Consultative selling is needs-focused, much like personal training, which should translate directly into what we do as eyecare professionals.

I recently joined a gym. I overheard a patient at our practice talking about a new personal training gym, and before I knew it, I had signed up for a week-long trial period. The gym isn’t fancy, but the one-on-one personal training I receive has yielded results. My trainer is there to tell me to slow down in my reps, pushes me harder than I would push on my own and has helped me change my personal eating habits. As a result, I signed up for full membership.

Until my patient came in, I didn’t even know personal training gyms were an option. Fast forward to walking through the door, and now they have a life-long member. Personal training is in and of itself needs-focused, which should translate directly into what we do as eyecare professionals through consultative selling.

Consultative selling isn’t complicated. It can start as simply as asking, “What do you do for a living?” The key is dialogue, which should begin the moment a patient sets foot through the front door of your practice. If an optician or salesperson talks at a patient rather than to a patient and seeks to sell expensive add-ons regardless of what the patient needs, their priorities may be slightly misguided and they may come off as “pushy.” Though the patient walks out with all the bells and whistles, they may feel as though they’ve been taken for a ride. This would be the equivalent of prescribing a bodybuilding regimen to someone who was just looking to lose a little weight. If the approach is adjusted to instead focus on what the patient needs, the patient will still walk out the door, maybe without all the bells and whistles, but they will be likely to return feeling confident that someone took the time to inquire and educate rather than simply sell.

At Optix Family Eyecare, the dialogue is crafted through careful observation and role playing. We use metrics to identify areas of improvement for everyone and tailor our role-playing scenarios based on the individual. Do you know who is continuously hitting it out of the park with their lens sales? Do you know who needs a little help with their pitch for AR coating or blue light lenses? If you do, what are you doing with that information? What steps are you taking to train your staff to ask the right questions and educate accordingly.


Ask questions. It can be as simple as asking “What do you do for a living?” If this is on a patient-intake form, you might consider simply asking about their work environment and daily routine.
Sometimes our job can be so routine that we tune out and just go through the motions. Listen to what your patient is saying. This will help to build a trusting relationship.
If your patient tells you they spend five to seven hours on a computer every single day, explain what is available to reduce the strain on their eyes.
Explain the effect their current environment may be having on their eyes.
Let the patient know you’re there if they have any questions. They should feel free to call or come in any time. Remind them that technology is always changing and for every problem there is usually a solution. Don’t forget, you’re the eyecare expert. If other patients hear what you are saying, it might lead to new conversations and more satisfied customers who will walk out with what they really need.

There’s a difference between telling patients they should get lenses that protect their eyes from blue light and explaining to them what blue light is, where they encounter it on a daily basis and what the effects of long-term exposure are. Without overwhelming the patient, a simple way to begin this dialogue would be to ask what their daily routine consists of, how many hours a day they spend on the computer or cellphone and what their work environment is like. Just like my personal trainer, who asked me about my daily diet and exercise routines so that he could help me adjust both of those aspects to achieve a personal goal, finding out about your patients will build a relationship based on trust. If the patient feels cared about, they’re likely to listen to what you have to say and value your opinions and recommendations. When (not if) the patient returns the following year, they’ll be likely to tell you how their lenses worked out for them, which opens the door for further dialogue about new technology, innovations and further education.

Consultative selling isn’t something that needs to stop just because your office hours have ended. It isn’t limited to the four walls of your practice. Last time I flew to Florida, the young woman sitting on the plane next to me was reading on her iPad. Before the safety briefing had ended, I not only knew what she was reading, but I also had her looking up an article about blue light after showing her my own glasses and telling her how they help me in my day-to-day life.

Similarly, a few weeks ago I set up shop in a diner to get some work done when I noticed the waitress putting drops in her eyes. After a cursory conversation about dry eye she began to understand that there may be a way to treat this chronic inconvenience. As the conversation continued and she learned that we have a Dry Eye Clinic at Optix Family Eyecar she was in to see a specialist the very next week.

When the opportunity to educate someone presents itself, the goal is not necessarily to sell something. After all, what do I have to sell from an airplane seat or over a diner cup of coffee? The goal is to get them thinking “where can I get that?” or “I didn’t know that was treatable” or “I wonder if my doctor has that.” If they choose to make an appointment for themselves, their spouse, their children or their grandchildren, even better. Now they’re in your practice, and you have clinics, specialists and products readily available, but they’d never have come in if it weren’t for consultative selling.

Evan Kestenbaum, MBA, is chief operating officer of GPN Technologies, providers of EDGEPro eyecare industry analysis software and co-owner and business manager of Optix Family Eyecare in Plainview, NY.


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