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Why You Need to Be Asking Dumb Questions

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Not sure if you know this about me, but I am royalty. OK sure, I’m self-appointed royalty, but royalty all the same. For I am the king of dumb questions! Bow before me, you sales peasants. Muuhahahahaha!

In a world in which everyone is trying to outthink everyone else, why would I claim to be something so seemingly stupid? It’s quite simple: dumb questions get smart answers. When you ask dumb questions, people make an extra effort to help you understand their responses. When you’re in sales — and you are — nothing is more important than understanding your customers’ needs.

Guess what else happens when you ask dumb questions? People become less defensive when they hear seemingly simple questions. They let their guards down, and establishing trust gets that much easier.

Before I share the dumb questions you should be asking, let me give you a heads-up. Many of you will read these questions and roll your eyes or give a snooty “harumph.” Others might think, “Wow, he wasn’t kidding when he said these were dumb.” But here’s the thing: Until you ask the questions, you don’t know the answers. You may assume you do but, trust me, you don’t. Ask the questions. Wait. Listen carefully for the answers.

Last month, I gave you a homework assignment: Develop a list of “pain questions” for each product you sell based on how a patient uses their eyes in particular situations.

This is how it works: Ask the pain question (such as “When you’re driving directly into sunlight, do you find it hard to drive?” or “Do you ever find yourself taking your glasses on and off when you’re trying to read?”) then follow up with four very simple questions. Each question gently moves the customer toward the negative arc of the pendulum.

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“Ask the questions. Wait. Listen carefully for the answers.”

(Remember the pendulum? We’ve learned in the past few months why moving patients toward the negative side of the pendulum is how you get them to swing in the positive direction, with velocity — and how it trumps trying to educate them into buying.)

So, here are the four dumb follow-up questions:

1. How often does that happen? (We need to know occurrence.)

2. When it happens, does it bother you? (Patients begin to focus on their own pain or annoyance.)

3. OK, and how much does that bother you? (How much pain are they in? How much does it hurt?)

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4. Would you like to me to help you with that? (Would you like me to make the pain go away?)

All of these questions are important, but understand that question No. 4 is the bomb! Once you hear “yes,” the pendulum swings, in one fell swoop, to positive! Bang! It’s a beautiful thing to watch. You’re asking them for permission to “educate” them which means they’re in control. Well, they think they’re in control, but the person asking the questions controls the direction of the conversation.

Do you know what a person’s favorite subject is? Yep, themselves. When you try to educate them (make a presentation) before you ask these questions, you deny them the opportunity to talk about themselves. Without that information, how can you satisfy their needs? Well?

By the way, do you know what else is happening here? Review the questions again. Do you see any room in here for the patient to ask about price or whether their insurance covers it? Price and insurance coverage play a role, but they become a lot less central to the discussion because you’ve now changed how this game is played — in your favor.

You did it gently. You did it with their cooperation. You actually have them focusing on their visual needs above all else. Well, why not? You’re their eyecare professional — and because you’ve swung them in your direction, now you can make your presentation. How? Stay tuned.


Robert Bell believes in “uncommon sense,” inside-out thinking and challenging the status quo of traditional selling methods. He created the EyeCoach Selling System specifically for ECPs. He is also co-director for Project Homeless Connect-Vision Volunteers in San Francisco. Email him at rbell@eyecoach.org.

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This article originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of INVISION.

 

 

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Don’t Do Do-It-Yourself Optometry … Do This Instead

Even the most successful DIYers know when to call in a pro — and doing so can free up their time for bigger and better things.

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I CONSIDER MYSELF A competent Do it Yourselfer, and during a recent house remodel I was determined to handle as many tasks myself as possible. My father is a retired master carpenter, and I spent countless childhood hours watching him craft pristine custom cabinetry.

Clearly, I had no reason to doubt my ability to handle some basic trim work. This was going to be easy, right? Wrong!

Similarly, while a wealth of DIY-style info is available, DIY optometry practice management is no piece of cake. The goal of running an efficient, profitable practice is not as easy as it sounds.

Perhaps the most important sign of a competent DIYer is knowing when to hire a professional. Honestly, I knew I couldn’t manage my own plumbing or wiring.

Hiring specialists to manage certain aspects of your practice can outweigh the self-satisfaction of DIYing. More often than not, the main benefit is prioritization. Here’s why:

Ten years ago, the optical dispensary comprised at least 70 percent of the overall practice revenue, while exams and services made up the remaining 30 percent. Today, with the increase in medical-model eyecare, exams and services can match or exceed dispensary revenue.

Most ODs once dedicated significant time to dispensary operation, but more time is now spent learning new equipment, interpreting test results and filling schedules with more non-optical patients. Managing inventory and lens purchasing now takes a backseat to offering other specialty medical services. Such profitable specialties are where you should be focusing your energy, rather than overseeing day-to-day dispensary management. To compound the problem, optical dispensing is becoming increasingly complicated. Patients have vision plans with specific criteria, lab networks and products, mandating that optometrists be masters in maximizing profitability and understanding plan contracts.

Delegating allows you to focus attention on next-level eyecare and promotes overall practice development. Let’s discuss a few aspects of optometry dispensary operation that benefit from less DIY and more professional management.

  • Staff training. Optical dispensary management services provide staff with professional education sessions. Performance standards are established and regular meetings held to discuss products and technologies. Incentives programs entice staff to meet sales goals.
  • Revenue cycle management. The capture, management, and collection of patient and insurance revenue as well as cash flow, audit risk and ultimately profit can be outsourced to professional firms.
  • Marketing materials and initiatives. Demographic-specific marketing programs tailored to a practice’s patients can boost sales. Collateral may include educational patient information or professional courtesy programs.
  • Third-party billing. Staff are trained to maximize plan benefits, and ODM services process all optical claims on the practice’s behalf.
  • Dispensary inventory management. DMs purchase existing inventory while transitioning to new inventory targeted to a practice’s specific patient demographics. This includes an analysis of the practice’s market showcasing competitive price structures and consumer preferences.

Enlisting professional help isn’t an admission of lack of skill, it’s the practical awareness that not everything can be accomplished on your own. So, while you may choose to keep your home remodeling efforts DIY, let experts take your optical practice to the next level. A little help never hurt anybody.

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Danielle Richardson

A Case for Yoga

Let go of any preconceived notions… yoga is for everyone.

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I KNOW, I KNOW — yoga is not for you… but let me stop you right there. Yoga is truly for everyone! Yoga is finding its place in the mainstream as 1 in 7 American adults reported practicing yoga according to a 2017 survey.

However, as the number or practitioners continues to rise, so too does the number of people who feel alienated by yoga. Social media has warped the perception of this ancient practice into something that more closely resembles gymnastics or acrobatics. This shift distances many would be practitioners because of feelings of not being “flexible” or “fit” enough. I’m here to tell you that’s BS! This article is to make the case for yoga and its inclusion in your wellness routine.

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The true origin of yoga can be disputed, but the most popular types of yoga in the West are derived from a 5000-year old Indian philosophy system and body of knowledge. Yoga takes a holistic view of the human experience and consists of practices to unite the mind, body, and soul. Yoga extends beyond physical movement to combine meditation, self-discipline, and breathing practices to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. Below are a few things to remember about yoga:

Yoga is for everyone. Contrary to popular belief, yoga does not require fancy tights or expensive studio memberships. Additionally, you don’t have to overhaul your life or become a Himalayan monk to practice. The only requirements for yoga are your body and your breath. Yoga is most often practiced on hard wood with a mat or blanket, but carpet is suitable as well. Yoga can also be made accessible to those with disabilities using chairs and props for modifications. There truly is something for everyone.

Beginners are always welcome. There are plenty of resources available for new yogis. You can go the in-person route and sign up for a new student special at a local studio. Local yoga studios often have classes designed for beginners where you can receive in-person guidance and personalized tips to make the practice more comfortable. Additionally, you can use online beginner yoga videos on YouTube via my channel “FierceClarity” or another excellent source like “YogaWithAdrienne.” My recommendation is to begin once per week and gradually increase frequency. There is no right or wrong amount of yoga to do, but the longer you stick with the practice the more benefits you will see.

Yoga has real benefits. According to The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an NIH affiliate, research shows yoga may help relieve stress and chronic pain, manage chronic disease symptoms, and even aid in smoking cessation. Other studies have found yoga to successfully decrease inflammation, improve heart health, and improve some symptoms related to anxiety and depression. Additionally, yoga aids in weight loss and can help maintain a healthy weight when practiced regularly.

I started practicing yoga at the end of optometry school when I was burned out and sick from an unhealthy lifestyle. This simple practice has changed my life for the better. I became so passionate about it that I now teach yoga to others. I hope you will let go of any preconceived notions and give yoga a try. It is a rich tradition with several different styles and teachers. Be like Goldilocks and experiment a bit until you find the yoga that is just right for you.

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John Marvin

Forget Opinions, Measure the Hard Facts and Data to Improve Your Business

In the end, it is the least expensive and most productive business tool in your arsenal.

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THERE’S A BUSINESS axiom that says if you want to improve something, measure it. The sheer act of quantifying an issue and then determining how to improve its outcome incrementally, will itself create improvement.

W. Edwards Deming, the father of continuous quality improvement, believed that management decisions should be made using facts and data; and that successful managers use that data to best understand customers and their ever-changing expectations of goods and services.

The contrast is making decisions based on opinion. I believe that this is done far too often by optometrists and managers in our industry and these are the reasons why:

It’s easy. What could be more comfortable than offering your opinion about patients’ preferences and behaviors? In some ways, it just makes sense. You spend all day, several days a week observing people in your practice. Naturally, your opinion is enough on which to base your decisions.

It’s popular. Everyone has an opinion. The dilemma is when team members’ views conflict with one another. Whose opinion is correct? Usually, it defaults to the person with the most authority. When this happens, you can diminish the perspective of others.

It’s cheap. Opinions are free. You don’t need to go to the expense of both time and money to gather facts and data. Why go to all of that time, effort and spend money when your opinion will do the job just fine? However, a decision based on belief and not facts can be the most expensive decision you’ve ever made.

Recently, I was working with a young optometrist to open his first practice, and as you can imagine, he was full of enthusiasm and confidence in his opinions. He had classmates that had started new practices. What could be so difficult?

Of course, he had an opinion about his location. He had already determined where he wanted to open his new office. When I pointed out some of the challenges this selection would create, he wouldn’t be dissuaded. It had everything he believed, in his opinion, that was critical to a successful location.

It was close to where he wanted to live. It was half the price of locations in areas with much higher traffic patterns, and there were no other optometrists within a five-mile area. In his opinion, this location was ideal.

I explained to him that selecting the right location is probably the most critical first step in building a successful practice. That he should consider the households in the area, the exposure that a site will provide his new office, and that is all a part of what you pay for in lease payments. Basing this decision on his opinion is an example of how expensive a wrong decision can be.

Another practice data area that is neglected is the retention of patients. We don’t measure the percentage of patients we saw a year ago that return in twelve months. Why would we? We are great at what we do, why wouldn’t they return?

After all, we sent them a postcard telling them it was time to come back for an appointment.

The office most successful at retaining patients that I know measures and reports to the team each week the percentage of recalled patients who booked an appointment. They have learned that success in this area requires a phone call to follow up on those who do not respond to their postcards, emails, and text messages. The OD/owner is proud that 87.3 percent of their recalled patients return for their annual exam and he is still working on improving this percentage.

Managing your business using facts and data is crucial. It takes the emotions, personal perspectives, and biases out of making improvements. In the end, it is the least expensive and most productive business tool in your arsenal.

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