Putting Your Best Foot Forward

By Julie Bos
Few people have just one pair of shoes. And for good reason: You can’t wear golf shoes to the beach; running shoes don’t work at weddings; and sandals are the worst choice for the jogging track.

Same goes for eyeglasses. Different frames and lenses work for different occasions. Showing your ECP accounts how they can recommend the right pair at the right time can increase those lucrative second-pair sales.

Second-pair sales give patients the opportunity to create a new look, own a spare pair; enjoy better vision outdoors and more. Plus, helping your ECP accounts implement multiple-pair dispensing can greatly increase their per-patient revenue. What’s good for the doctor is good for the lab.

As you work to help your clients capture these sales, it’s helpful to know which products to suggest—and when. We’ve assembled four of the top specialty lens products, along with tips on how your customers can get more sales traction from each.

Polarized Lenses

Overview

According to statistics from the Vision Council of America (Q4 2007), the sales of polarized lenses are up—now representing 6.4 percent of all the lenses sold in the U.S. This figure has increased about 14 percent over the last two years—growing amidst a flat market and demonstrating its real value to the market.

“These figures mean that not only is this niche growing, but that opportunities for polarized sales are still plentiful,” explained Chris Bailey, marketing manager for KBco.

Even though polarized sales are up, however, there’s still work to be done for independent labs like yours.

“In the retail space, polarized lens sales represent between 7 percent and 10 percent of sales, depending on the retailer,” adds Bailey. “Yet for independent labs, that figure normally hovers at around 3 percent, so there is still plenty of room to grow this niche.”

Top Tips for Increasing Sales

If you’d like to grow your lab’s percentage of polarized sales, consider the following tips:

Tip #1: Encourage ECPs to Stop Offering Tints

When patients come in for their new lenses, some decide to turn their old pair into sunglasses by simply having them tinted. This option, however, offers no long-term benefit—for either the patient or the ECPs practice. Tints are simply not an effective solution, since they only cut light transmission, not glare. Encourage ECPs to use this situation as a sales opportunity instead—and a great reason to discuss the advantages of polarized lenses.

Tip #2: Remind ECPs to Not Prejudge Patients

We all know ECPs have heard this before, but it’s high time they took this advice to heart. Every patient who spends time outdoors is a candidate for polarized lenses. Thus, these lenses should be discussed with every single patient—period. By doing so, they’ll greatly increase their odds of a sale (after all, you can’t make a sale if you don’t ask).

Tip #3: Push the Packages

Many dispensaries find great success by packaging polarized lenses with another sale. This often includes attractive discounts that tempt even the most frugal customers. Some examples could include the following:

• When a patient buys a new standard lens, offer a polarized lens at 50 percent off at the same time.

• Or let them consider this offer for several weeks, for additional flexibility.

• Consider offering that same deal to anyone in the patient’s immediate circle of influence (friends and family) within the first 30 days.

The important thing is getting the sale—and securing what may become a customer for life.

Near-Variable-Focus Lenses

Overview

According to Jon Torrey, vice president of computer vision at Essilor of America and member of the Vision Protection Committee, there are two important reasons your lab should be focusing on near-variable-focus (NVF) lenses: One is the aging of the population and the second is the increasing amount of time spent on intermediate- and near-distance activities.

“More and more of the baby-boomers are moving into presbyopia, and that—coupled with the fact that we’re all spending more and more time looking at intermediate and near distances—adds up to a huge need for this type of lens,” he said.

“Between computers, reading, hobbies and household projects, most people today spend over half their waking hours looking at intermediate and near distances—distances from 16 to 48 inches away,” he added. “However, the two primary lenses used by presbyopes—flat-top bifocals and progressives—are not great for intermediate distances. That means we’ve got a huge unmet need that can be met with near-variable-focus lenses.”

Top Tips for Increasing Sales

Considering the growing need for NVF lenses, your lab stands to benefit greatly by focusing on this niche. But where do you begin? Consider these tips:

Tip #1: Increase Your Product Expertise Despite the fact that these lenses have been around for nearly 15 years, many labs still struggle with ordering and producing them accurately. This dilemma has often led to production errors, frustration from the ECP, and ultimately, a reduced willingness to order these lenses for customers. To break this negative cycle, get aggressive with your technical education. Plan an education session in your office for your technical people and sales reps from your favorite lens suppliers. Become an expert at ordering, fitting and producing NVF lenses—and getting the prescriptions right the first time.

“We’re not talking rocket science; it’s really basic stuff,” said Torrey. “By demonstrating that you know what you’re doing, you’ll ease the minds of your ECPs and they’ll be able to trust you to get it right.”

Tip #2: Outfit Your Key People

Another great strategy is to get NVF lenses on presbyopes in your lab—including sales people, technical folks and customer service representatives. If your staff members are excited about these lenses, they’ll have more experience with them, be more likely to talk about them, and better able to spread the word and speak from firsthand knowledge.

Tip #3: Emphasize Packaging and Promotions

As with most lens products, package promotions and special offers always work well. Ask your accounts to offer NVF lenses for a month. Or offer 50 percent off for every pair of NVF lenses purchased with a standard pair of progressive lenses.

Tip #4: Remind ECPs to Write Those Prescriptions

Another great strategy is to urge doctors to write out a physical prescription for every patient. Unlike a simple verbal recommendation, a written prescription helps ECPs stress the importance of the lens—and emphasizes their value for patients.

Industrial Safety Lenses

Overview


Twenty years ago, safety directors for industrial companies had trouble getting workers to wear their safety glasses. Why? The eyewear may have been functional, but it was far from fashionable—and that made safety compliance a real issue.

Fortunately, times have changed—and so have the glasses. They still protect eyes with shatterproof polycarbonate lenses and are engineered to perform to ANSI specifications, but today, they’re more attractive than ever.

“As the industry matured, we all began to realize that when you made nice-looking safety frames, people were much more likely to wear them,” said Mike Franz, senior product manager for Sperian Protection and member of the Vision Protection Committee. “Safety directors loved it, too, because it made their safety compliance issues disappear. Better yet, the rate of eye injuries dropped significantly.”

Top Tips for Increasing Sales

Tip #1: Encourage ECPs to Display Safety Frames

Some doctors don’t display safety frames because they fear they’ll compete with their dresswear. But to Franz’ thinking, that’s exactly why you should display them. If they’re as fashionable as normal dresswear, they can command the going rate for dresswear—and the safety lenses simply become an added benefit and value. When your industrial customers come in for their safety lenses, ECPs can simply pass on the appropriate discount.

Tip #2: Use the Lifestyle Questionnaire to Uncover Hidden Needs

By asking about patients’ lives, hobbies and outside interests, ECPs can uncover valuable clues about their lifestyle—and may uncover the need for safety glasses. For example, some people choose safety frames for their sunglass lenses—especially if they spend a lot of time outdoors doing potentially dangerous yard work (e.g., trimming trees/hedges).

Sports-Safety Lenses

Overview

Let’s face it. Our country is sports crazy—and that definitely applies to our youth. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 50 percent of all children are involved in organized sports. That means a high incidence of sports-related injuries, and an important reason to promote sports-safety lenses. Any sport that’s considered high risk (e.g., baseball, basketball, soccer, football) requires sports-protective eyewear. In fact, the state of New Jersey has outlawed the use of street eyewear on the playing fields of some of these sports—mandating the use of sports-protective eyewear instead.

“Conversations with ocular trauma surgeons reveal that sports participants using streetwear (corrective eyewear or sunwear that doesn’t conform to ASTM standard F803) are at a far more severe risk of eye injury than participants using no eye protection at all,” said Paul Berman, chairman of the coalition to prevent sports eye injuries. “It’s important to alert patients to these dangers and how to avoid them with the proper protective eyewear.”

Top Tips for Increasing Sales

To boost sales in this valuable niche, Berman recommends several great strategies Tip #1: Follow the Three “I’s”

• Inquire–Use a lifestyle questionnaire—or just plain conversation—to ask your patients if they play sports.

• Inform–Communicate the risk of eye injuries during sports by sharing the statistics (see Tip #2).

• Introduce–Take the time to introduce sports-safety lenses to your patients. Consider creating a sports-eye-injury-prevention center in your office or dispensary, where you take the patient to show the types of eyewear that meet ASTM standards.

Cultivating Multiple-Pair Sales

• Identify patient needs

• Visual requirements

• Lifestyle considerations

• Fashion interests

• Present customized solutions

• Consider a top-down presentation approach (offering the best eyewear options first)

Tip #2: Know the Hard Facts

• More than 600,000 eye injuries related to sports and recreation occur each year.1 42,000 of these injuries are of a severity that requires emergency-room attention.2

• More than 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented with the use of appropriate protective eyewear.3

• Every 13 minutes a person in the U.S. goes to the emergency room for a sports-related eye injury.

• Eye injuries during sports are the leading cause of vision loss in one eye and the second-leading cause in two eyes.

• Persons with only one good eye who have amblyopia are 150 times more likely to go blind in their good eye—half of the time due to trauma. If any of these patients play sports, their need for sports-eyewear protection is critical.

You may even choose to create a patient hand-out that highlights the importance of these lenses. For more facts related to sports-related eye injuries, go to www.sportseyeinjuries.com.

1 Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program, Eyes (Ears) and Workers Compensation.

2 US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Sports and Recreational Eye Injuries. Washington, DC: US Consumer Product Safety Commission; 2000.

3 Prevent Blindness America

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May/June LabTalk 2017