Select a Lead Salesperson (Not Necessarily an Optician)

Kevin Wilson, Chairman & CEO, Sterling

Sept. 16, 2015


Sometimes your best optical salesperson isn’t a trained optician. Choose the best salesperson, rather than the best optician, as your lead optical employee.


RECOGNIZE SALES SKILLS. Ability to sell is more important than specific technical knowledge of eyewear, which can be learned.

TRAIN LEAD SALESPERSON. Have skilled opticians train the salesperson in technical details of eyewear, such as the lens treatments.

SET BENCHMARKS, SALES GOALS. Set sales performance goals for the lead salesperson, or optical team overall, that make sense for your practice, rather than based on national benchmarks.

Trained opticians are of great value to practices, with expertise in working with prescriptions and fitting eyewear, but those technical skills don’t always couple with great salesmanship. One optical sales growth strategy to try: Hiring a great salesperson, who may not necessarily be an optician, to lead optical sales. The practices that I work with throughmy practice management consultancy, Sterling, find that this tactic canspur sales and increase eyewear capture rates.

We have found it isn’t always necessary for the lead patient service/salesperson to be an optician. There are many great opticians who aren’t adept at sales. And there are many very skilled customer service/salespeople who are not the greatest opticians, or opticians at all. It’s generally easier to train the hands-on technical skills that opticians do. The qualities of salesmanship are very different, and are usually not easy to train. Not that sales techniques can’t be improved, but the personality traits of most good salespeople are already there, and then built upon with training.

One way to make the best of both needed traits in your optical is to appoint or hire a lead salesperson, who is charged with monitoring and increasing optical sales. This person could then be trained to help the certified opticians with putting in orders for new eyewear, including how to take technical measurements like PD.

Recognize Need for Best Salesperson in Optical

The key to increasing sales is this basic: Take your best salesperson and make him/her the salesperson. They need to like people, have a good sense of personal style, as well as function, and feel very comfortable communicating and helping a patient to decide on what will suit them well, and what they will be most happy with.

Select Lead Salesperson

Often, more than one person sells. Sometimes, “everyone does a little bit of everything” in a practice. If this is the case, where more than one person sells, take the one who is the best. If there’s only person who sells, but that person tends to stay away from add-ons, like lens treatments, or top-of-the-line frames, try out another person who isn’t apologetic about presenting what a patient would do well with–and what will drive optical revenues.

A great salesperson, who is not necessarily a trained optician, can be trained to sell your eyewear. The key is to prepare the new salesperson well with in-depth training, so they are able to complete eyewear fittings and orders.

Gauge Personality of Lead Salesperson

Great salespeople tend to have very social personalities. They like and understand people, and people like them in return. But more importantly, we aren’t necessarily looking for who can win the “tap dancing contest,” or who can win the “beauty pageant.”

You’re looking for the personality that can communicate well, and is not too afraid or inhibited to direct a person toward the frames that look best on them, and ensure they know multiple pairs also would make sense. You want someone who listens to a patient’s concerns and cares enough to stick with them to ensure they get what they need. Someone who is proactive, but is also not intimidating.

Educate Chosen Lead Salesperson

The better the salesperson is, the more work there will be for the optician. A salesperson can be trained to dispense, do adjustments and make repairs.

An optical salesperson who is not a trained optician will require education from the practice owner, and those you employ who are trained opticians. The lead salesperson must have a good understanding of different types of lenses and lens treatments (tints, scratch-resistant treatment, AR, high-index), different types of frames, and the types of glasses that would make good multiple pairs (additional computer eyewear, sports eyewear, sunglasses, skiing eyewear).

Here are some steps to take to get them up to speed:

List options.Make a list of each type of lens, each type of lens treatment, the main types and brands of frames you sell, when second and third pairs are needed, and the main types of contact lenses you sell.
Describe products. Describe each type of frame and each type of lens you sell, including key benefits and cons, and when a patient would benefit from each of these frames and lenses. Then, put it online, so the lead salesperson, and the rest of the optical team, can reference it as a cheat sheet.

Quiz new salesperson. Ask the new lead salesperson to study the cheat sheet created, and then quiz them on it prior to their first day on the job, or some time during their first week of work. For in-depth training, you could quiz the new salesperson on each individual frame and lens you sell, role-playing how to sell each frame and lens.

Do a trial sales run. Once their understanding of all the frames and lenses is correct, role-play being a patient and have the salesperson “sell” you a pair of glasses, plus multiple pairs. They can use frame samples, contact lens samples, drawings or training aids to demonstrate. Continue doing this for each product you sell until the new salesperson feels completely comfortable and competent in selling it.

For the first couple of weeks after they start their new job as lead salesperson, work out a predictable time to be available for possible questions they may have for you as practice owner, or at the very least, have a trained optician or office manager on hand at a designated time each day to field questions from the new salesperson.

Set Up Sales Performance Benchmarks

Give the appointed or newly hired lead salesperson the statistic (a way to measure) of average dollar spent in the optical per patient. Let them watch that stat. Just being aware of it can help the person to improve by seeing what they are doing that is working well versus what they are doing that’s not working so well. You also can work out a simple bonus structure based on increased dollar average per patient or increased total sales.

The goals you set as sales benchmarks should be realistic in the context of your practice, rather than in the context of national averages. One of my past clients build his practice in a small, impoverished town in Kentucky, where he had grown up. Most of the kids he saw were on Medicaid, and the average dollar spent in the optical per patient started out at under $200.

He knowingly chose to work in this location, as he wanted to give back to the community in which he was raised. This was a strong purpose for becoming a doctor. After working with the lead salesperson, having her keep track of her average, and putting her on a reward system, the average increased by one-thirdto around $300. It’s not necessarily the size of the practice that affects the dollar average. It’s really more a matter of increasing it from wherever it currently is. Be sure your lead salesperson understands the demographics and past sales performance of your optical, and decide with him or her what a realistic goal would be each quarter.

Kevin Wilson, is the chairman and CEO of Sterling, a practice management firm. To contact him:

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