Dispensers are encouraged to engage the patient in a lifestyle assessment. – Photo Courtesy of HOYA.

A doctor’s recommendation, a good lifestyle assessment, and a well-trained staff are all keys to helping patients decide to purchase premium lens products.

Large national optical chains are particularly good at selling. This is because they see eyewear as a business while also maintaining a respect for the eye health aspect of the product. Large chains do this by using retail strategies that work. To find out what they do with regard to free-form lenses, I asked opticians and sales associates at several large national chains how they do it. Their responses might be the ticket to boost your free-form lens sales.

The majority of dispensary chains give a great deal of their premium free-form progressive lens sales success to their doctors and the way they recommend the product to the patient during the exam. The doctors have a working knowledge of the lens characteristics and benefits, and understand which patients are good candidates. They don’t necessarily know the lens price or lens specifics and defer that information to the dispensers. This also means the doctors hand-off the patient after the exam to the dispenser, carefully reviewing their recommendations in front of the patient. This helps reinforce the importance of premium free-form progressive lenses and helps open the door for further conversation with the optician. Several chains also mentioned that if the doctor also writes a specific lens name on the Rx, it helps encourage the sale of that premium lens.

Some patients may want high-quality lens choices but at a reasonable price, like Shamir’s Spectrum.

A good lifestyle assessment is also an important key when it comes to selling free-form lenses. Questions asked of patients primarily focus on occupation and hobbies. The information gathered from these answers provides the dispenser with opportunities to discuss the benefits of free-form lenses (and other products). In addition, it allows the dispenser to gather clues about what the patient’s eyewear expectations may be and how they hope their vision will be with their new purchase. These clues help the dispenser address what the patient deems important, thereby creating value for them. By understanding the patient’s needs and expectations, dispensers feel they are selling solutions rather than a product, and that helps patients justify the extra expense of premium free-form lenses.

Another key element to successfully selling premium progressive lenses is having a staff that is well educated about the product. Many dispensers credited educational opportunities provided by their companies and their offices as part of their success in understanding the lenses they dispense. This professional development comes in a variety of forms from printed materials and handbooks to DVDs that provide audio/visual training about

PROVIDE OPTIONS! Are you snubbing yourself out of sales? While eyecare professionals always want their patients to leave their practices wearing the best of everything in eyewear, you may be sending them out without eyewear if you are not prepared to offer alternatives to the “best” product. Just about every premium product in the industry has tiered levels that could be considered good, better, and best. Patients want options and often will leave your office if you don’t provide them.

lenses, and lens manufacturers sponsoring live seminars that bring the staff of multiple stores together. The dispensers found these educational tools very helpful in understanding the features and benefits of free-form lenses, the best patient candidates, proper measuring techniques, and more.

Many chain dispensers noted that consistent and regular staff meetings is another key to success. Their offices use meetings to educate staff about new lens designs and identify the features and advantages of the new lens. In addition, they help staff understand which patients would be good candidates for the lens based on answers to lifestyle questions and ways to encourage conversation about the product. Lens manufacturers and lab reps can be great resources to teach, but offices indicated that having a dispenser in their office who can sell free-form lenses well is also a good educator. Having them share their tips and tricks with other staff members can be valuable.

A key element to successfully selling premium progressive lenses is having a staff that is well educated about products such as Kodak’s Unique package from Signet Armorlite.

Several dispensers noted that showing the advantages of a free-form lens with either a lens simulator or lens demonstrator makes it easier to communicate the benefits to the patient. Rather than telling the patient there would be less peripheral distortion, they can show a lens simulation that compares a traditional progressive design to a premium progressive design. In addition, some dispensaries have dispensing mats at each table that illustrate the design. Not only do these mats help explain the lens designs better, they also help engage the patient in a discussion about premium progressive lenses when they see the material on the desk. This helps dispensers engage in conversation with the patient, and it also helps the patient have a better understanding of what “less peripheral distortion” really means.

Perhaps the strongest advantage to selling free-form lenses that was mentioned was the larger dispensary’s ability to offer a wide variety of lenses at a range of price points. Many dispensers noted that several of their patients come from independent practices where patients have been offered only the most expensive lenses and options. Several of these patients still want high-quality lens choices, but at a more reasonable price for their budgets or circumstances. Dispensers at large national chains are encouraged to engage the patient in a discussion about the “best” lenses first, and then if the patient objects to the price, show them the “better” lens options. This also allows the dispenser to reference back the answers given to some of the lifestyle questions previously asked and explain what solutions the patient may be sacrificing between the “best” and “better” lenses. This helps the patient understand the value of the purchase. By understanding what they might be sacrificing, this allows them to reassess what price they may be willing to pay.

Dispensing tools aid in explaining the benefits of specific lenses.

Dispensers also acknowledged that their training in presenting a “package” or total price rather than the individual price of each add-on or upgrade made the patient more aware that everything they were buying was important rather than just being tacked on to increase a sale.

Surprisingly, dispensers across the board indicated that bonuses, spiffs (Special Payment Incentives for Fast Sales), or increased commission were not a deciding factor in presenting premium free-form lenses to patients. Rather, the knowledge and belief that free-form lenses were best for their patients’ vision was their motivator. Most dispensaries did not work on regular incentives, but on occasion, a rare and short-lived promotion or competition was used.

There are definitely techniques that can be learned from large national optical retailers and tailored to fit your small, private practice dispensary.

Joy L. Gibb is the owner of Eyes of Joy Mobile Optical Service in Woods Cross, UT.


Carl Zeiss Vision Inc.

800-358-8258 •

Essilor of America, Inc.
800-542-5668 •

877-528-1939 •

Seiko Optical Products of America, Inc.
800-235-5367 •

Shamir Insight, Inc.
877-514-8330 •

Signet Armorlite, Inc
800-950-5367 •


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