Let’s talk about an elephant in the room. Some practices are incredibly effective at selling annual supplies of contact lenses, and some practices are not. Just like daily disposables, low sales numbers are blamed on “the demographics of my practice.”
Let’s talk about an elephant in the room. Some practices are incredibly effective at selling annual supplies of contact lenses, and some practices are not. Just like daily disposables, low sales numbers are blamed on “the demographics of my practice.” There are certainly times when the patient just can’t afford to buy all of their contacts lenses at once, but perhaps we could be more convincing.
But selling is nothing more than conveying the value of something to someone. It’s no different than trying to convince someone where to go for dinner, for example. The key is being passionate and believing that what you want for them has value-and then, of course, being able to effectively communicate that value.
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Here are seven techniques we use to close the sale.
This starts with initial phone call with the patient.
However, in order to be convincing, your staff must truly believe that buying an annual supply is the best option. Do this by asking your staff to write out all the benefits, both to the patient and the practice.
Begin with why contact lens patients get eye exams. Then there are the patients who typically don’t call for an appointment until they are on their last pair of contact lenses. Even before then, once they realize they are running low, they may be tempted to overextend the life of the lenses. So, if your patient decides to buy a three- or six-month supply, this process can happen more than once. This means that his annual exam could end up being delayed by months. For some, this may not have severe consequences, but for others it may compromise their outcome due to delayed diagnosis. This is in addition to the risk they take in abusing the lenses. The reality is that patients are more likely to change their lenses regularly when they have a handy supply from the beginning. Talk through examples of patients who have experienced complications due to overwear of their lenses.
Of course, the patient also sacrifices significant savings when she forgoes the annual supply. This forfeiture may include a reduced price per box, free shipping, and other perks, in addition to her rebate. An annual supply purchase also adds convenience for the patient, eliminating her need to remember to reorder or return for a pick up.
We know that having to process multiple orders per year means increased administration time in placing the orders, checking them in, and calling the patients, but it also creates more opportunity for order errors. Furthermore, it reduces practice profit margin due to decreased exam frequency and increased cost. And by allowing the patient time to shop around for the cheapest price, we could potentially lose the sale altogether.
Getting back to the phone call, your staff member should set the stage by telling the patient what to expect. “You will have your exam and contact lens fitting on the day of your appointment. You may also need a follow-up visit, but once the prescription is finalized, we will order your annual supply.” This message should be reiterated in the office. Be sure to record when the patient had his last exam. If he was overdue and resists buying an annual supply, discuss that as well as the risks involved.
Next: Step 2
After printing the contact lens prescription, make it official with a red stamp that reads, “Approved for Annual Supply.” This reiterates the message to the patient with added emphasis that he should purchase an annual supply sooner rather than later.
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When you tell the patient she is “approved for an annual supply,” celebrate. Help the patient understand that not all prescriptions and eyes are as stable as hers, and that this is a great privilege. Now, she can take advantage of all the savings associated with an annual supply. You don’t need to go overboard, but try to seem genuinely happy for her.
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This one is sometimes tough but quite effective. When walking the patient to the front desk for the handoff, announce that he is approved for an annual supply. But instead of walking away, wait 10 seconds to hear the patient’s response. Patients are often more accountable to the doctor and may be more hesitant to deny the doctor’s recommendation face to face. Furthermore, if he does object, you are likely better suited to diffuse the objection.
Next: Step 5
Have simple tools accessible to demonstrate the annual supply cost for the patient, especially when insurance is involved. When you fumble around for the numbers, not only does the patient lose confidence in you, it gives her time to second-guess her purchase. You should be so prepared that your only question is, “How would you like to pay for that?” If possible, enter the sale at full price and apply an annual supply package discount to the total. At the end of the transaction, be sure to write on the receipt, “You saved $________.” Sometimes that’s more important to the patient than the amount paid!
Many prefer to present contact lenses as an annual supply, but you have to take it one step further. Resist ever discussing a box price with the patient, even when asked. If he pushes you for a box price, tell him the price per box after all rebates and discounts. This is how most online dealers quote their box prices, yet when a patient asks us, we typically quote the highest price we have and then mention the rebates afterwards. Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage against your competition; instead speak their language.
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If your expectation is that patients will buy an annual supply of lenses, then follow through. Always quote the discounted annual supply price. Now it’s time to get the calculator out and ask the patient: “You don’t want your full supply? That will change the price; let me see how much it will be now. You will no longer get to use the rebate, receive the discounted price per box, or the free shipping because you’re buying only a portion of your lenses.” This is usually effective in changing the patient’s perception because she already had her mind set on a cheaper price and now it’s been taken away.
The bottom line to selling an annual supply is that you have to truly believe in the value and benefit to the patient. This will raise the confidence of the one presenting the annual supply, and thereby increase patient buy in. Once that conviction takes place, your annual supply numbers will soar!
Next: More tips
• Have staff members wear two different colors of lenses. It reminds patients about contact lens wear in general (including the fashion potential) and also sets a fun undertone for the office.
• When presenting an annual supply, create value by highlighting a positive and eliminating a negative. For example, a staff member could say: “By purchasing your annual supply, you’ll receive the highest value rebate on the market, and you won’t have to worry about coming in for more contacts until this time next year.”
• If you stock contact lenses, have the annual supply bagged and ready for the patient at check out after his exam or follow up.
• If you don’t stock them, but are nearly certain of the final prescription, order the annual supply so it will be ready at the follow up visit (but leave the boxes unmarked).
• Add a color lens trial (or brochure) to the bag. This could lead to an additional sale later in the year.
• When shipping the annual supply, ask if you can send it to the patient’s workplace. It’s an opportunity for interoffice interest and referrals.
• Never assume a patient will not buy an annual supply, or allow your presentation to differ according to the patient. It demonstrates a lack of conviction and belief. Every patient deserves the added value and convenience.
• Add six months, interest-free, before payment is due, by offering Care Credit to patients with financial obstacles. The small increase in your service fee (verses a typical credit card fee) is likely much less than the cost of multiple orders, a delay in the annual exam, or a lost sale.