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Mark Hinton

Opticians, Stop Trying to Sell Eyewear

Patients buy their doctor and that doctor’s expert advice. The “sale” starts in the exam room.

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DO YOU SELL eyeglasses. Push eyeglasses? It just seems so unnatural. Like it’s a hardship to do so.

Patients are people; they buy with emotions and justify with logic. They talk themselves into or out of a purchase based on two things: Is there a personal advantage or benefit? And is there an emotional pull? (That is to say, do they like the way it makes them look or feel? Or will it help them avoid something hazardous?)

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I’ve heard opticians say: “Did you want to look at glasses today?” “Have you ever heard of … ?” “Did the doctor say anything about … ?” This is all salesman speak! Patients, in a survey we conducted, said: “I was confused by the optical process; shouldn’t the optician already know what my doctor wants me to have?”

Imagine helping patients opt in to purchasing glasses instead of helping them opt out. It’s not about selling. No one likes to be sold to or feel as though they’re being sold to. People buy from people they like! People are social animals, and want to connect and feel connected and understood. They want to feel included. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. People are drawn to people who are passionate about their work, craft, art or skill.

People don’t buy the features; they buy the outcome. They buy the benefit or what they will gain from a product. “Your lenses will be thin and lightweight” is not the benefit that pulls the trigger for the patient. “Your glasses will look perfect and feel comfortable” is the trigger.

Patients are buying eyeglasses, not add-ons. The reason we break out the line items is because of how we bill it. Auto dealers figured out long ago how to bundle three packages. Package 1 has it all: leather, power, moon roof, GPS, trim. Package 2 has less and costs less, and Package 3 is just the basics, but all include tires and a steering wheel. Help them buy glasses. Don’t confuse them by explaining what we call “add-ons” unless they ask for an explanation. In other words, don’t answer questions they did not ask.

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Most importantly, the “sale” starts in the exam room. Patients buy their doctor and their expert advice. It is he or she that establishes trust. The sure-fire way to increase capture and multiple sales is for the tech and doctor to determine the patient’s needs or interest by first asking open-ended (not yes/no) questions.

Next, the doctor prescribes — not recommends — and explains why he or she is prescribing it. The doctor then always asks the patient for confirmation that it makes sense or sounds like a smart idea. When doctors disregard eyeglasses as a retail sale, the transaction will always feel salesy to a patient. The optical is the doctor’s pharmacy to prescribe for an outcome — be it comfort, safety and efficiency in front of digital screens, or protection from blue light and sun damage. If the prescription is based on belief and intention, it does not feel salesy for the patient.

The responsibility of the doctor and optician is to be sure there is no vague dialog about what’s prescribed and why during the handoff. After all, when customers go to the pharmacist, they’re never ask whether they want 25 milligrams or 50 milligrams. That’s already a “known.”

My best “sales” advice: Connect first, lead, mimic the doctor’s clearly explained prescription, offer new information only when asked, and make it all about the consumer!

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