GAME CHANGER: HOW EFFECTIVE TRAINING CAN TRANSFORM SALES

By Julie Bos
A continual onslaught of newly released lenses, coatings and services can mean “information overload” for internal lab sales teams. Not only must your sales consultants stay up-to-date on the myriad of products unveiled every year, they need to understand each product or service well enough to train the ultimate decision-makers, the ECPs themselves. It can be an overwhelming, yet critical, proposition.

How Can Your Sales Team Survive?

We’ve asked several leading optical laboratories to share their secrets for training success. Consider these strategies to augment your own, and prepare to take your sales to a new level.

Optical Prescription Lab

Brian Conley, marketing director for Optical Prescription Lab (OPL) — the current Transitions Lab of the Year title-holder — shares his company’s winning approach to sales training.

• Training Process Overview: Once the lab receives a product the process begins. The lab conducts bi-weekly meetings with owners and managers, who then cascade the information to customer service via monthly meetings, online trainings (if available) and the distribution of literature. The team follows up with a Q&A session to make sure there are no gaps in the learning process. And if questions arise that managers can’t answer, the questions are posted on a white board in the conference room until we get an answer from the outside sales rep. Once this process is complete, the internal team can begin training our ECPs.

• Manufacturer Resources: Typically, OPL uses any and all incentive programs offered by Shamir and Essilor. To support the rollout of digital processing earlier this year, Shamir has held trainings to ensure that ECPs have a clear understanding of Shamir lenses — and what they mean to them in the marketplace. Crizal Advance UV — and the medical benefits of this product — has been another major focus for OPL this year. Finally, the lab takes advantage of the Transitions Healthy Sight Campaign, which offers training specifically designed for the ECP.

• Internal Promotions and Contests: OPL also offers internal promotions and contests that change monthly. For example, to support the May 1st rollout of Transitions Vantage, OPL created an internal contest designed to promote product awareness. The lab regularly encourages ECPs to visit www.opticalprescriptionlab.com for information on its latest promotions. Finally, OPL also uses social networking sites to engage ECPs and increase the fun factor. For example, OPL posts questions about new products on Facebook and Twitter, and ECPs who answer correctly win prizes like gift cards, sporting event tickets, and lab credits.

• “Since social media is available 24/7, it keeps the ECP and employees engaged at their convenience,” said Conley. “Using social media has been a huge success for us and has even brought us new business from other ECPs around the U.S.” Pech Optical

For Pech Optical, sales training varies somewhat, based on the individual and his/her experience and existing knowledge.

• For new sales reps (who need to learn everything), Pech provides training that’s more comprehensive and in-depth. They are given a complete set of printed literature on all the current products. Next, they work hands-on in the customer service area, handling everyday calls and learning from them. Finally, they spend two to three weeks on the lab floor, where they can observe the manufacturing process and learn how the lens/coating equipment works.

• For existing reps (and new reps who have finished initial training), Pech offers monthly conference calls to pass along information on new products and access to online training that’s typically provided by manufacturers. Of course, the lab sends reps to all the national events and industry conferences, which only boosts their knowledge. The sales teams turn around and train the ECPs through on-site visits and lunch-n-learn events.

• Two company educators are also on hand to conduct three product-related webinars each month. Plus they are available for sales consultants who need additional (or in-the-field) training. These educators provide an additional layer of knowledge — and can also assist with lunch-n-learn events and specific ECP meetings.

“The number one education method for our reps is our monthly conference call,” said LuAnne Mosier, vice president of sales, marketing and education. “These are extremely effective because reps can ask specific product-related questions and gain practical advice from other reps, if needed. These calls have proven to be a great success.”

Singer Optical

“We work hard to keep our team of sales reps and customer service staff up-to-date on new products in the marketplace,” said Scott Brown, sales rep for Ohio and eastern Kentucky. “We believe in utilizing the knowledge and resources provided by the manufacturer reps to formulate a clear, accurate message to convey to ECPs. We find this to be an effective method of educating the ECP since misinformation breeds confusion and uncertainty when recommending products to the consumer, which in turn results in unrealized sales potential of a product.”

Soderberg Ophthalmic Services

According to Craig Giles, vice president and general manager, Soderberg utilizes a five-pronged training strategy, including:

• Franklin Covey’s Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) – At the corporate level, this overarching program helps Soderberg focus on four critical disciplines: (1) Focus on Wildly Important Goals (WIGs), (2) Create a compelling scoreboard, (3) Act on lead measures, and (4) Create a cadence of accountability. According to Giles, Soderberg’s training efforts align closely with this approach. Once training goals (WIGs) are set, they’re filtered down the line — from the VPs/GMs to regional managers, then account managers and finally to the branch managers to execute. These WIGs include specifics on how to train ECPs on premium lens products, and how often that training should occur.

• Manufacturer Programs – Once the training goals are set, Soderberg takes advantage of existing resources available from lens manufacturer partners like Essilor, Shamir and Transitions. Manufacturer trainers come in and spend time educating Soderberg account managers and customer service people. We do that through meetings (national yearly meetings, mid-year meetings and quarterly meetings).

• Global Buying Group Resources – For Soderberg, another layer of resources comes from the lab’s association with Global Buying Group, which provides access to programs like the award-winning Jump Start DVD training series.

• Walman Sales Process – Finally, sales teams spread their product knowledge to ECPs by using internal training programs available through Soderberg’s parent company, Walman. These include lunch-n-learn events, conference calls and webinars that are specific to new products.

• Soderberg Training Programs – The lab also creates its own one-day ECP education seminars, which focus on practice-building ideas. Plus, Soderberg partners with the consulting company Williams Group to deliver an ECP-focused training program called “Bridge to Success.” In addition, the lab offers multiple educational resources on its Web site www.soseyes.com and is now jumping on the YouTube craze, offering internal- and external-facing training videos there.

“With so many new products coming out so frequently, labs really need a strategic focus on regular training, whether it’s on the phone, in person or via the internet,” said Giles. “Sales teams need to be continually informed about what’s happening in the marketplace, and how they can turn around and deliver that same information to ECP customers.”

For Soderberg, these efforts have been paying off. Back in 2007, the lab’s laser focus on training — and 560 education lunch-n-learn events in just six months — helped the lab earn the title of Transitions Lab of the Year. And during the past three years, thanks to its focus on digital lens training, Soderberg has seen digital lens sales explode far beyond normal growth.

TAKE YOUR TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL: TAP INTO THESE RESOURCES

Essilor USA

Essilor offers a variety of resources to help your internal sales teams gain the knowledge they need. The company’s lineup includes extensive training on:

• Essilor products (e.g., Varilux, Crizal and Optifog)

• Collaboration with customers, customer service departments and lab operations teams

• Specific “soft skills” (e.g., communicating, listening and assisting accounts)

• Extensive consultative approach (e.g., helping ­accounts with go-to-market strategies, such as helping with managed care profitability, business plans, long-term growth targets and marketing)

• Managed care profitability

• Essilor sales training is done through a variety of mechanisms, including webinars, phone training, in-person meetings, APEX lab customer service training and ECP University. Essilor also offers a Road to Excellence (R2E) program for all new sales hires and continuous training through an individually assigned mentor, called an R2E expert.

HOYA Vision Care

The HOYA Technology Institute is the starting point for training HOYA lab sales, brand and authorized distributor sales representatives. It offers one week of training classes on HOYA products and technologies along with a practical application of HOYA’s selling model—all focused on working with independent ECP customers and potential customers. From there, a customized training curriculum is assigned to each rep utilizing a number of resources, including:

• Hoyanet – A company intranet with a diverse library of training materials on optics, the industry, customer service, selling and product modules.

• i x am – A monthly training and education program that focuses on a specific product, program or initiative. A study guide is distributed for each month’s focus followed by an online test.

• Get Schooled – An ABO national exam preparation course that is available to reps and customers who wish to pursue national certification with ABO and NCLE.

• Virtual Classrooms – Periodic live and recorded webinars covering new product, programs and initiatives.

• Regional and National Classrooms – Annual and semi-annual sales meetings that provide ongoing sales and product training for HOYA lab and brand reps, as well as authorized distributor labs. OpticianWorks.com

OpticianWorks provides FREE, high-quality, online training for opticianry students, the ABO exam, non-licensed optical dispensers, support staff in eye care practices and optical laboratory personnel. This training site provides supplemental resources for optician students enrolled in formal optician education programs through community college AAS degree programs or DOL apprenticeship programs. It combines all the resources currently offered in the college programs with the added advantage of updated material in the form of how-to videos, textbook and tests. More importantly it is designed to provide a complete course of optician study for those working in states (and sometimes other countries) that DO NOT require license or any form of optician education. In addition to those two primary functions it can provide an excellent training program for support staff within a doctor’s practice and can act as a resource for optical laboratories looking to offer training to their client’s office staff at no cost.

Contributors to OpticianWorks include opticians, doctors and contact lens specialists with years of experience in real work settings. They provide a complete program designed to introduce trainees to everything the optician or dispensing eye care professional needs to know.

Topics:

OpticianWorks includes a complete online textbook where they have fourteen lessons covering the following:

1. Why People Wear Glasses and Contacts 2. How Lenses Can Correct Vision 3. Lens Design and Lens Materials 4. Interpretation Of Written Prescription 5. All About Frames 6. Adjustments and Dispensing 7. Taking Measurements 8. Lens Treatments 9. Ordering Frames and Lab Work 10. Lensometer and Verification 11. Repairs 12. Safety and Specialty Eyewear 13. Finishing & Surfacing 14. Anatomy

Cost: Membership to OpticianWorks is 100 percent FREE. Membership provides access to the entire site including the online review tests. In order to become a member, you must provide a valid e-mail address and agree to receive e-mails from the site. Opting out of the e-mail will cancel your access to the free education. Go to www.OpticianWorks.com for more information and to sign up.

Signet Armorlite

Signet Armorlite has a team of wholesale managers dedicated to providing support to wholesale labs across the country. They provide face-to-face training on KODAK progressive lens products and ideas to help stimulate lab growth. They offer sales collateral to promote the lab and processing of KODAK Lenses, as well as ECP point-of-sale displays, brochures, posters and other tools that can be distributed to ECPs at no-cost.

Signet Armorlite’s KODAK lens brand sales consultants are also available to travel with lab sales representatives to help establish and grow relationships with ECPs. They can provide information on managed care and training for ECP staff, including ABO seminars focused on selling techniques and skills, lens technology and building customer satisfaction. For more information, please contact your local Signet Armorlite representative at (800) 759-4630.

Transitions Optical

Transitions Optical puts on one of the optical industry’s leading educational forums — Transitions Academy — that began in 1996 and has grown to attract more than 1,300 industry professionals from North and South America. During the event, labs have the opportunity to learn about the latest advancements in photochromic technology and share best practices about business and sales growth. They often get a chance to participate in hands-on experiments and ask questions to members of the Transitions Optical research and development team. At Transitions Academy, labs are also informed about any new marketing tools and resources available for ECPs. Plus, Transitions Academy offers attendees non-industry courses that focus on professional and personal growth, such as the Four Disciplines of Execution by FranklinCovey.

Transitions Optical places a big emphasis on education and encourages the same from its lab partners. To thank and recognize those labs that have gone above and beyond to educate their staff and customers, Transitions Optical honors a Transitions Lab of the Year each year during Transitions Academy. This year, Optical Prescription Lab was honored as the 21st Lab of the Year. All Lab of the Year winners are inducted into the Heritage Lab Ambassador’s Club, where they have the opportunity to work closely with Transitions Optical receive exclusive marketing and educational support.

Throughout the year, Transitions Optical continues to offer a wide range of complimentary education and staff training to help labs grow their businesses with Transitions lens products. Transitions Optical’s professional trade portal — Transitions.com/PRO — offers a wide range of staff courses, ranging from clinical research and white papers to accredited education and presentations. Labs can also work closely with their Transitions Optical representative to offer customized seminars and training programs for their staff.

CURRENT ISSUE


Labtalk May/June 2018