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Practice Management

I'll Second That

Henry Ford, the father of the modern-day assembly line once said, "If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right." Although spoken 100 years ago, those words could certainly applied to selling second pairs of eyeglasses to our patients. Fewer than one in five eyeglass wearers in the United States own more than one pair of prescription eyeglasses. I believe if you decide that you can significantly improve that percentage in your practice, you can! Whatever your current percentage of second pairs is, that statistic is a function of everything you do in your day-to-day practice. If you want to increase that number to a significantly different number, you simply have to start doing different things. Here are a few ideas.

Create a more detailed patient questionnaire. Consider including a section where patients "check all that apply." Include items like reading, playing a musical instrument, computer, needlework, boating, swimming, TV, etc. Having this information allows you to ask questions that will create conversations that will certainly lead to sales. For example, "I see you spend a lot of time watching TV. Many people find that their bifocals are a real nuisance, especially in recliners or in bed. They find a pair that just has their distance prescription makes TV time a lot more enjoyable. How have your bifocals worked for you when you watch TV?"

Use only open-ended questions. The questions you ask patients during your quest to make another sale are critical. Avoid closed-end questions. What's the difference? An open-ended question is defined as a question that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Remember, closed-end - bad; open-ended - good. For example, you would want to avoid asking, "Could I interest you in a pair of prescription sunglasses?" Most patients will simply reply, "No thank you," and the conversation is over. If you pursued the sale, you might come across as pushy and make the patient extremely uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you asked, "How do you protect you eyes from harmful UV rays?" a much more detailed conversation will take place.

Never mention price. Well, almost never. Far too many opticians talk about price way too early. Here is an excerpt of an exchange I recently heard between an optician and his patient:

Patient: "Do you carry those Transitions lenses?"

Optician: "Yes ma'am, of course we do."

Patient: "Can you tell me a little bit about them?"

Optician: "Sure. They're $100 extra…and they don't get very dark in the car."

Now you may argue that the optician had a duty to share that information, and I would agree. However, timing is everything. A much better response to the second question might be, "Sure. They're great! I just made my mom a pair and she loves them. They get nice and dark when she's walking her dog, and inside they're basically clear. Look, I'm wearing mine right now."

The only time the price of anything should cross an optician's lips, is when he or she is answering a specific inquiry about price. Let me be clear. Unless a patient asks "How much is it?" or "How much does it cost?" an optician should never bring it up. That rule especially applies to the second pair sale.

Focus on sunglasses. Ninety-nine percent of your patients spend time in the sun and have been educated on the importance of protection against UV. Here are two specific ways you will significantly increase your second-pair sales with a sunglass sale. The first is an original idea, the second came from the late, brilliant, Bob Bieber.

After replacing a screw or making a minor adjustment, when you hand the glasses back to the customer, simply say, "Here you go." If you do that, the vast majority of them will say, "How much do I owe you for that?" Instead of the standard "No charge…glad to help," try this: "One minute of your time." I do this all the time, and not once has a customer refused me the minute. After all, they feel obliged for the favor I have just performed for them. I tell them I just wanted to show them a really neat sunglass lens that is available, and I walk them over to my polarization display box. I explain what polarization is, and demonstrate the difference between regular sunglasses and polarized ones (they try on both). That simple process takes less than 90 seconds, and has led to hundreds of sales of polarized sunglasses.

Years ago during one of his engaging seminars, industry icon Bob Bieber assured the opticians in attendance that if we wished to increase our second-pair sunglass sales by 38%, all we had to do was ask one specific question to every patient when we write up their initial order. If the question did not lead to a second-pair sale then, we had to promise to ask it again when the glasses were dispensed. Here is Bob's magical (and I can, from experience assure you, successful) question: "When will you be updating your sunglasses into your current prescription?" There's a lot going on in that beautifully worded, wonderfully open-ended question. Thanks, Bob.

Discounts. Be careful with this one – price is only an issue in the absence of value. Having said that, too small of a discount will not inspire a call to action. Too large a discount may make the patient think you ripped them off with the first pair. 25% seems attractive for both the patient and the business owner. Even if the second pair only contributed $50 to your gross profit, and even if you only sold two second pairs a day, that would add more than $30,000 to your bottom line each and every year.

Go fishing. What I mean by that is, don't pick and choose when you will implement some of these suggestions. Decide which ones make sense for you and do them with every patient, every day. I call it fishing. Here's the analogy: Let's assume you catch a fish 10% of the time you cast your line into the water. If you cast it ten times, you will catch one fish. If you cast your line one hundred times, you will catch ten fish. You get the picture.

You may think that some of these suggestions might not work for you. Maybe you're right. While I can't guarantee trying these things will double your second-pair sales overnight, one thing I can absolutely guarantee: If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. Go for it.

Anthony Record

Anthony Record, RDO

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