Driving sales up through effective consumer management

Optometry is fortunate enough to be one of the very few industries that has three major components that need to function at the same time at any given point of time.

The components can be explained a follows:

Academic/Information Phase

The academic phase involves all the information needed by the business before a consumer walks into the practice.

It’s the knowledge that every team player needs to have readily available to explain what the consumer’s needs are when that consumer walks into the business.

It`s the kind of information that immediately sets the business apart without any marketing or selling even taking place.

Clinical/Execution Phase

The clinical phase entails all the data that the optometrist needs to have readily available in the test room. Consultation time is very precious and competence regarding how eye examinations are conducted greatly influences the behaviour of consumers.

An opportunity to establish and build a trust relationship between the optometrist and the consumer exists here; missing it will cost the business a potential client.

Business/Sales Phase

The final phase of the eye care experience for a consumer is the business phase. This is where the optometric team take off their academic and clinical caps and put on their business caps.

At this stage, having done what was necessary in the first two phases, the trust relationship has been established and the consumer will be in a position to make decisions that are well informed and beneficial to them

Every phase is as important as the next one. Each department is as critical to the overall process from start to finish. When all three phases work in conjunction with one another, magic happens, not only for the business but most importantly for the consumers.

Economic challenges will always be there and industries like Optometry are not immune to that. In fact, when finances get tight, most people tend to look at various options available to them where they can reduce spending. 

Example, consumers will go for much longer using the same old eye wear as opposed to regular visitations to the Optometrist that are required. Over time, this can become a norm for them and a complete nightmare for the business.

How then can you manage the consumer in these uncertain economic climates?

  1. Re-train the entire team

Your team needs to be retrained on the following:

  • Product knowledge and usage
  • Operational capacity
  • Convenience Optometry (i.e. innovation and technological advances)
  • Consumer profiling
  • Sales 
  • Clinical requirements that set the business apart from the rest
  1. Prepare for the sale you want. 

Consumer records, if in order, can provide you with all the information you need about the consumer. 

When it comes to sales, category placement of consumers enable the practice to know what type of individual they are dealing with at any point of time.

Category placement is all about developing a snapshot approach to every individual that comes to the practice. 

Most practices file their records according to alphabetical order, nothing wrong with that.

How about the following new strategy:

  • New patients
  • Follow up visitor/customer
  • Client
  • Generation type
  • Insurance/private 
  • Individual/dependent 
  • Multiple/single management 

Think about it this way, 30 years ago files were still being kept in alphabetical order. How does that drive sales today?

Your approach needs to constantly evolve as times change. 

  1. Change practice behaviour

As a business owner your team should never hear you say the following in any way, no matter what the circumstances are:

• “It`s very quiet these days.” 

• “It`s winter and so business is a bit quiet.” 

• “We are not doing the kind of sales we used to before.” 

• “Patients are not spending on glasses like they used to.” 

• The list goes on and on.

You need to stay positive, upbeat and optimistic about the practice every single day. As a team you need to see and speak vision all the time. 

If you don`t know why your clients keep coming back to the practice, you will struggle to understand why they are no longer returning.

Consumer mindset has totally changed and getting to the next level of consumer service and excellence will require a different approach from the status quo you are mastering.

Here are some important things to remember when it comes to consumers:

• Listen to the consumer’s concerns and needs. 

• Learn consumer names like the store depends on it to survive. 

• Every “walk in” is a potential patient. 

• Every patient is a potential customer. 

• Every customer is a potential client. 

• Every client is potentially 5–10 new consumers for your business. 

• Every satisfied consumer leads to a new referral. 

• Excellent service delivery and experience leads to increased sales.

  1. Challenge consumer behaviour 

Whenever a consumer says they need time to think about the management option you are proposing, your responsibility is then to do the following:

• Probe them more in a friendly and kind manner to discover what the challenges are. 

• If the challenge is a financial one, don’t be too focused on down grading the management option you initially suggested for a cheaper one so that you can get the sale. Be confident in your service, product and pricing and tell the consumer to rather go and save up some money for the management plan. Why? You have to demonstrate the importance of the management plan to their problems and how it will benefit them. Then look at what aspects of the pricing you can adjust for them. They need to see that you care and have their best interest in mind and not just the sale. 

• Sometimes that sounds like a challenge, especially when it comes to price, but it is really just a question of how flexible you are willing to be when it comes to the final amount that needs to be made. Get to the real issue by asking the right questions and staying committed to finding a solution that will benefit the consumer and the practice.

• Never be over-bearing to the consumer, it pushes them away. And remember, if they want to shop around for a better deal, it is okay. When you have given them great service and a worthwhile experience for them to remember, they will return irrespective of whether they find something cheaper elsewhere. Your job is to remind them of what you offer and advise that you will match any quote.

• Indicate a specific date and time that you will follow up and do exactly that. 

  1. Ask for feedback
  • Always ask feedback from the consumer
  • Enquire about the service you rendered
  • Get reviews on the user experience of the products you provided
  • Request for referrals if possible
  • Then analyze the feedback you get weekly from every consumer
  1. Invest in your team

This will involve any or all of the following:

  • Leadership development
  • Employee development
  • Team development
  • Business development

Specific time needs to be scheduled for the above and remember the following:

“It is not a once off thing” that you do.

This is a continuous process as the business owner.

Why?

  • The business owner can only go as far as the vision they have stretches them
  • The team can only grow as far as the business owner grows
  • The business can only grow as far as the employees are willing to go.

When you as the business owner take your employees to a level it has never been before, they will in turn take your business to a level it has never been before.

Conclusion

The above strategies can help effectively drive sales if implemented correctly.

What you have always been doing to drive sales has gotten you this far. Unfortunately it will not take you to the next level.

Remember, as the business owner, your academic knowledge, clinical skills and business acumen are just the beginning. How you get them to work together and most importantly how you transfer them to the whole team is what will ensure your business continues to thrive during uncertain economic climates.

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