I know many optometrists are quite uncomfortable with the topic of selling optical products. Mention the word “sell” to a group of ODs and you may see them squirm a bit. Some will talk a good game and say how they always recommend products from the chair, but I think many of us cave quite a bit when we are actually in the moment. I think it is time we got over our aversion to selling and realize that our patients are coming to us for our recommendations for the best eye care possible. Let’s not deprive them of that as we try to prove our ultra-professionalism.
Opticians often marvel at how easy it is to sell premium optical products and multiple pairs of glasses if the optometrist recommends it first. Here are a few tips you can use to improve your skills in that area.
Use the word “prescribe”. For example: “In addition to updating your general lens prescription, I’m also prescribing computer eyewear for you with lenses that are specially designed for that task.”
Don’t give the patient a list of options to choose from; make a firm recommendation. Tie your recommendation into one of the complaints you gathered during the case history or into the visual demands of the patient’s job or hobby.
If the prescription change is significant, just say “I’m prescribing new glasses for you because I’m seeing a noticeable change in your astigmatism (or whatever refractive state is involved).” Don’t make an option out of it; he needs the new Rx.
If the prescription change is small, tell the patient there is a slight change but it can make a big difference in visual comfort and efficiency. Demonstrate the change with your automated refraction system or by holding trial lenses over the patient’s old glasses. Ask the patient if he sees the improvement and go from there.
Know what vision plan benefits are available for each patient before you start the exam. Develop a method so you can easily see that information on every patient. Patients generally want to use their benefits as soon as possible, so if a new frame or lens is covered, include that fact as you discuss your recommendation.
Be sure to include a very basic question in your case history about getting new glasses. It is best for a technician to ask the question verbally before the doctor sees the patient. Keep it short and simple: “Are you planning to get new glasses today?” The tech records the answer and the doctor sees it before starting the exam.
Don’t think that refractive changes are the only reason a person needs new glasses. Think about advances in lens technology as well. You might say: “Mr. Jones, we have seen major improvements in the technology of progressive lenses since we made your current pair of glasses. I recommend we update your glasses with the newest lens design that offers edge to edge clarity and they are thinner and lighter than ever.” After all, if you were working with a contact lens patient who was wearing an older design, you would feel a duty to discuss the latest advancements. It should be no different with eyeglasses.
If the exam shows little or no change in lens prescription, tell the patient he is fortunate and that this is the perfect time to update his prescription sunglasses.
A great way to begin any sales opportunity is to ask questions. As a doctor, you may be able to pull this from the case history or simply ask: “Tell me how you use your eyes at work” or “Are you involved in any outdoor activities?” The answers sell products.
Once you start talking about optical products at chairside, it will quickly become completely natural for you. When that happens, patients perceive it as the normal routine of eye care. The biggest difference will be in your practice's financial bottom line.
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.