By Mike Karlsrud
Release Date: July 2010
Expiration Date: July 8, 2015
Upon completion of this program, the participant should be able to:
- Learn to answer objections by developing a solid sales process
- Understand how an opening, as many details as needed discussion and closing can make a difference in patients getting what they will benefit from
- Learn to deal with insurance, misunderstandings and silence.
Michael Karlsrud, is the CEO of 6 Calls, a tele-sales company that serves optical industry suppliers and doctor practices and a principle at Eyewerx a leading sales, marketing and training company serving professional sales organizations. You can find Michael at www.6Calls.biz or www.Eyewerx.org.
This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course SWJMI422-1
“Excuse me? These cost how much?” “But my insurance only covers $125, so I can’t afford those.” “Oh, my… so expensive, I think I will have to wait before I can afford new glasses, can you just use my old frame with new lenses—or vice versa?”
Objections are part of the process, whether we are asking patients to consider new ideas and concepts or lenses and frames. It simply happens. And patients can object at any time or at any moment. Perhaps you know of a patient who recently walked in the door and proclaimed “You’re not selling me a new pair of glasses, these got me in the door, and they’ll get me out!”
This course will teach you the main reasons why patients object, how to recognize what kind of objection you are dealing with, and how to respond to it—with success.
First, what is an objection, and why does it occur? When a patient objects, they are stopping the conversation or sales process because they feel out of control of the buying process or they are afraid of buying. And, as with human nature, if we feel out of control, we exercise what little control we do have by objecting or put the brakes on. When a patient does this, they regain control of the process and feel empowered. There is a law in sales—people buy with emotion and justify with logic. If your patient is not feeling emotionally in control or good about the situation, they will not make the leap to buy. They simply cannot logically justify what they are feeling. Second, objections typically fall into three large buckets: 1. mismatch of patient need to the solution offered, 2. fear and 3. lack of understanding.
Many opticians and sales professionals have become gun shy when presenting a complete eyewear solution and appropriate costs to a patient. No one likes to hear “no” and few of us like to deal with the idea of “convincing” someone to buy a pair of glasses or contacts. In reality, the seeds of objection were planted long before you asked for the order.
A SOLID SALES PROCESS—1, 2, 3
Selling is a process; it is teachable, repeatable, and measurable. It is a process for guiding an effective conversation in which both parties feel satisfied with the conclusion. The process begins with each party knowing up front what will happen over the next few minutes or hours. This is called setting the agenda. It may sound like “Mrs. Smith, the doctor has recommended a new prescription for your glasses. What I would like to do is first find out a little bit more about your average day, what you like to do when you relax, and finally what you do for fun. Then we’ll help guide you to your best lens options that match your lifestyle. Finally, we’ll match your lenses with a great frame that will complement your style and make you look great. Does this sound good to you?” The three simple steps to remember are to describe what you are about to do, why it is important and finally, checking to see that they are on board. Setting the agenda and getting buy-in from the patient is crucial to helping them feel in control and lowering their fears about what will happen.
The second part of the sales process is to ask questions; almost like a mini-interview. Find out about their lifestyle or “How do you use your eyes?” This is a crucial step that many professionals fail to do well to the peril of a looming objection down the road. We must have a clear, complete, mutual understanding of our patients wants and needs before we can provide a solution that will make sense. Failure to gain this understanding will lead to recommending an incomplete, misaligned, or offbased solution. All will eventually lead to an objection when you ask for the order.
Third, recommend your solution to the patient by using features and benefits of the relevant products you suggest. Keep in mind that you only suggest products and describe features that are relevant to your patient. If you describe too little you will seem like you didn’t listen to a word your patient said during the “interview;” and if you say too much you will have nothing left to share should you need to reinforce your position.
Features are the product characteristics that cannot be changed. For example, the lens material is high index, the frame is Zyl and the color blue. Benefits are what the features do to relieve my concerns, address my needs, or relieve my pain. In other words, they answer the question “So what?” “The high index material will be lighter and thinner which will allow you to wear your glasses longer and with greater comfort. The Zyl frame is very colorful to match your style and is highly durable to stand up to your outdoor activities. It is the perfect solution for your active lifestyle!” “What do you think?”
Remember the law? People buy with emotion and justify with logic? Features equal logic and benefits equal emotion. If you spend all your time trying to impress a patient with the features of a lens or frame, and do not spend any time relating the emotional benefits, you will earn yourself an objection! Spend some time practicing how to describe your products to patients minimizing the use of features. It will make you a more effective communicator and sales professional.
Finally, we ask for the order or close the sale. Have you noticed that with every stage of the sales process we have concluded by asking a question to check back with the patient? This important step is critical to sharing control of the conversation, reducing fear, and making sure that you and the patient are together on the solution throughout the process. Asking for the order is a natural part of the process, providing the process is executed well. However, there is a second law of sales that has to be followed; he who speaks first, loses. Ask for the order, and then shut up. Plain, succinct, and straight forward—do not say a word. Not obeying this one law has cost us all millions of dollars a year in this industry alone. Our job is to help people buy the best possible eye care solution that will last on average two years. It is not often the cheapest solution—it is the best solution. Contemplating this decision will often require the patient to sit quietly for a few seconds to evaluate all that is mired in this decision. Give them the time and space to make the decision. If you speak while the wheels are turning in their heads, you will send the wheels flying and the deal goes out the door. It literally is that simple, and that dangerous.
Those who execute the sales process well will still receive objections, however they are greatly minimized.
The most common objections that opticians hear are around the subject of insurance. In particular, the benefit will not cover the cost of the eye care solution. As a matter of fact, it is so common that many opticians no longer find creative ways to maximize the benefit; they simply comply with what’s on the card and find the minimum solution. However, do our patients really understand and want the minimum solution? If we look at all other interactions that patients have with health care professionals, the optical industry is the only one that entertains benefit dollars over the doctor prescribed solution. In all other cases, the co-pay is the first of three payments made for care. The insurance company makes the second payment and the third is what the patient owes as the balance. At no time does the patient walk in and say, “I only want the level of care that is covered by my plan.”
We have an opportunity to minimize the insurance objection by taking two important steps. First, every office that has a significant patient base from key employers, should host a “HR Appreciation Day.” Bring in the HR directors and executives and take them through your office, perhaps offer a free exam—so that they can experience the value you bring to their employees. Most importantly, talk to them about their insurance plan and how they can help you explain its benefit to their employees. You can eliminate many objections at the source of where your patients get their information, from the HR department.
Next, every plan can be utilized as a down payment for an eye care solution. Practices who have the best success with insurance objections will often turn the limitations of the plan into a positive statement. They will often say to the patient “Your plan entitles you to a 20 percent discount on frames and lenses. Please feel free to find a few frames you like and we’ll be happy to take the discount off of anything you choose.” As an optician, you might be amazed by what your patient selected, and more importantly what they will choose to pay for out of pocket to have it! This simple positioning statement puts the control of their insurance plan back into their hands, not yours. Objections come to you based in misunderstandings and fear. There is no more misunderstood element that causes fear in patients than working with their insurance plan. Frankly, that is why so many only want what is printed on the back of the card.
One of the most common objections we face comes in the form of skepticism. Skepticism is the emotion of disbelief. “You can’t do that!” “I can’t have that” It is also one of the easiest to overcome. Begin with asking a question. “What do you mean?” Next, acknowledge that other patients have had the same question or response. Offer relevant proof that you can deliver what you are offering, and check for acceptance. Often, patients will be delighted in what is ultimately available to them.
The next common objection we find in practices is that of misunderstanding. Misunderstandings are emotions of perception. For instance, media messages surrounding optical perpetuates a widely held belief that two pairs of glasses should cost about $99.00! Seldom has the patient read the fine print on the bottom of the ads that significantly restricts the offering. However, the perception of the patient is that eyewear should cost somewhere in the vicinity of $100 to $300 per pair. As we know, it is not uncommon to have a single pair cost around $600.00. When a patient objects with a statement like, “That is more than I thought it would be,” we need to step back and again, ask a question. “What did you expect eyewear to cost?” After the patients’ response, which might be something like “$300.00,” we need to ask another question. “Is that a problem?” Notice we are letting the patient decided if price is an issue, verses the optician deciding that for them. Once the patient responds to the second question, it is the perfect time to revisit all the accepted benefits that you and patient have already agreed upon. Remember the law? We buy with emotion and we justify with logic. There is no greater example of this law in motion than the value/ price question. Help your patients buy what they want, review the emotional value they will get from the purchases made.
Finally, we have the drawback. Drawbacks are the emotion of stubbornness. This emotion is both good and bad—usually the person who is being stubborn thinks it’s good, and all others think it’s bad. It is also an emotion born out of limited options. “I will not pay that much.” “I only want what my insurance will cover.” “I only want that frame in blue.” are all examples of drawbacks. To respond to a drawback we once again respond with a question to understand. “I understand you want to stay within the confines of the plan, can you tell me why that is so important?” While the response may seem logical, it might very well give you insights to overcoming the objection. Once the patient responds, it is very important to outweigh the objection with ALL the benefits previously discussed. Like a judges scale, we are trying to outweigh all that is good over the one or two objections the patient may have. We want the patient to say, “You’re right, I guess sticking to my plan will not give me what I really want. I can pay a little extra to get what I want.”
A word about silence. Often when we ask for the order, we are met with silence. You know, that moment that takes a few seconds but seems to take minutes. Understand that this is a perfectly normal reaction to the proposition you presented to them. The patient is evaluating many things all at once; Is this a good buy? Is this a good value? Do I really need this? What will others say? Can I afford it? Should I shop elsewhere? Should I get a second opinion? These questions, as written, will take you aboutfive seconds to read. Pause and watch the clock for five seconds. It can seem like a long time when it is silent. The second law of sales is now at work. He, who speaks first, loses. It is during this moment of silence or “processing” that if you speak first, the patient will balk. Emotionally, you have just given them a way out of the situation. You didn’t mean to, but you did. “There is a lot to think about.” “I know it is a lot of money.” “You look like you’re struggling, can I do something?” are all classic deal killers.
Objections are a part of everyone’s business. We can’t escape from them, but we can manage them. There is a strong correlation between a poor sales process and a higher number of objections. The most important first step we can take to reduce the number of objections we handle is to first understand your sales process. Next, identify the top three that you deal with most often. Once you know your most common objections, classify them as a misunderstanding, skepticism, or a drawback. Then, put a plan together and a response to each objection, then practice, practice, practice on each other. Remember the key steps identified here; ask good questions, provide proof, review all the benefits with the patient, and check for acceptance.
If you follow a solid process to minimize objections, then have a plan to deal with the most common ones as they come up, you will enjoy greater patient satisfaction, employee moral will improve, and your average dollar per sales will increase.