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The Science of Optometric Selling


The Science of Selling

Have you ever made what you considered an iron clad case for why a patient should purchase a certain product or service from you, only to have them walk out without ever making the purchase? As clinical professionals, we can be very logical in our approach with patients. We love data and research! The problem is that consumers tend to be very emotional (and much less logical) in their purchase decisions. Our attempts to use ration and logic to influence a sale can be surprisingly ineffective. Some simple changes to your approach that engage the emotional parts of the brain can make a big difference in the number of people who purchase from you. Below are a few suggestions.

  • Typically, there are 3 things that motivate consumers to make a purchase – the need for the product or service, the ability to pay, and the urgency to solve a problem. Quickly uncovering the problem and the level of urgency to resolve it are important elements of making a sale. The more urgent the problem, the more likely a sale.
  • Patients don’t trust you (yet)! It’s nothing personal, it’s not that they don’t like you - but trust must be earned. Yes, patients see all your degrees on the wall and that’s reassuring from a clinical standpoint. However; you sell things! Consumers have a natural aversion to people trying to sell them things – even doctors! Trust comes from getting patients to understand that your recommendations are grounded in having their best interests in mind, not yours.
  • You may have heard the phrase, “People make purchase decisions based on emotion, and rationalize those decisions with logic”. There’s a lot of scientific truth to this. In fact, research in neuropsychology has shown that the older, more primitive parts of the brain need to be engaged before people proceed with a purchase. The more primitive parts of the brain are much more emotional driven. This is why before and after photos are much more powerful marketing tools for weight loss products than a lot of clinical information about the products themselves.
  • Considering the above, when recommending products focus on the benefits more than the features. For example, these lenses have XYZ features. What this means to you is when you hit a golf ball…” Essentially what you are doing is directly linking the benefits of a product to the emotional needs of the consumer. Focusing on product features (logical arguments) is less likely to influence a sale. Remember, we need to get the attention of the primitive brain – which will then send a message to the parts of the brain responsible for logical thinking to proceed with a purchase.
  • Keep the decision process simple. Another attribute of the primitive brain is that it dislikes complexity. The human brain is drawn toward clarity and away from confusion. Simplify! Giving the patient too many choices or too much information can cause him or her to postpone or even avoid making a purchase. Think about it, if you’re looking for an Italian restaurant to eat at, would you rather do extensive research on all the local options, or ask a few friends for a recommendation? The patient staring at 700 frames in your optical wants the same direction.
  • People’s desire to resolve an internal frustration is greater than their desire to resolve an external problem, yet we often fail to uncover the internal frustration. For example, needing a pair of glasses to see better resolves an external problem, while experiencing peripheral distortion every time you hit a golf ball is an internal frustration.

The information presented here is part of a larger document titled “The Science of Selling”. If you would like to read the entire document, email me at


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Steve Vargo

Steve Vargo

Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is a 1998 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. After working in clinical optometric practice for several years, Dr. Vargo pursued his passion for practice management by earning his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Phoenix in 2008. A published author and speaker with 15 years of clinical experience, he serves as IDOC’s Optometric Practice Management Consultant. Dr. Vargo advises optometric alliance members in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations.