We’re going to share several strategies to optimize how you sell from the chair. None of them are high-pressure, nor do they require compromising your ethics.
For significant improvement, you can easily implement 1-2 of these strategies. For dramatic improvement that will make your KPIs hardly recognizable compared to what they were before, you can endeavor to implement them all.
However you decide to use them, we hope these strategies serve you well.
Find Out Why They’re Using Glasses
You can serve your patients more effectively by getting an understanding of their lifestyle.
Any optometrist can write a prescription, but how many will truly learn about their patient’s lifestyle and help guide them to what will provide the best visual experience day-in and day-out?
Throughout the exam, during the history, or both — take the opportunity to begin forging a good relationship by asking questions: how often they wear glasses, details about their job, if they notice eye strain throughout the day, how dirty their glasses become day-to-day, and more. Asking caring questions in a non-threatening way helps to eliminate the feeling of being “sold to” for the vast majority of patients. Istead, they’ll feel relieved that they found a thoughtful optometrist who cares about giving their patient the best suggestions to meet their needs.
You’re Not Selling, You’re Educating
You don’t need to become a high-pressure salesperson to motivate your patients to do what’s in their best interest. Patients entering your office should respect you as an authority and trust your recommendations. If you believe their day-to-day visual experience would be enhanced by something they might simply write off as an “upsell” if recommended by anyone else, then it should be discussed in the exam room.
This applies to recommendations such as a second pair of glasses due to heavy computer use (computer glasses) or sun exposure (sunglasses), explaining what anti-reflective does and why you recommend it, why you’d advise trying a progressive for the first time, and more. Your job is to identify possible issues during the course of the exam and to offer solutions.
These solutions are what’s best for the patient’s lifestyle. Be transparent and honest: explain that while these suggestions may increase cost, sometimes substantially, in your professional opinion it’s a worthy investment to improve their day-to-day visual needs (more guidance on that below).
Don’t Be Afraid to Share What You Think They Need
If you feel like a salesperson trying to influence the patient, you’re approaching this incorrectly.
You’re a credible medical authority who spent years learning how to care for your patients. You’re the most qualified person to provide them with the best day-to-day visual experience possible — you’re allowed to gently recommend solutions.
You don’t have to mislead the patient or withhold information. You should feel comfortable saying things like:
- “In a perfect world where money was no object, you’d get _____ because…”
- “It’s going to increase the cost a bit, but I’d strongly recommend _____ because…”
- “I understand why people don’t always invest in _____ because of the cost increase, but the vast majority of patients who spring for it are satisfied with their choice because…”
This approach is effective because it ties the increased features and benefits to the increased costs.
Patients constantly wonder, “How will this more expensive upgrade make my life easier?” Informing them about which features and benefits are made possible by the increased costs allows them to make this decision on their own without any “hard selling” on your end.
Trial Framing In the Exam Room
One of the most powerful tools at an optometrist’s disposal when selling from the chair is trial framing.
When updating a patient’s prescription, show them the contrast between what their vision used to be and what it will be with the updated prescription. This can be done using a traditional trial frame or your phoropter.
If using a phoropter, place it just above the patient as they view the chart with their current glasses. Have them take a mental note of how clear or fuzzy the chart is, and then ask them to remove their glasses. Immediately after they remove their glasses, pull the phoropter down to demonstrate their new prescription.
This is a perfect opportunity to mention that updating their glasses is a good idea, then segue into gathering any additional information you need to make helpful suggestions.
Also, don’t miss the opportunity to address another likely issue for patients who spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Use a webpage, such as Wikipedia, on the computer in your exam room when recommending computer glasses.
Once you’ve set up the trial frame, have the patient sit in a chair at their normal distance from the monitor. The next step is very similar to the new prescription “trial framing” process described above:
Ask the patient to take a mental note of the screen clarity. Then, ask them to remove their glasses and quickly place the trial frame in place. Most patients are shocked by the improvement.
You shouldn’t be aiming for commitments here — only to suggest what’s best. Write the second prescription and let the patient know they can use it for the suggested second pair or that they can just pin it on the fridge as a souvenir.
This allows you to write two pressure-free prescriptions that will significantly improve the patient’s life, but gives them the freedom to use them. Take it one step further and mention that you offer a discount on second pairs, something they can ask the optician about to save some money.
No verbal explanation will outperform the power of demonstration. The experience often sells itself without requiring the doctor to be an expert or high-pressure salesperson.
Recommend High-Index, Progressives, AR, Multiple Pairs, etc. (As Appropriate)
If a patient requires a strong prescription but isn’t familiar with high-index lenses, have a conversation with them about why they’re helpful (especially if they prefer thin or half-frame glasses).
If a patient could benefit from a progressive but has never had one, it’s likely for one of two reasons:
- They’ve simply never been prescribed a PAL, or…
- They’ve had non-adapt issues in the past.
With either scenario, you can take the risk off of the patient. Explain that non-adapt issues are usually due to cheap, basic progressives. If a patient wants the best chance to see well and the most comfortable performance, discuss how that likely means they’re going to be stuck with a newer lens design, which usually comes with a higher-cost. You can also offer to put them back in a bifocal or single-vision lens for free if they don’t adapt (note: this is usually only financially possible if you’re using high-quality house brands vs. bloated name brands).
If executed correctly, you’ll capture the vast majority of these sales and see very few returns. A bonus result is that the patient receives the best visual experience they’ve likely ever had, which deepens your relationship and personal brand in that patient’s mind.
These same consultative strategies, where you offer to take the risk off of the customer, also work for AR, multiple pairs, and more.
Remember to qualify your statements with an honest disclosure of cost increase and to explain your professional opinion about improving their day-to-day visual needs with a worthy investment (see the “You’re Not Selling, You’re Educating” section higher up on this page).
How to Position Brands from the Exam Room
Brand positioning applies in two ways: frames and lenses.
Most patients are going to be more tuned-in to frame branding than lens branding. For example, if you notice they’re wearing a pair of STATE frames, inquire about their satisfaction with that brand.
If the response is positive and you carry the brand on your boards, make sure to mention that you have a decent selection of the brand and suggest they take a look after the exam. This is a good way to at least get patients in a conversation with your optical staff as opposed to just walking out of your office with their prescription.
In regard to lenses, it’s rare that a patient will demand a premium progressive by name. In those instances, explain that the technology has caught up significantly in recent years and that they could realize significant cost savings by trying your house-brand progressive instead.
If the patient is dissatisfied with how your house-brand progressive lens performs, no problem. They’re free to bring the glasses back and pay an extra $100 to be switched to the branded lens they originally requested. If they truly want the higher-priced brand name, they’re making up the cost difference for you. In this situation, the patient takes on zero risk, and so do you.
If a patient insists that they’ve tried other premium PALs in the past and they don’t want to try anything new, don’t put any pressure on them. We find that this particular situation is pretty rare, however. The strategy outlined in this section is the reason one of Pivotal Group’s co-founders only sold 18 branded progressives out of 1,000 pairs in one year (1.8%) after implementing and refining these practices.
Remind Patients that They May Be Able to Get Same-Day Glasses (If You Edge In-House)
If you edge in-house, reminding patients that same-day/ next day glasses may be an option could also set your optical team up for a conversation they might never have otherwise. Be careful of making any promises, though (for example, you might be out-of-stock of their specific prescription).
This is one of independent optometry’s biggest advantages over direct-to-consumer websites, and it could very well be the reason a patient decides to buy from you (even at slightly higher cost) instead of shopping online and waiting 1-3 weeks for delivery.
The following phrase is a simple and easy way to set your optical staff up for a great conversation with the patient:
“I can’t promise you anything, but you may be able to pick up these glasses later today.”
You might also mention that the patient is interested in same-day / next-day options during the handoff to your optical staff (detailed later in this guide).
Concede When Helpful, or When You Feel the Patient Needs It
Consultative selling isn’t about getting the patient to purchase as much as possible. It’s about helping people get what they need, even when you can tell there’s absolutely no way they’ll be able to afford your recommendations.
As a doctor, concessions go a long way in building trust, furthering your personal brand, and ultimately helping the patient get the most out of what could very well be a limited budget. If needed, remind patients that they might be able to reuse their existing frames or that they can get the added function of sunglasses without purchasing two pairs (think clip-ons).
Don’t Forget About Contact Lenses!
Finally, don’t miss an opportunity to help the patient get a discount by stocking up on contact lenses. Create a promotion along the lines of 10% – 20% off any one-year supply of contact lenses and explain that in addition to those savings at your practice, they’ll receive a rebate from the manufacturer, PLUS they’ll be shipped directly to their front door.
Note: We recommend building these discounts into your pricing so that the promotion doesn’t damage your profit margins. This is a common and highly effective retail strategy that you should consider leveraging.
Once you show the patient the price difference (one-year supply – 20% – manufacturer rebate), many who already know they’ll eventually need a year’s supply worth of contact lenses will spring for the budget increase to take advantage of those savings. The VCP six-month-only purchases that don’t qualify for 20% off now have a healthier margin as well.
More Guidance RE: Selling from the Chair
We know a lot of information has been covered in this section, but there is even more detailed guidance in this video from one of Pivotal Group’s Co-Founders, Dr. Mark Sturm.
Pivotal Group’s free membership includes hours upon hours of video training, but this video is publicly published so that doctors around the U.S. can get a better handle on the often-overlooked opportunity to sell from the chair.