LISTEN AND BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

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Does consultative selling improve optical Rx sales, patient retention and positive practice reviews?

Best-in-class eyecare practices across the country use a consultative sales process in their optical dispensaries, but what does that really look like?

A sales process is consultative when the stages and actions align with patients’ buying experiences and are defined in terms of the relationships eyecare professionals have with them.

This sales process is not a silver bullet, nor is it set in stone. Instead, it’s composed of dynamic bobs and weaves based on conditions. It should also be flexible, allowing opticians to adapt their best judgment as they “interview” patients following the optometrists’ handoff from the exam room, ultimately resulting in a happy patient when closing Rx sales. A good sales process helps the optical staff consistently sell by giving them a framework to follow.

The consultative selling process is only successful when sales leadership is present with experienced sales/technical opticians who execute with dedication and competence. That’s why consultative sales is a process consisting of two components—the process component and the human component.

Consultative selling diagnoses patients’ needs, focusing on creating value and trust before offering a solution. The first objective is building a relationship. The second is providing the right product recommendations for your patients based on their visual needs and lifestyles.

Gallup reports less than half of customers believe sellers adequately address their problems. This stems from mismatched solutions (the seller) and needs (the customer). Optometrists and opticians need a framework for making the best use of their interactions with patients. The answer is a consultative approach.

Consultative selling is primarily focused on the experience that your patients feel and see during their exams and interactions with you and your staff. It’s about how you provide the value of your eyecare and personalized services. Therefore, consultative selling is a perfect fit for the optometry/opticianry model. It equips you, the eyecare professional, with the opportunity to uncover patient needs faster and position solutions to meet or exceed them.

WHEN AND HOW
Consultative selling is an ideal technique for optometry and opticianry as the products/packages are customized for each patient based on their needs, and offering customized products to patients based on their visual needs and lifestyles add value.

Implementing consultative selling in the practice is a three-step process:
1. Diagnose/identify patients visual needs/requirements. (They may not know they have these needs.) Figure out your patients’ most common pain points. This might be the most important part of the process because without this information, you can’t effectively present your solution.
2. Create your questions. A lifestyle questionnaire may be beneficial to you.
3. Present practice and product value to the patient. Some examples: How do your lens packages solve the patient’s lifestyle or hobby needs? Is the buying process simple yet detailed enough to answer the patient’s needs? Do your packages provide a price break/value to the patient?

DEMONSTRATE EXPERTISE
The consultative selling process is a combination of the human element and the process itself.

The ability to demonstrate expertise is a crucial element of consultative selling. There are three ways to quickly gain credibility with the patient:
1. Introduce yourself to the patient during the handoff from the optometrist, and explain your experience and why this may be useful to the patient.
2. The optometrist should make lens recommendations for the patient in the exam room or when handing the patient over to the optician, at which time the optician should acknowledge and mirror the doctor’s recommendations
3. Ask further questions and actively listen to reinforce that you are interested in fully understanding the patient’s needs or problems. This is where the Lifestyle Questionnaire (download here) can be used, or better yet when questions can be presented in general conversation with the patient.

At this point the patient could be considered qualified to move into the next sales step. One of the most established methods of doing this is BANT. To qualify a patient using this method you need to be able to answer “Yes” to the following questions:
• Does the patient have the Budget for the product/packages that you are selling?
• Does the patient have the Authority to make a purchase?
• Do the product/packages meet or exceed their visual/lifestyle Needs?
• What is the Timeline? Are they going to make a purchase now or in the future?

LISTEN CAREFULLY
The better you are at asking questions or using the Lifestyle Questionnaire, the less you’ll need to say and the more listening you’ll be able to do. This is important for three reasons:
1. You’re building rapport with your patient and making them feel valued.
2. You’re gathering a detailed understanding of their visual, lifestyle and emotional needs.
3. You’re putting yourself into a good position to sell back to the needs.
Listening is something we all try to do well, but active listening is a real skill that must be learned. To become an active listener, you need to be able to interpret what is being said and read between the lines to understand also what is not being said and why. Strive to become an expert at active listening, and you will see how this transforms people’s perception of you when you first meet.

Give personalized recommendations: You’re the expert with personal examples of how you solved similar visual or lifestyle needs. Lens packages are a great solution as they solve a need at a discounted price, creating value for the patient.

Resolve objections: Objection handling means responding to the buyer in a way that changes their mind or alleviates their concerns. Don’t be fearful of objections. Welcome and proactively identify them by asking the following questions: “Do you have any concerns around x?” “Are there any obstacles that would stop you from buying?” “How confident do you feel you’ll experience success from [product]? Why?” “You seem a little worried about x. What are your thoughts?”

Find a win-win solution: Ultimately, it’s the patient who makes the decision, but it is based on the expert consultation solutions you’ve provided.

THE BOTTOM LINE
Using the consultative selling approach is a great way to combat the fact that in the 21st century many patients use the internet to complete the first 70% of their buying journey. This is because consultative selling allows opticians to demonstrate their eyewear solutions expertise and offer personalized advice and service…things a Google search just can’t do.

Steven Sunder is the president of Sunder Vision Solutions, providing eyecare business consulting since 1998. He has held senior executive positions in eyecare practice management with budgets higher than $10 million, and he is former director and vice president of sales as well as former president of an optometric merger and acquisition company in a tri-state region. Contact him at Steve@SunderVisionSolutions.com or visit SunderVisionSolutions.com.

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