By Robert Bell
Maximizing opticalframe sales requires hands-on management of frame buying and board management–and your frame vendors can help you.
Too often, ODs delegate all responsibilities for optical frames, a critical profit center for an optometric practice, to an office manager/frame buyer. An alarming number of ODs turn a blind eye and are oblivious to the relationship of their practice with the frame vendor and reps with whom they do business. Certainly, ODs do not have the time to oversee all aspects of the practice-frame company relationship. However, not having any input or insight in this area can be very costly.
What is your Optical Frame IQ? What You Need to Know to Be Hands-On
Answer the following questions to determine how much you, as doctor, know about the business of your frame board. A practice owner should be able to answer all of these questions.
- 1. How many frames do you have in inventory?
2. What is the cost of that inventory sitting on your frame boards?
3. How often do your frames “turn?”
4. Which frames are your best sellers? Worst sellers?
5. What are all the frame companies with whom you do business?
6. The names of all your frame reps?
7. The name of the reps’ sales managers?
8. How long has each rep been selling to your practice?
9. How do you utilize the insights of each rep to benefit your practice?
10. How often do the reps come in to service your practice?
11. What are all the brands/lines of frames product you carry?
12. Do your reps have a relationship with all your staff, and not just the frame buyer?
13. Do you know the benefits of each frame company’s co-op program?
14. How much co-op money your practice earned with each program?
15. Do you use that co-op money to benefit the practice or just throw it away?
16. What are two good reasons for doing business with each of your current frame vendors?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you may want to consider the following steps:
1) Along with yourframe buyer, meet with each of your frame reps at least once a year.
2) Ask each rep some of the above questions. By the way, ask about them personally. Get to know them!
3) Invite each rep to make a 20- to 30-minute presentation on their frame lines and/or frame company and/or co-op programs, etc., at your staff meetings over the course of a year.
Tracking Your Frame Vendor
There are hundreds of frame companies. Many of their reps will make cold calls to your practice in an attempt to sell you their product.
How does your practice determine which potential new frame line to bring in? It’s not feasible for your frame buyer to meet with every salesperson that walks through the door.
However, you don’t want to turn away the “next hot line” blindly. So, how does one go about this effectively?
Develop a one-page questionnaire for your receptionist to give to new sales reps. Include contact information for the rep, the frames company(s) and lines they represent, how long the rep has worked for the company(s), the benefits of doing business with the rep themselves, the benefits of doing business with their companies, marketing strategies, etc.
Your frame buyer should review these questionnaires at least once a month to decide whether to bring in a line or a rep. In this way, you give your frame buyer more control over the process and nothing is missed.
Oversee Your Frame Buyer and Get a Frames Education
Once a month, you should meet with the person on your staff who you have delegated frame-buying responsibilities. As the practice leader and doctor, it is important that you personally know your frame inventory. If a patient asks you a question about frame lines, style, inventory, etc., in the exam room, make sure you can answer them intelligently. Your patients do not distinguish the separation between doctor and dispensary. From a patient’s perspective, you’re the doctor and should know everything about what goes on in the place that has your name of the door.
Discuss with your frame buyer the current status of your frame boards, any concerns they may have or that you may have, any new products and/or services the frame vendors are offering. Get an idea of any brands your patients may be requesting that you may not currently carry. Have your frame buyer walk you through the dispensary and the frame boards. Get to know all the brands/lines you carry. Ask them to point out your top ten and bottom ten selling frames. Take notice of how long the slow moving frames have been sitting on your boards and act accordingly.
Know When to Drop Products
Most reps are very good at developing relationships with your frame buyer. We tend to do business with people we like. The danger here is that, though the rep may be the nicest person on the planet, if their frames lines are collecting dust and not moving it’s costing you money and it’s time to replace this line with one that will “turn” better for your practice. After all, those frames collecting dust aren’t frames anymore. They are an outlay of cash–stagnant dollars–that give you no return on your investment.
Other reasons to consider dropping certain lines would be if a particular frame company or rep becomes difficult to do business with. Poor customer service, consistent back-orders, bad quality, etc., translates to second-rate care for your patients. Is that acceptable?
You’ll be amazed at the improvement, efficiency and profitability of your frame boards, over the course of a year, if you start to take an interest and a more interactive role in your dispensary.
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Robert Bell, president of EyeCoach, has created The EyeCoach Selling System to help independent optometric practices increase multiple pair and premium product sales, streamline the process of communicating effectively with patients to increase profitability and professionalism.To inquire about EyeCoach, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.