Curating The Sale [Tiffany Welch]

Sales is a dirty word to some of us in this profession, we like to see ourselves as purveyors of eyewear, lens designers or an extension of the OD appointment that is dedicated to satisfying our patient’s visual needs. Yes, we are ALL of that, but we must admit that we are also salespeople. We are as responsible for making the sales in our optical as we are responsible for taking care of our patients. To sell, you must be able to empathize with people and understand what makes them tick- i.e. uncovering their needs and what makes them want to purchase. 

Commit to the Brand Message

What is your store mission statement or brand message? What are the key messages that you want to communicate about your practice? Are you luxury/high end? Are you hip/young? Ensure that the attributes you choose to deliver your store’s identity are cohesive and represented in every detail including (but not limited to) your product, marketing, font choices, store atmosphere and extra services provided. Having consistency with the brand message increases the brand equity and authenticity, thus building preliminary trust with your patients. For example, a high end/luxury practice may have muted colors, play soft music, serve coffee or sparkling water to their patients, and should also carry the most high-tech lens options and some of the most well made, fashionable frames on the market. A non-cohesive brand message would be a shop that wants to be luxury/high end but misses the opportunity to deliver the message through sparse, drab decor, dated styles that are still collecting dust in the windows next to the giant SALE sign. Once you commit to a brand message, stick to it and BE the brand. The brand is what brought your patients in the door, you are what determines what happens next.

Anticipate Patient’s Unspoken Needs

It’s important that we take the time to talk to our patients, but it’s even more important that they talk to us. We opticians need to be diligent in getting to know each patient deeply enough to meet their unspoken needs. We are taught to uncover the patient’s needs by asking open-ended lifestyle questions during the visit such as, “What do you do for a living?” Unfortunately, some patients are less than excited to answer questions that sound like they are coming straight from a list, so try to stay fresh and be conversational. Eventually, the patients may surprise you with a fact that clues you into a need that they didn’t know they had, an unspoken need. For example, if you discover that your patient is a basketball enthusiast who also rock climbs, then you need to be sure to offer them some protective eyewear; ANTICIPATE your patient’s needs. They may not have realized that safety glasses or selecting a different lens option could make a difference, but by uncovering the unspoken needs of an accident waiting to happen, you will have done your patient a great service.

Curate the Choices

Analysis paralysis, is defined as the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. This is very a well-known truth to any Netflix watcher- so many choices that you end up spending most of your time searching. This is also how many patients feel when we tell them to look around for a frame without any direction. Some opticals I’ve worked in have carried well over 700 frames, which can be obviously daunting to someone walking in for the first time. That’s why it’s so important to not leave your patient to wander without some direction. The best opticians tend to know their product to the point of being able to identify the personality of a frame line. Presenting eyewear that matches with the personality of your patient will make the try-on portion more flattering, more effective and less time consuming. 

Lens selection is another place where opticians can curate what they present to their patients in order to make the decision making earlier. Rather than giving them a giant list of all of the options, curate a good, better, best system that allows you to explore multiple options with your patient, without getting overly complicated or technical. I explain the best option to my patients first, showing them what they can get without money entering the equation; I want to ensure I’m doing my job educating the patient on which lens options are available to create the best lens for them with the current technology. If they hesitate or begin to ask about pricing, I tell them the overall price and if it’s more than they wanted to spend, then we are able move down to the better option. I like to use this system because it ensures that the patient can still get similar options for a lesser price, rather than itemizing and sacrificing the options for price. For example: BEST: Varilux S Series, Trivex with Crizal Sapphire/BETTER: Varilux Physio, Trivex with Crizal Avancé/GOOD: Varilux Comfort, Trivex with Crizal Alize.

Assert Your Credibility With Product Knowledge

As opticians, our job comes with a level or credibility higher than the average salesperson, however we still have to assert our personal credibility with our patients during the buying process to build trust, and ultimately improve their experience. A great way to do this is by sprinkling product knowledge into the conversation subtly. Ensure that you know enough about all of the products you carry including facts about the construction/design, how/where/why it was created and something that identifies the style of the brand. For example, if the patient is an engineer, I might show him Mykita and explain the construction/design behind the frames because it is more in line with his personality than say, our discontinued Grotesque frames that have horns and fake paint drips. 

Our product knowledge empowers us in the lens selection process as well; the more experience we have with a specific lens (product), and how it’s worked with prescriptions in the past, the more successful we will be in knowing when to use it. This is why I might use a Hoya Autograph II for one type of RX and an Essilor Varilux Physio Enhanced for another. Even after we take the ABO, opticians are never finished learning and problem solving how to best serve our patients needs, which is why product knowledge is the most useful tool we have.

Overall, it is important to know your brand, know your patient, know your product, and know the business. We must strive to provide curated experiences that enhance the patient’s understanding of the brand message, improve their visual acuity and cater to a lasting patient relationship.

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