Promoting Lens Upgrades to Boost Optical Profits
By Mary Hollis Stuck February 09, 2021
It has long been said that optical sales make up the majority of the profits in most optometric practices. Based on a 2018 article in Optometry Times, material sales make up approximately 61 percent of a practice’s gross revenue. This includes both eyeglass and contact lens sales. However, with the growing presence of online eyeglass and contact lens retailers, today’s opticals run the risk of losing their profit from materials to other retailers. Unfortunately, many patients are uneducated in the quality of materials offered at your practice versus websites like Zenni Optical or Eye Buy Direct. It is up to your practice to provide your patients with both service and quality materials, but in a way that doesn’t make them feel pressured into parting with their hard earned money.
Start your sale when you take their call.
Planting the seed that it is often necessary to own more than one pair of glasses when the patient first calls to schedule their eye exam can be a very important step in educating your patients. Teach your staff the importance of mentioning this concept when having their first conversation with a new patient over the phone. It is common to ask the patient to fill out paperwork online, or bring prior medical records and medication history for their appointment. In addition to this, mention to the patient that it is helpful for the doctor if they bring in all of their glasses. “Please be sure to bring your fulltime eyewear, as well as your computer glasses and your prescription sunglasses when you come to your appointment.” Most patients do not realize the importance of having multiple pairs. Even if they have only one pair of ten year old glasses that they wear for two hours around the house when they take their contacts out, this can lead them toward the realization that one old prescription is rarely providing them with everything they need for excellent vision.
Increase recommendations in the exam lane.
It’s not uncommon for doctors to dislike promoting sales of materials. Often when asked about insurance cost or eligibility, or the cost of eyewear, an optometrist may say something along the lines of “Well, I’ve got excellent staff that will go over all of that with you when we’re done.” While it is not the doctor’s job to sell eyewear (that’s why they hire opticians!), making recommendations in the exam lane can highly increase the likelihood that a patient will purchase more than one pair of basic lenses. For instance, if a patient explains that they are an accountant, spending 10 hours a day on the computer, a doctor can mention to them that their opticians are excellent at helping fit them with a special anti-reflective lens that will reduce eye strain on the computer. At the handoff to the optician, simply stating “Mrs. Smith works long hours on a computer; can you show her the benefits of the newest blue-light anti-reflective coating? It’s important that she get more relief while working with spreadsheets all day.” A simple statement like that can provide the patient with a sense that you truly care about her comfort, and open her eyes to the fact that one pair of glasses is simply not enough for everyone.
Educate your patient.
While it may seem surprising to you, many people have no idea of the many different lens options available to them. Ask your lab reps for sales aids to demonstrate different types of coatings or photocromic lenses. Having these close at hand on the dispensing table can help when telling the patients about the best anti-reflective coating, or the speed in which the newest photochromic lenses change from tinted to clear. Be sure to have demonstrations available to show the benefits of polarized sunglass lenses, and allow a patient to view them through an ordinary tinted lens, then a polarized lens of the same color. On a sunny day, invite the patient to step outside with you to see the lens in the sunlight. Ask your lab to send you lens blanks of a -6.00 in CR39, polycarbonate, and high index, so that you may show the patient the specific benefit of upgrading their lens material. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your vendors for aids; by providing you with tools to help your sales, it increases their bottom line as well.
Take advantage of lab discounts.
Don’t forget about the importance of discussing discounts with your lab sales representatives. Many wholesale labs offer discounts for multiple pairs. Check with your lab to get the specifics of the discounts available to you. For instance, if you submit one pair of lenses through a vision benefit plan, you may submit a secondary pair of lenses with the same brand materials and be entitled to up to 50% in savings, simply by entering a code on the lab order. Being diligent about this will increase your profit margin when you offer a large discount to the patient purchasing multiple pairs. Be sure to do your research when planning your discounts, to see what will save the sale and also increase your profit.
Keep track of your progress, and offer staff incentives.
Using your practice administrative software to track sales, or using outside programs like Edge, can help you keep track of your optical sales. Set monthly goals, such as having upgrades on 70% of lenses sold. Each month, try to focus on something very specific. For instance, promoting blue-light anti-reflective coating to assist the patients who have converted to working from home. If your practice does not offer commission to opticians, set a bonus or rewards structure to incentivize them. Whether it is a Starbucks gift card, or a free lunch for meeting the monthly goal, make sure their efforts do not go unnoticed. Everyone needs recognition for their hard work, even if it is considered to be part of their job.
Remember, what works for one may not work for all.
Get to know your patient. Find out what they do all day, and what their hobbies are. This will not only help you determine what their optical needs are, but it will create a greater bond with the patient. While it is easy to have a satisfied patient, taking an extra moment to find out more about their lives will help you turn them from an average patient into a valuable patient, coming in annually and purchasing the best lens for their specific needs. By providing them with a lens tailored for their needs, it will not only give them better vision, but better your relationship with them, and increase their respect for you and your practice. Keep in mind that going the extra mile may not immediately increase your bottom line, as that patient may simply not have the financial capability.