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Forget the Buzzwords and BS

A little cynicism could ensure you aren’t just parroting nonsense.

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SCOTT ADAMS, AUTHOR of the popular Dilbert comics, uses the term “buzzwords” in his book The Joy Of Work to describe the corporate use of large words that have no real substantive meaning to obfuscate a lack of knowledge. The idea being that perception trumps substance, or as one of my old bosses would say, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

For example, there is a trend of selling mid-index digitally surfaced lenses with compensated prescriptions and anti-reflective coatings as HD lenses. I have heard opticians explain to patients that “This will improve your vision beyond your natural eye’s ability to see.” Any lens you put in front of the human eye is going to diminish the “definition” versus the eye’s natural image. But hey, never let science get in the way of good marketing. And remember, they aren’t informed patients, they’re marks waiting to be had by the carnies… I mean opticians.

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Many of us have learned our craft via apprenticeship, taking information that is supplied to us anecdotally or by co-workers and reps. Unfortunately, most of us just accept what we’re fed. This leads us to a culture of “appeal to authority” and misinformed opticians who fight to the death to support the inaccurate information they have come to rely upon as sales tools. To illustrate this I will offer an anecdote…

I was at a meeting for a product roll out at a private practice. Two reps were to educate us on their product, which happened to be sunglasses, from a vendor that shall not be named. These two nice men extolled the virtues of their product and the research that went into developing their lenses. They said their company had spent $20 million on developing a new lens coating that created destructive interference. When light hits the lens, it bounces the light back out in an opposing wave to neutralize glare and reflection.

It sounded very impressive.

At the end of the presentation I raised my hand and asked why their company had spent so much to invent a product that already existed. The two salespeople were deeply confused, as were the CEO and practice owner. They asked me to explain. Mildly annoyed, I asked more directly, “Why did your company spend $20 million dollars to invent an anti-reflective coating?”

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Silence.

The CEO had no idea what I was talking about. The owner, an OD, had no idea what I was talking about. The reps were clueless. The other opticians in the room gasped, feeling like they’d been had. Guess what line didn’t sell in any of our offices?

We rely on our vendors to inform us about their product, and most give us reliable information, but a healthy dose of cynicism could go a long way towards ensuring you aren’t just parroting off nonsense like a good little sales lemming.

As to the earlier stated “Dazzle them with brilliance…” quote, I would suggest this edit for my fellow opticians and our vendors:

Dazzle them with brilliance: Know your product.

Dazzle them with honesty. The phrase “I don’t know, let me find out for you” is more impressive than you think.

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Never, ever, baffle someone with bullshit or buzzwords. You can only abuse someone’s trust once, and once it’s broken there is no repairing it.

Will Burdeaux, ABOC, NCLEC, has been an optician since 1998. Currently, he works at Tallman Eye Associates in Salem, NH.

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