Selling Up
Three top opticians tell how they present premium lenses

By Andrew Karp

Despite the wealth of premium lens products available today, many patients still balk at paying premium prices for lenses. Though limited by tight budgets or restrictive vision care plans, patients may be willing to upgrade lens purchases—provided the doctor or dispenser can explain to them the benefits of buying the best affordable lenses and lens treatments.

In a quest for this “sell-up” to the best, L&T asked three experienced dispensers to share their insights.
Analyze the Rx
The first thing optician Sam Morgenstern of The Optical Shoppe in Princeton, N.J., does when a patient enters his dispensary is look at the prescription. “If it’s a high minus, I start talking about high-index or polycarbonate, high-plus, then aspheric lenses,” he says.

Prescription and lifestyle go hand in hand and explaining the benefits of a lens in relation to a patient’s activities sometimes means more than just describing the lens features. Optician Michael Tiernan of Tiernan Opticians in San Carlos, Calif., believes the dispensing process “starts with an interview about the customer and their visual needs. Then we apply products relative to their needs, beginning with lenses. We go right to the basics: single vision, multifocal, special application—computers or single vision reading.” He adds, “Analyze the prescription. Visualize what type of lens would best suit their prescription.”

Making customers informed decision-makers is a common theme. “If they’ve been wearing clear lenses, one option is to suggest adding a tint or trying photochromic lenses. We ask them more questions and they get very involved in the decision-making,” says Tiernan.

However, Tiernan notes packaging lens products and coatings is not a good way to educate customers to their features and benefits. “What doesn’t work for us is the package program,” he says. “I know a lot of others use it… package B comes with a UV filter, scratch coating… It works better to talk about a photochromic lens in detail—that they perform as clear indoors and at night and automatically react with the light.”

Recommend the Best
“Samples are probably the most important tool in selling,” states optician Mary Lou Schatan of Schatan Optical Gallery in Torrance, Calif. “It’s almost impossible for the patient to imagine how the glasses are going to look.” 

When presenting a new lens options, Schatan  does not discuss price, at least not at first. “I talk about best: the best looking glasses; lenses that make your eyes look the best,” she says.

Because Schatan’s and Tiernan’s dispensaries are at street-level, they are able to do some hands-on demonstrating of lens features. They can go out in the sun and show a patient just how a photochromic lens works or a polarized lens cuts glare. It really “helps patients understand how the new technology specifically affects them,” Tiernan points out.

Less explanation is needed for customers who, through prior experiences or friends’ suggestions, are exposed to certain products or features. “We have a progressive lens series with various lens magnification strengths that we put over their glasses and let them experience progressives,” explains Tiernan. “Usually, we don’t have to go that far. We mention the option of no line and people want to get rid of those lines.”

The benefits of AR are particularly easy to appreciate when demonstrators are used. All three dispensers mention the importance of using an AR sample such as a lorgnette or a pair of demonstration glasses with one coated lens and one uncoated lens.

Selling by Example
“It helps to increase your sales dollars when you are enthusiastic about the product,” says Morgenstern. He warns that “being wishy-washy only puts doubt into patients’ minds and they will not go for what you are selling.”

All the dispensers confirm that to sell well, you must wear the product. “You have to appreciate it to sell it,” says Schatan. “I wear the latest fashion, the latest colors and I wear progressive, AR coated—the lightest, thinnest with tint.” She also suggests offering sales staff free or at cost glasses annually to promote the current trends in premium lens products.  

“Our ultimate goal is for the patient to buy the best lens for them. The patient should be offered the extras and know what they do, not just the price,” says Schatan. “When someone asks about their glasses, they’ll be our best advertisement. The customer will never come back if they think you have not offered them the best options.”