Opticians Struggling with Sales? Here Are 5 Ways to Help Them Succeed
May 30, 2018
By Steve Vargo, OD, MBA
Speaking with a group of opticians recently about improving capture rates in the optical, they mentioned that patients generally agree with the doctor’s recommendation in the exam room, but then say no to us when they get to the optical. In many cases, they said the patient immediately “shut us down” after the handoff, no longer interested in what the doctor recommended. So why did the patient agree to the doctor but not the optician? Well, I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment. I’ll suggest the patient never truly said “yes” to the doctor, they were just being friendly with a series of affirmative head nods. The patient is comprehending what the doctor is saying, but not necessarily committing to his or her ideas. As soon as the doctor was no longer present, they felt more comfortable expressing their objections.
In general, I realize many doctors don’t like to “sell” and feel that this is a responsibility of the opticians. I do understand that, but I frequently hear opticians offer similar complaints as above and I wonder if the doctor could do more in the exam room to make the optician’s job easier and improve the odds of a positive outcome. Below are some suggestions.
The power of positive emotions. Have you noticed it’s hard to positively influence someone who is in a negative emotional state? Studies in social psychology have found that positive emotions cause people to be more receptive to persuasive requests, like purchasing eyewear! Before you grab that occluder, start off with some friendly discussion around topics that stimulate positive emotions (kids, hobbies, vacations, etc.). Be friendly, smile a lot, and maybe even share a laugh! Make sure you’re handing off a happy patient to the optician.
Avoid the information dump. In sales, an information dump is when you give a potential client a lot of information about benefits and features that are not relevant to him or her. Not only does this make for a boring presentation, but in some cases gives the patient many reasons to not purchase from you. Value is always defined by the consumer. Value creation is not something you do for the consumer, but rather with the consumer.
Ask better questions. To avoid an information dump, start by asking more questions focused on the patient and understand that not all questions are created equal. The two primary purchase motivators for consumers are desire for gain and fear of loss. Ask questions that prompt patients to consider these motivators. How is this problem affecting you at work? If we could treat this condition, how would that impact your ability to drive at night? What impact would this condition have on your quality of life if it worsened? Instead of telling patients why they need your products, guide them in stating their own reasons.
Gain trust. Even if you are not the only place in town that offers a certain product or service, once the patient develops a higher level of trust that YOU are uniquely qualified to solve their problems, then price ceases to be the dominant factor in a purchase and the patient is more likely to want to do business with you. Remember, consumers are risk averse, and once you position yourself as a trusted authority, the risk of NOT doing business with you increases.
Neutralize objections. Try to avoid the patient leaving the exam room with lingering objections, which makes your optician’s job much more difficult! At the end of the exam, ask the following question, “How does all this sound to you?” Give the patient an opportunity to raise any objections. I can’t afford your frames, or I leave for vacation tomorrow and I need a supply of contact lenses today. If possible, reposition your recommendations taking their objection into consideration, such as offering enough trials to hold the patient over or mentioning that you do have frame options for all budgets. Write out responses to the most common objections and be prepared to respond with a highly effective rebuttal. If you can neutralize the objection, you can turn a “no” into a “maybe”, and potentially a “yes”.
Is it possible your opticians will have more success if you’re handing them a patient in a positive emotional state who trusts your recommendations, clearly understands the value proposition, has had all their questions answered and objections addressed? I think it is.
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.