Sales plan can guide you toward successful practice

December 1, 2009

The need for directional assistance is a necessity for practitioners in 'driving' their practices.

If you were planning a driving trip from New Jersey to California, would you use a road map? Directional assistance is almost always necessary, especially when one is driving for long distances. The need for directional assistance-of a different sort, of course-is also a necessity for practitioners in 'driving' their practices. Unfortunately, some optometrists don't see the need for this.

To avoid dead ends, getting lost, or never reaching your destination, you need a sales plan to help guide your efforts, explained Corinne McCormack, president of Corinne McCormack Inc., a New York City-based designer of eyewear and eyewear accessories, and a division of FGX International, an optical wholesaler.

Before establishing her company, McCormack served as a retail buyer of women's accessories for Macy's. She said there were many tips, tricks, and techniques she learned at Macy's that have since helped her manage her current business and work successfully with retailers of all sizes.

Clarity of vision

At the top of a practice's to-do list should be creating a mission statement and measurable goals that identifies what type of practice it is, what it represents, and what it hopes to achieve. Mission statements need to be specific, said McCormack.

For example, one practice's mission may be: "To provide superior eye care and eye-care products appealing to youth minded adults in an upper class Chicago suburb. Our fashion products will be moderately priced and appeal to customers who want to look good but not trendy."

This mission statement is a perfect example of what clear communications can do for patients. "You get a sense right away of what the store wants, who it is, where it's located, and what it wants to be," McCormack said, adding that everything the practice or staff does must reflect that statement.

Conducting research can also help boost your bottom line, continued McCormack. Find out what the latest market trends are, what your practice's sales for the past year or two have been, and keep track of industry changes and vendor information.

By using hard data in the planning process, your practice will be more apt to hit its target, she said. For example, consider a practice that starts selling reading glasses because the demographics of its community show more baby boomers are moving into the area. Or maybe market trends clearly point to increased sales of protective eyewear for children engaged in sports. After researching local population statistics, you learn that the number of children in your practice community is steadily rising. Both of these scenarios could represent golden sales opportunities.

Maximize inventory

After establishing sales goals for your practice, evaluate inventory. Do you have enough stock to achieve your goals? Usually, the ratio is three to one-that's three times the amount of inventory than you plan on selling on a monthly basis, McCormack explained.

Inventory is not only established by sales, however, but by presentation. You may need $4,000 worth of frames, but there's enough space on the wall to display $8,000 worth of frames. Don't build half a display. Either decide to increase inventory or don't go forward with that business.

"Think about it from the consumer's perspective," she said. "What will the display look like if the wall is half empty? If optometrists want less stock, they're ultimately going to lose sales. Customers who don't see selection will walk out and go to another store that offers more product to choose from."

Every product classification needs its own sales and inventory plan. Ideally, you should track them monthly and adjust future sales or stock based on performance, advised McCormack. If sales aren't increasing despite your efforts, it may be time to cut your losses and move your money into another product line. In these cases, developing an exit strategy is also necessary and may include special deals like markdowns or two-for-one offers.

Even if you do all of these things correctly, sales can still drop if you don't understand how to re-order products, said McCormack. Consider how many units you sell each week and how much inventory you have on hand. To avoid missed sales opportunities, do the math. Re-order on time so your inventory never runs down or out.

The basic idea, McCormack said, is to envision your business as a retailer, one that is similar to a supermarket. To cater to consumer needs, supermarkets place all dairy products in the same area. Likewise, cleaning products are located in the same aisle. Shelves are rarely, if ever, empty. Sell your products using the same concept, which is reinforced by a sales plan.

"Optometrists who want to be successful and increase their business will develop a sales plan," McCormack concluded, adding that even small practices can benefit from a well-defined plan. "It doesn't matter if you're traveling 1 mile down the street or 300 miles away. If you don't know how to get here, you'll be driving in circles."