In my last article, I covered the basics of frame selection, but focused more on how to set up your optical. In this issue, we’ll cover the sales aspect and the patient experience.
Is it OK to "sell"?
"Selling" has long been a very sensitive word in optometry. After all, doctors do not sell. I understand that point of view, but the act of selling can take on many different forms and times are changing. In the world of eye care today, when a patient moves from the clinic area to the optical area, the patient moves from health care to retail. Selling does not have to be in conflict with the patient's best interest or with the doctor’s professional philosophy. You and your staff can take a very low-key approach to selling and be very successful. Selling in optical is really more about patient education, which is actually part of our duty and if we educate well, the products sell themselves.
In many ways, we don’t sell anything. Rather, we help the patient buy.
Go back to your mission statement
The highest level of optical sales is achieved when the doctor and optician work together. Great success occurs when the doctor recommends specific optical products to the patient in the exam room during the summary of the visit. This summary should include eye health issues as well as eyeglass, sunglass and contact lens recommendations. The optician should be quite capable of supporting and fulfilling these recommendations. Or, if there are no recommendations from the doctor, the optician can and should make them.
When I work with doctors and opticians on selling, I remind them of the mission statement of their practice. Just follow that. For most independent practices, mission statements have some element about providing the best eye care in the region. It would be very unusual for the mission statement to be that the practice is designed to provide the cheapest eye care (although, if that is the mission, then follow that). If your goal is to provide the best eye care, then all I ask is to recommend that and design glasses based on that. If you are providing the best for the patient, then you want to update the lens Rx to be the best. And you would prescribe premium progressive lenses in high index with a premium AR. And the glasses would include a new frame of high quality and good looks. And the best eye care would probably include a second pair of glasses for sun wear or another purpose. That would be the best glasses, so always start with that.
It is up to the patient to let us know if there is a financial issue, and if they do, we have alternative options that we can go to. But let's presume the patient wants the best. It is not our job to save the patient money. Remove money from the equation unless the patient brings it up. We all know, but need to be reminded, that to prejudge a patient is rude and somewhat discriminatory. And you will often be wrong in your assumption about a person’s wealth or spending habits.
There are many books and courses on selling and I recommend them, but I can boil selling down to extreme simplicity, which makes it easy to remember in a busy office. If your opticians will do the following two things, they will be very successful in selling:
Ask questions first – then show product.
Put on a big smile.
Asking questions gets the patient talking about himself and it creates a relationship. The answers to the questions provide the needs that you can fill. Try these questions:
How do you use your eyes at work?
Do you use a computer, laptop or tablet?
Do you participate in outdoor activities?
Tell me about your hobbies; what do you do in your free time?
The big smile may be the harder task, but enthusiasm sells more than anything else. It is not that hard to smile. Just make yourself do it and you’ll see what I mean about how it impacts sales. Get excited about what you are showing. If you are not smiling, you are moping.
The "yes… but" technique
We all have tough patients at times, who seem very resistant to following our recommendation for optical products. An example is the patient who says: "I just want what my plan covers." Or, "I just want my eyeglass Rx."
My favorite response is to agree with the patient first and say "yes… but."
Using this technique, a possible answer might be: "Sure, Mrs. Smith, we can select a frame that is fully covered by your vision plan, but I also want you to know that if you are willing to pay a few dollars over your benefit, it opens up many more style choices that you might like and you’ll get better quality. Can I show you few options that are less than $20 over your allowance? We just got this new frame line that is so cute." If Mrs. Smith sticks to her preference of a fully covered frame, then we help her with that. We can try once, but we are not pushy. We care about the patient’s wants and needs.
We always agree first, like this: "Yes, Bob, we will give you a copy of your prescription and you can buy your glasses anywhere you wish." This disarms the patient and gives you a chance to offer one more statement that might change his mind:
"But, remember that not all optical vendors are providers for your vision insurance like we are. And you have an excellent plan that provides an eyeglass benefit worth hundreds of dollars."
"But, we have a great selection of very affordable frames in the most current styles. They start at $95; would you like to see them before you go?"
"But, we would love the chance to earn your business. If you don’t mind my asking, is the reason you want to buy glasses elsewhere due to price, selection, or the quality of our service?"