The Imagine-i app from Nikon lets ECPs demonstrate the free-form experience to their patients.
Seiko’s rotating spinner display assists ECPs with side-by-side lens comparisons.
THE VALUE OF EDUCATION ECPs who are well-informed about free-form lenses can serve their patients and their bottom lines better. “I’ve got eight full-time sales reps,” says Greg Ruden, president of Expert Optics, Inc. “What some doctors are finding out when we sit down with them is that a lot of the free-form lenses are comparably priced to a good premium progressive. We have a better solution today than we did five years ago.” Neil Dougherty, general manager of Luzerne Optical Laboratories Ltd. states: “It is absolutely critical that the eyecare professional understands not only the concept of free-form lenses, but also the design elements and personalization of these products, and be able to relate this to the patient’s individual needs. The more they know, the more credibility they have in the eyes of their patients.”
ECPs can get an iPad app called the HVC Viewer from the HOYA apps store to support their presentations.
This demonstrator tool from Carl Zeiss uses a star system to rate lens clarity.

Lenscasters and labs share their best tips for presenting free-form lenses to patients.

Eyecare professionals (ECPs) who want to introduce free-form lenses to their patients are likely to encounter cost-conscious patients. To ease their doubts, let’s look at what some lens manufacturers recommend as classic sales strategies and contemporary tools.

“It’s really important to explain the features and benefits of a free-form product without overwhelming patients with too much technology,” says Lori Mitchell, director of retail sales for Seiko Optical Products of America, Inc. “We try to deliver the information in a real easy way: Here’s the product and this is what it’s going to do for you. We keep it simple.”

When patients understand the benefits of a new technology, paying a higher price becomes less of an issue. Mitchell and her sales team advise ECPs to use analogies, such as likening conventional lenses to analog TVs versus free-form lenses to HD models.

Seiko uses props, such as a rotating spinner with conventional and free-form lenses, which patients can actually look through for a side-by-side comparison. It’s vital that ECPs themselves wear free-form lenses in front of their patients to demonstrate that they believe in the benefits of the product.

“If you don’t explain this information to your patient, what happens if they go down the street to another ECP and buy products from them because they updated them on the latest technology?” Mitchell asks. “They’re going to think a little less of you possibly, because you didn’t talk to them about it.”

“Every vendor has a suite of free-form lens products, with increasing levels of customization and optimization. I think you should present it to the patient as in which customized free-form product is best for you,” says Rob Evangelisti, Nikon Optical USA’s director of sales.

Evangelisti recommends two ways for working different levels of customization into the conversation. One is top-down selling, which presents the best option first. The second is for the ECP to take the patient’s lifestyle into account to find the best option.

“It’s not about giving them an array of choices. Customization will depend on what their activities are and how they’re going to wear the glasses,” he explains. “Ask them a lot of questions. That’s going to open up opportunities to decide which customized free-form product is best for them.”

Evangelisti says Nikon has had great success with its Imagine-i, an iPad/tablet app for ECPs that demonstrates free-form product features to patients. They also offer brochures with key selling points to supplement in-store presentations.

The sales team at Shamir Insight Inc. finds that patients, on average, hold on to their glasses for two years, giving ECPs a hook to bring up free-form products.

“I look at free-form lenses as an investment in their vision and I try never to apologize for it,” states Pam Benson-Gibson, Shamir’s director of education. “ECPs should tell patients that their job is to give them the best knowledge to make the best choice. I present them with the best lens as my first choice and let them decide. But I also have a tiered line of premium and then mid-tier products.”

Another strategy that Benson-Gibson uses to deflect a patient’s objections about switching to a free-from lens is to offer to change the material-but keep the free-form design.

“I will move them down to a material that’s not going to be as thin, but it’s going to provide them with the best visual acuity,” Benson-Gibson says. “So rather than taking them out of a free-form lens, I’m putting them into a standard. I’ll tell them that we can move them into a lens that’s not as expensive but they’ll get the benefit of the design.”

For doctors who are uncomfortable about making sales pitches, “handing off” the patient to a staff specialist designated to discuss digital designs is another option.

Telling a patient that digital technology enhances vision is a strategy that HOYA Vision Care, North America uses.

“I see patients light up when they hear edge-to-edge clarity and digitally enhanced design,” asserts Greg Hicks, director of professional affairs for HOYA and a practicing optometrist. “Comments like ‘My personal experience has been’ or ‘My experience has been that patients tell me they simply see better with a digitally enhanced lens’ work well.”

Hicks emphasizes that the entire lens will be personalized and customized for the patient’s needs, unlike stock lenses.

Understanding your patient’s personality is key. Hicks skillfully probes to uncover hidden motivations. For example, patients who always want the best of everything are likely to be prospects for free-form lenses. Other patients who tried free-form lenses years ago and were unimpressed need to be reminded that digital lenses have improved and can accommodate several personalized designs.

Patients who complain about things swimming in their periphery are also ideal candidates.

“I’ll say ‘patients tell me that these free-form designs minimize these feelings’,” Hicks explains. “We can design a lens with digital enhancement, so that the sweet spot of their lens will be bigger.”

ECPs can go to the HOYA apps store to get an iPad app called the HVC Viewer to support their presentations.

ECPs can try to ignite a conversation about free-form lenses. “There are a couple of things that consumers will recognize right off the bat, such as that new technology and customized products are likely to work better,” says Jeff Hopkins, senior manager of professional affairs at Carl Zeiss Vision, Inc. “They also understand that they’re going to cost more.”

ECPs can tell patients that with a normal standard progressive lens, the lab will take something off the shelf that is closest to what the prescription calls for. With a customized lens, it will be exactly what the patient needs.

Hopkins breaks down the cost between a standard and a free-form lens to show that the difference in price is actually very small. “I’ve heard ECPs ask patients: ‘how much did that outfit cost that you’re wearing? Lenses are meant to be taken for granted because you’re supposed to see perfectly through them. You have to remind people that this is something they’re relying on every day.”

An optician confided to Hopkins that he will actually order a customized lens for a patient, even after the patient complained about the price, and then sell it to him at the same price as the standard lens. “This optician is investing in the future,” Hopkins explains. “He’s confident that once the patient has the experience of the customized lens, he will pay extra money from then on.”

Zeiss offers marketing aids for ECPs, such as a viewing card with standard and customized lenses, and an iDemo app that explains different lens options with a star rating system.

Presenting free-form lenses is really about showing a genuine interest in your patients’ vision, explaining features and benefits in clear simple language, and reassuring them about the high rate of return on their investment. That’s a sale every ECP can make.

Robert Lerose is a freelance content provider and marketing copywriter in New York.

Carl Zeiss Vision Inc.
800-358-8258 •
Expert Optics Inc.
800-892-0097 •
HOYA Vision Care, North America
877-528-1939 •
Luzerne Optical Laboratories, Ltd.
800-233-9637 •
Nikon Optical USA, Inc.
877-767-8033 •
Seiko Optical Products of America, Inc.
800-235-5367 •
Shamir Insight, Inc.
877-514-8330 •



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