The Mystery of the Missing Second Pair – Is Business Really Bad or Are Your Accounts Just Really Bad at Business?

By Mike DiSanto
Yes we have all heard the bad news about a soft economy, and while that certainly has a negative effect on the bottom line it pales in comparison to the simple fact that as an industry we let a huge percentage of our business walk out the door everyday. Ask any practitioner to share their mission statement and they will tell you that their purpose is to provide the highest quality optics while providing the very best vision care. I don’t doubt that they have all the best intentions, but that mission is hard to reconcile with the actual numbers that the average practice generates.

• After 50 years on the market only about 52 percent of presbyopes get progressive lenses.

• In a market with over 50 percent high index lenses, only 25 percent of all lenses are Anti Reflective.

• Despite the best photochromic performance ever, only 15 percent of all lenses are photochromic.

• On second pairs, only about 20 percent of all patients purchase more than one pair at a time.

Eighty percent of the eyeglass wearing population come and go through their practitioners’ office once every 2.5 years with a mere single pair purchase. Certainly no single pair sale can boast the accomplishment of the total vision care mission. After all, the mission does not qualify its goal with the phrase, “As long as the patient lives their entire life indoors.” At the very least, sunglass sales need to be increased.

There is a lot of work to be done to improve sales performance, and since a lab’s fortunes are tied to its customers, it looks like the labs will have to take the initiative to jumpstart their account’s efforts to sell second pairs. As a lab rep, the best strategy will not include re –inventing fire, but rather to gently spark the embers that are already smoldering. The need for second pair sales is not a new idea, labs and manufacturers have been encouraging them for years. The result has been smoke, but no fire. It is time for the lab rep to assemble a checklist of second pair strategies and use it as a propellant to thrust back into the smoke. Who knows maybe a burst of second pair sales will erupt.

A Checklist of Key Second Pair Strategies.

1) A great starting point would be to remind your accounts that the glass if half full. Second pair sales offer their practice a huge opportunity for growth without the expensive of advertising for new patients. The second pair buyers are already in their office every day.

2) Get reception involved. When people call for appointments have the receptionist remind the patient that at the time of the appointment it is very important that they bring in their prescription sunglasses or computer eyewear. When the patient responds that they don’t have those things the receptionist says they will make a note to remind the doctor and dispenser to discuss those items on the visit. This raises the bar even before the patient jumps. On the day of the visit the patient is expecting to hear about multiple pairs. This is a great improvement over the approach commonly used when the first time a discussion of a second pairs comes up is after the dispenser nails down the primary sale. “So your new glasses will be $400, now how would you like to spend $400 more for a second pair?”–NOT GOOD–bringing up a second pair at the end saps the momentum of the sale before it begins. My prediction is that if you try that approach 10 times, at least nine times the patient will say “Let me think about it and get back to you.” Translation… “Let me out of here.”

3) Once the patient arrives, use waiting room time to broaden their awareness of their options. Don’t leave this important task up to them by randomly scattering optical pamphlets throughout the waiting area—patients usually don’t voluntarily read advertising as a way to pass the time. Instead use an educational tool such as the Transitions Optical Eyeglass Guide. Upon arrival have the receptionist hand the patient this comprehensive guide with the instructions to read it as the doctor and dispenser will be referencing it. In five to 10 minutes the patient will be filled with a new awareness of all their options. Now everyone’s job becomes easier.

4) Remind practitioners that one of the biggest reasons for the lack of second pair sales is the failure to offer a second pair purchase to every patient. Playing the odds works. Offering second pairs only when the patient asks or only intermittently results in where we are today—80 percent failure to place a second pair. Ask everyone and the sales percentage has to improve.

5) Get the doctors involved. Often the entire burden of second pair sales falls to the dispenser without the benefit of any positioning from the doctor. In a recent survey in the Williams Way newsletter it was reported that the number one reason for single pair purchases was the fact that the doctor only wrote one prescription. Doctors need to prescribe a visual solution which includes a primary script and also secondary scripts for sunwear and/or computer eyewear. (I bet that most patients that are prescribed medication for high cholesterol and high blood pressure fill both prescriptions)

6) Remind the dispenser to begin by discussing a visual solution as opposed to a single pair of glasses. A skilled dispenser does a simultaneous presentation of primary and secondary eyewear referencing why and how each will be useful. “This frame is for your primary eyewear, but this frame will make a great sunglass.”

7) Since pricing is always a great concern address it right up front. Don’t wait until the end, pull out a calculator and say, “Now for the bad news.” Instead, begin by telling the patient that the price of the two pairs that will provide their visual solution will cost the average patient around $850.00. Then dispel the panic from their face by telling them that fortunately for them they are not the average patient. Since they have insurance (90 percent of all patients do) the front end of their primary pair will be covered largely by their insurance. The second half of their purchase—since they are ordering them together–qualifies them for your generous second pair discount. Taken together that means that they will receive an $850.00 value, for an out of pocket of only $400.00. You now have the rest of the visit to demonstrate, educate and motivate. Positioning and placement are everything.

8) Re-evaluate the programs that have been used by manufacturers or your lab in the past, freshen them up and reintroduce them. Manufacturers and labs have offered various promotions including:

• Buy two pairs at the same time and get the lesser of the two pairs at no charge.

• Buy two pairs at the same time and get the second pair at half price. These promotions, which are often built around polarized sunwear, generate immediate sales while they establish long term repeat buying. (Ask anyone who wears polarized sunwear if they will ever be without them or buy anything less and they will tell you, “NO WAY!”)

The other advantage of this approach is that it allows the practice to adjust their second pair discount from a non-motivating 10 or 20 percent to a more appealing 40 or 50 percent while still building profits. This approach also offers the dispenser the opening to tell everyone about a temporary opportunity to get into the very best. Since the practice is saving money due to the manufacturer promotion they will gladly pass along the savings while the promotion lasts. Buy today or loose the opportunity.

9) Incentive always help—if your lab will work a reward program to get the practice moving the results may astound you. Incentives should begin with a baseline of current performance, a goal of future performance. Incentives could be financial as in so much per pair, or a gift for the office. Incentives could also be social as in a great restaurant event for the whole office. Second pair sales are really not a mystery; they are the result of hard work that will reward the patient, the practice and of course THE LAB.

Michael DiSanto ABOM is an independent industry trainer. In the past few years Michael has worked extensively with private practices, retail chains and wholesale laboratories to provide training in the areas of Selling, Technical, and Management.


May/June LabTalk 2017