some of the strong points about your doctors and your office. Brag about those strengths in a gentle and professional way. You also influence the practice reputation when you provide excellent customer service. This creates patient loyalty and generates referrals of new patients.
Glasses. This is an obvious thing that you sell, but you can do it in very subtle ways. You basically sell by educating people on the benefits they derive from different lenses and frames. You can sell by simply asking questions. This is the easiest way to sell a product because people love to talk about themselves, so your questions will be welcomed. Start with these questions and see if you can envision the design of the initial pair and additional pairs of glasses that might result:
Tell me how you use your eyes at work.
Do you have any hobbies?
Do you participate in outdoor activities?
Do you use a computer?
Do you drive long distances?
Enthusiasm sells! There is an old saying that as a salesperson, the depth of your convictions is more important than all the facts you can produce. So be enthusiastic as you make a recommendation! Believe in it strongly! Act excited about it!
Contact lenses. Here is a product that is much more than small pieces of plastic. When you discuss contact lenses with patients you are actually selling youth, beauty, attractiveness, freedom, health and many more attributes. When you speak to current wearers of contacts about new advancements, you are selling better convenience, comfort and vision.
Medical eye care services. You may not think of selling in this specialty and most people will be ready buyers if the service affects their eye health, but there are times when you play a big role in closing the sale. What if your office does not accept a patient's medical insurance but he needs a visual field test? He could still buy the test from you and file his own out-of-network claim. Or he could ask to be referred to a network provider and you would lose the sale. Your practice may offer a special test to all patients as an optional screening – like retinal photos. The way you present that test is selling it. You may be working with a glaucoma patient who is not compliant with her eye medication because she does not understand the risk of the disease. As you educate her, you are selling her on good ocular health. You could have a major influence on these "sales", whether it is good for the patient or the practice (or most likely both).
Return visits. Each staff member plays an important role in selling follow-up care. Even if the recall is for a routine exam, you influence that next visit by letting the patient know how important it is. In this way, you keep patient demand high which drives the practice to continue to grow. All businesses need a continuous supply of customers.
Selling is so important to your success as an eye care staff member, that I strongly recommend that you become an expert. Start by reading some books on sales techniques from your local bookstore or library.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.