By Robert C. Bell

Remember: Selling is a process in which the eyecare professional helps a patient acquire all the goods and/or services that would assist that patient to fulfill any and all visual needs in exchange for compensation.

It was bound to happen. When you challenge convention it is inevitable that you, yourself, will be challenged. It seems that some of you are more comfortable with persuading your patients as opposed to helping them get what they need.

It’s not that persuasion doesn’t work. But keep three things in mind: 1) Persuading your patient is not nearly as effective as helping them get what they need. 2) Persuasion has some very negative side effects (e.g., buyer’s remorse) and 3) Persuasion has a very short life span—it only lasts while your patient is in front of you.

But still, I’m going to take another stab at this by telling you a “what if” story.

What if: Two patients come into your office at the same time. They are the same age, the same income level, exactly the same insurance coverage, exactly the same prescription and have exactly the same eyewear needs.

Patient A comes out of your exam room and sits with your optician, Mary. Patient B comes out and sits with your optician, Steve. Both Mary and Steve are very knowledgeable opticians and have assessed the needs of their patients correctly.

However, Mary decides she knows what is best for the patient and discusses the features and benefits of the products. She is met with some resistance but she persists. The patient balks about the price a little but Mary convinces the patient that it is needed. The patient does understand some of the points Mary is making but feels that she doesn’t have the patient’s best interests in mind. The patient doesn’t feel comfortable saying no at this point and decides to pay for the glasses just to escape.

On the other hand, Steve asks his patient if certain things are happening when the patient uses his eyes in certain ways. Steve then asks if these occurrences are bothersome to the patient. The patient comes to the self realization these situations are, indeed, annoying. Steve asks how often the patient experiences these occurrences. The patient comes to realize it happens all the time. Steve then asks his patient if he would like him to help relieve this situation. The patient, who has just come to the self-realization of his own visual obstacles, says to Steve, “Yes, that would be great.” Steve tells the patient about the features of the appropriate products and asks if he understands how these products will be beneficial. Because Steve actively involves the patient in discovering the problems, finds the right answers for him and makes him part of the decision process, the patient not only understands the benefits but is also happy to pay for the solution.

Both patients purchase exactly the same frames and lenses and come out-of-pocket exactly the same amount of money. On paper, the sales look identical.

Fast forward to the dinner tables of both patients later that night:

Both Patient A and Patients B’s spouses ask, “So did you get new glasses today?”
Both patients say, “Yes, in fact I got two.”
Spouse: “Two? How much did it cost?”
Patients: “$1,000”

Patient A
Spouse: “Are you crazy? Why did you spend all that money?”
“Because the optician told me I needed it.”
“Oh, because… well I don’t know. I can’t remember exactly what she said but it made sense then.”
“And it doesn’t now?”
“I can’t remember.”
“That’s ridiculous. You are not spending all that money for something that you don’t even need. Call the eye doctor tomorrow, cancel that second pair and get your money back.”

Patient B
Spouse: “Are you crazy? Why did you spend all that money?”
“Because I needed it! When I do certain things my eyes really bother me. These new glasses will solve that problem.”
“That makes sense. Pass the potatoes, please.”
Persuade your patients or assist your patients in acquiring what they need. Again, the choice is yours.

Robert C. Bell is president (and head coach) of EyeCoach, an organization designed to teach and coach innovative and industry-specific sales techniques to eyecare professionals. Contact him at