How to sell more expensive eyewear
We all want to be more profitable as optometrists and opticians. We know competing with the big box online and bricks-and-mortar retailers like Americas Best and VSP-owned Vision Works is not really an option for us. Their buying power is tremendous and we just can’t sell an eye exam and 2 pairs of glasses for $60.
An easy way to boost your profits is by slowly selling more expensive frames in your office. Let’s say your average frame is $200 in your location. This means an “expensive frame” in your practice maybe $300. It’s really up to the consumer/patient to determine what is expensive and what is not. Let the patient tell us “I can’t afford that, show me a similar style but less money.”
Selling expensive eyewear is a process that has to be learned. It takes 3 steps to learn how to sell:
First, you have to actually take the risk and carry the product.
Second, opticians must be confident in selling something they may not be able to afford or are not used to selling.
Third, Recognize that you must take control of the sale if you plan to sell expensive items. This means sitting patients down and telling the brand story.
You can’t sell what you don’t have
Prejudging what any consumer can afford is just not good. You may have a farmer in overalls who does massive business in soybeans, but when she enters your office it’s tempting to assume that person doesn’t want fancy.
It really frightens me to see eye care professionals not take risks in the optical. If you are selling $300 eyewear like hotcakes, this is the green light where patients are saying they can afford something even more pricey. Your next step is to seek out frame lines in the $400 – $500 range. Start with a modest buy of about 30-50 pieces and see what happens. Many times, these more higher-end lines don’t have frame reps all over the country like many-core frame collections. You will have to either go to a frame show or request the rep come visit you during their next trip. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need frame line suggestions.
Your optical goal should be to carry frame lines other offices in your town don’t carry! Don’t be a sheep and do what your competitors do.
When you just sell budget and low-priced eyewear, I can guarantee you a sizable group of your patients are seeking out other offices and optical boutiques in town for a fancier and higher-priced selection of glasses.
What makes a more expensive frame better?
A pricier frame is constructed from better components, has better design features, tells a brand story, is more comfortable and just looks better!
Here are a few facts about pricier frames:
- Commonly made in Europe or Japan
- Better metals include titanium and stainless steel
- Acetate frames are polished longer
- No need for spring hinges as frames are more durable
- Stay in adjustment
- Fewer warranties due to better quality
- More comfortable on the face
- Paint rarely chips on metals
- Acetates don’t discolor
- Fits the bridge of noses better
Opticians need to be confident selling higher-priced eyewear
Optician wages are not the best. I think we can all agree it’s not the highest-paid job in the world. If we didn’t receive fabulous rep discounts on frames and lenses, we probably wouldn’t have 10 pairs!
It’s important we realize that our patients may make higher or lower incomes than us, but everybody deserves the best in their price range. Never assume somebody can’t afford something! A grandma might be paying for it, or perhaps somebody saved up for a really nice pair and that’s the one good they splurge on every year.
I know I may be preaching to the choir or it may sound demoralizing. But even if you wouldn’t pay for something so expensive, don’t carry that same mentality when on the sales floor selling eyewear.
When you fit a patient with premium frames and lenses, you are making your job easier for yourself. The frames will be easy to adjust with better metals and plastics, the frames will hold their shape so no need for monthly adjustments, and lastly the lenses won’t need replacing due to a crappy anti-reflective coating.
Take control of the sale
The worst way to sell glasses is a point to the frame board and tell the patient the men’s glasses are on that side of the wall. How lazy?!
Leave the do-it-yourself shopping experience to Target and Walmart. We as private practices and independent opticals only can compete on one thing…that’s SERVICE! Business is pretty simple, especially when it comes to service. You don’t have to be 1000% better than your competition to win-over clientele for a lifetime, you just have to be 10% better.
Taking control does not mean you are forcing the patient to buy unnecessary things, it just means you are being an assistant buyer. When a lady goes shopping for a wedding dress, it’s highly unlikely the perfect dress could be picked out without professional assistance. The same goes for eyewear, the perfect pair of eyewear requires more than guiding a patient to the woman’s section of your eyewear gallery.
Steps to take control of the sale:
- After the eye exam, do the patient handoff between optometrist and optician in the exam room to have a seamless continuity of care. The patient will feel like the whole things were orchestrated just perfectly with no lag time.
- Walk the patient to your dispensing desk and pull out the chair for them (be courteous and go above and beyond…it’s that 10% rule).
- If you are unsure where to start with styling a patient, ask them what they liked or disliked about their current pair of glasses. This gives you a starting point for the guidance of what they dream of for their next pair.
- Tell the patient to sit back and relax while you go to select the perfect pairs for them. Grab a frame tray and spend the next 1-2 minutes quickly grabbing 4-8 frames (less is more as to not create confusion) and bring them back to the patient.
- Remember to never select frames in the low price range. Grab a few really expensive frames, and then grab some in the mid-priced ranges too.
- Gently hand the patient each frame as you explain the story and technical features behind each frame. People want you to romance the frame to them.
- E.g., this Lindberg frame is made in Denmark and weighs 2.5 grams. There are zero screws, it’s made from titanium so it will never corrode and it comes in 20 colors. You see lots of celebrities and politicians wearing this brand because of its progressive styling.
- If you want to romance the sale, even more, put the frame on the patient for them. It’s similar to when a shoe person slips your foot in a shoe with the shoehorn and ties your shoes. It just feels good when somebody does something with a human touch.
- As the patient is trying on the frames, be direct with them in a friendly way and tell them what looks good or what looks bad. If something looks bad you can say things like “I think we could find something more flattering” or “that’s not the one for you” or “that frame color doesn’t mesh well with your skin tone.”
- If certain technical features of the frame don’t work like the temple length or bridge fit is poor, tell the patient the temples are too long and let’s keep on working on finding a better frame. When you tell the patient these really specific things, you will maintain your authoritative status as the expert and build trust for the patient by showing that you are truly knowledgeable.
Luxury eyewear companies may appear harder to work with
When you sell cream-of-the-crop and low mid-tier eyewear brands, it’s likely you receive excellent customer service from many of the companies. They usually have larger customer service centers and more lenient policies about returns, replacements, warranties, etc. However, luxury eyewear companies tend to be stricter on things like returns. When you buy into a luxury eyewear brand, you have made the commitment to be a good business partner. That means doing your best to sell through most of your inventory. The glasses will not sell themselves if they just sit on the shelf. Opticians will actually have to present them to patients and explain why they are more expensive if patients have been used to buying lower-cost goods from your office.
Return rations usually can be 1 for 2, 1 for 3 or even higher sometimes. Don’t let this more strict exchange policy scare you. You already are making more income off higher-priced frames. You just need to be strategic about what frames you are returning if you decide to do some exchanges 2 times a year.
Also, luxury companies usually will deny a frame for a warranty replacement if it’s truly not a warrantable defect, like if a dog chewed on it. Not only are the frames expensive for offices to buy, but they are expensive to the manufacturer. Just know the same relaxed policies you are used to may now seem a little stringent. It’s not that the company is being mean when they yell you “No” about something, it’s just the luxury goods world trying to stay in business by not getting taken advantage of.
Don’t be discouraged if the product doesn’t sell
Sometimes you will bring in a luxury frame line that you adore so much and it just won’t sell well. This doesn’t mean the frame line is bad, it just means the styling doesn’t resonate with your patient-base.
When this happens, here’s what you can do:
- You may need more proper training from the company on how to sell the product
- A staff member is negative about the product and is not showing it
- You should make the decision to remove the frame line from your office
When you buy into luxury, you take risks. Risks are good in business as they allow you to grow and differentiate your business. Sometimes you will take a loss (and it may be a $5,000 loss) but you will get used to it.
It’s normal to discontinue frame lines if they just aren’t selling well. Either clearance-them-out, donate them, or do something clever to get them selling. It’s never good to sit on a stale product. Don’t wait for all those frames to sell before you bring in another luxury line. Go ahead and search for a new fancy frame line and try to get higher-priced sales going in and hope this new line will do better.
Luxury is a necessity to survive
I’ll say it again, the only way to make money in optical today (especially in a managed care environment), is to sell a more expensive product. Your optical will be the talk of the town in your area and the word will spread that you sell the cool frames. Every person walking around in your city is a billboard for your office. Strangers will frequently ask them “I love your glasses, where did you buy them?” That’s the cheapest form of advertising you could possibly get.
Do yourself a favor, amp of your optical game, and bring in some luxury eyewear you will adore, your patients will rave over, and your office will soon reach max profitability.