Seconds, Please: Sweet Revenue from second pair polarized lens sales

By Julie Bos
Who doesn’t like seconds? Second helpings, second dates and, of course—our industry’s favorite—-second-pair sales of polarized lenses.

The challenge, as you well know, is turning the idea into reality—and getting that magic to happen repeatedly. It’s no simple matter. And roadblocks seem to exist everywhere.

Lingering economic uncertainty means consumers are more budget-conscious than ever. Some are stretching their time between optical visits and reconsidering their need for lens replacements at all. And many who have heard about polarized sunwear consider it a luxury they simply cannot afford.

Compounding the problem are the eye care professionals themselves. Many ECPs don’t make polarized lenses a part of their discussions in the exam room—or if they do mention polarized, they make it a “recommendation,” not a “must-have” for enhancing vision.

Where Do We Go from Here?

When considering this dilemma, many optical labs agree: Making significant headway on the second-pair polarized front requires a dramatic paradigm shift—a fundamental change in the way ECPs do business.

If your lab struggles with second-pair sales—and getting ECPs on board with the concept—you’re not alone. Many labs share your frustration. Fortunately, some labs are finding success through the use of some all-new discussions and strategies. Perhaps one (or more) of these approaches will be the key that unlocks a heaping helping of new revenue for your lab.

ECPs: “Quit discussing and start prescribing.”

Discounts, promos and incentives only go so far. According to Hal Walker, president of Superior Optical Lab, Ocean Springs, Miss., the key to the revenue kingdom is simply a change of pattern. Quite simply, ECPs must change their behavior in the exam room and start prescribing two pairs of lenses, every time.

“If an average person goes to the doctor and gets a couple of prescriptions, the next logical thing he or she will do is take those prescriptions to the drug store and fill them,” said Walker. “Very seldom would that patient ever question the doctor’s expertise in writing those prescriptions. He or she would simply trust the doctor’s expertise—and know the doctor would not have prescribed something that wasn’t needed.”

“I’ve been in many roundtable discussions with other independent distributor labs, and many of us have come to the same conclusion,” he added. “Until doctors start realizing that they need to start prescribing specific lenses and treatments in the exam room—and not rely on conversations at the dispensing table—they’ll never realize their office’s full revenue potential.”

So why don’t more ECPs start prescribing lenses that are both helpful to patients—and lucrative for their businesses? According to Walker, “Many ODs coming right out of college try to segregate their professional expertise from the sales and marketing efforts that take place in the dispensary. They have a perception that if they transition from their professional role into marketing, that they’re somehow denigrating their own professional ability and services. In my opinion, herein lies the problem.”

“We all know that habits can be hard to change, but until ECPs have a different mindset, they are going to stay in this rut and deny themselves a lot of additional revenue,” he said.

Bottom line: Tell ECPs that increasing revenue is as simple as writing two prescriptions—one for a clear pair and one for a polarized pair. Not only does it increase awareness about protective sunwear, it solves a legitimate vision challenge, boosts revenue and fulfills the ECPs professional responsibility to enhance patients’ vision.

Dispensers: “Did you ask about the second-pair prescription?”

If the ECP fails to prescribe a second pair of polarized lenses, all is not lost. Dispensary staff still have an opportunity to make second-pair polarized sales. Simply train dispensers to ask patients one simple question: “Did the doctor provide you with two prescriptions today—one for your everyday wear and one for protective sunwear?” If the patient says no, the dispenser can take the opportunity to discuss the benefits of polarized sunwear—and increase awareness—without overstepping their professional bounds. Even if only one out of ten patients recognizes the benefits and makes a purchase, the shop’s revenue just increased by 10 percent. A worthy step in the right direction, to be sure.

Bottom line: Train the dispensers to follow-up with every patient about that “second prescription”—and to fill in with an educational pitch, when needed.

One Lab’s Struggle—and Success!

“Like the rest of the industry, we continually struggle to further drive the second-pair sale category,” said Jeff Szymanski, vice president of Toledo Optical, Toledo, Ohio. “Whether it be polarized sunglasses, a pair of computer glasses or a sports Rx, this remains a grossly untapped part of our market, yet something we feel very strongly about driving ever forward.

“Although we’ve administered multiple programs and promotions over the years, we’ve found that these methods typically provide positive results only on a short-term basis,” he added. “In contrast, we’ve been able to produce more long-term results by educating our customers on how to better implement a fulfilling patient management process.”

Toledo Optical’s Three-Step Process

• Step one: Learn to better extract information from the patients—specifically, the “pain” they are experiencing or the needs they have. (This can be done through a questionnaire, one-on-one conversation or both.)

• Step two: Combine that knowledge with a proper doctor recommendation about lenses that can solve those problems.

• Step three: Conduct a more streamlined patient hand-off from the doctor to the optician in the dispensary. (During the hand-off, in front of the patient, the doctor repeats the patient’s problem, as well as his recommendation for a solution.)

Szymanski says this process has garnered impressive results. “By changing the patient management process, not only can we help eliminate the ever-dreaded buyer’s remorse, more importantly, the practice can more easily drive second- and third-pair sales,” he said. “In fact, one long-time customer who started using this process in February has nearly doubled his monthly revenue per patient, simply by altering his approach to patient education and presentation. It’s all about driving awareness and encouraging greater direct participation by the doctor himself. From a patient perspective, now the ECP is solving a problem that they’ve got, instead of merely ‘selling’ something extra they may not think they need. The right approach changes everything.”

Want to Use Promotions and Incentives?

Consider these Proven Favorites. Changing ECPs’ mindsets and habits is certainly an important part of the battle for higher polarized sales. However, some ECPs continue to respond well to some tried-and-true promotional strategies, like these: Communicate Your Capabilities

“One of the things that drives our success in second-pair sunwear is having a robust production program,” said Adam Winkelman, VP of sales, marketing and finance at Perfect Optics, Vista, Calif. “We have a lot of qualified sun frames in our edging capacity that allow us to plug and play and get incredible shapes that fit perfectly into the frame and look great. We also offer some lens style options and production capabilities that allow us to do some decentration, so that people with smaller PDs and higher prescriptions now have options they may not have had in the past.”

According to Winkelman, talking about these capabilities in the field actually encourages ECPs to order more. “When ECPs see the finished glasses, the proof is in the pudding and that further increases their confidence in what we can do,” he said.

What You Can Do: Distribute a technology brochure that speaks specifically to your special freeform components, edging capabilities and sunwear lenses.

Queue Up That Questionnaire

Another tool that helps ECPs sell polarized lenses is the basic lifestyle questionnaire. By having patients identify their hobbies, sports activities and pastimes before entering the exam room, ECPs will be better prepared for the exam. If the patient plays golf, enjoys fishing or spends a lot of time outdoors, he or she is definitely a great candidate for a polarized lens. When the ECP can quickly tie a polarized lens to the patient’s lifestyle, it’s much easier to prescribe that second pair—and actually close that sale.

What You Can Do: Provide each of your accounts with a standard questionnaire—or help them create a customized one, if they prefer. Encourage them to use these questionnaires with every patient, every time.

Promote Those Promos

Of course, many labs continue to cite good results from promotional campaigns. Here are a few industry favorites: Second-Pair Discounts – Most optical labs offer a dramatic pricing incentive for second-pair sales of polarized lenses. The program names vary, but the concept remains the same. If the same patient orders two pairs on the same day—and one is polarized—the lab offers a significant discount on the least expensive pair.

Perfect Optics in San Diego, Calif., offers an additional program with an extra twist. During the summer season, this lab gives targeted new customers 40 percent discounts on all multiple-pair orders, regardless of whether those additional pairs are for the same patient or not. It started as a way to help struggling families avoid tough choices about who got glasses right away and who had to wait. It turned into a program that gives second-pair discounts on all jobs (after reaching a minimum monthly sales requirement).

“Friends and Family” Incentives – Some labs encourage second-pair sales by giving patients “thinking time” or by extending discounts to patients’ friends and family members. Homer Optical, Silver Spring, Md., gives ECPs $25 discount cards to give to patients who say no to a second pair on the same day, yet are considering a purchase within the next 60 days. The card is transferrable to family and friends, which helps further spread the incentive. Focus on Value Pricing.

Encore Optics, South Windsor, Conn., has found great luck offering value pricing on polarized lenses all the time. The company has been offering value pricing since the company’s beginning and now enjoys a polarized business that represents 16 percent of total sales.

“Our polarized percentage continues to increase year over year—ahead of our overall volume increases,” said Paul Zito, president of Encore Optics. “When ECPs understand our pricing philosophy on polarized lenses, they’re very pleased with our gimmick-free approach and price to their patients accordingly. It’s definitely a win-win.”

What can you do? Remind your accounts frequently about all your current promotions. They may be ready to take advantage of the possibilities.

Tune into Trainings

Labs that have ongoing success with second-pair sales also have another thing in common—their commitment to ongoing ECP training. Winkelman states that Perfect Optics conducts lunch-n-learns and peer dinners periodically during the year. “During these events, ECPs and their staff can hear the latest industry updates—and the latest capability additions in our lab,” he said. “It’s also a great time to share tips on how ECPs can increase their polarized sales and what resources we can offer to help.”

What can you do? Make the commitment to invest in ongoing training. It’s good for your accounts—and great for you.

Taking Responsibility for Total Vision Care

Did you know that each optometrist takes an Optometric Oath before becoming an OD through the American Optometric Association? A portion of it goes like this: “I will advise my patients fully and honestly of all which may serve to restore, maintain or enhance their vision and general health…I hereby commit myself to be steadfast in the performance of this my solemn oath and obligation.”

What does this mean for you? It means that it’s okay to hold ODs responsible—and remind them of their responsibility to provide total vision care.

Remember, only six percent of patients leave their eye care professional’s office with a total vision care package—both regular eyewear and polarized Rx sunwear. ODs should always recommend protective sunwear in addition to an everyday pair of glasses. Even if no prescription is necessary, protective sunwear is a necessity—and all sunwear should be polarized.

Need some help spreading the word? Consider using industry collateral, like the ECP-targeted leave-behind “Total Vision Care” brochure from Younger Optics. To order some for your reps, go to http://www.youngeroptics.com/marketing-literature.aspx.

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May/June LabTalk 2017