Don’t Want to “Sell”? Sorry, You Already Do!


The optical industry is such a strange world. We all want and deserve to be perceived as ‘eye care professionals’ who work hard to attain and maintain our licensures and increase our  knowledge. But we also have this funny dichotomy in our industry that no other health care provider really deals with:  we make most of our practice money in a retail environment. In other words….SELLING.

So, you are NOT going to be viewed as a ‘salesperson’. You refuse. You simply will NOT go that route, and for my OD friends out there, you are not going to jeopardize your image as a health professional by sullying your exam lane with explanations of why a patient needs more than one pair of glasses, or why an anti glare treatment is a necessity.
Well, I have news for you….

And now the negative thoughts about this article run through your head lol. But read on, and you will see what I mean.
Do you have a business listing in the phone book? How about advertising on TV, newspaper or radio? Facebook? Do you manage a social media campaign involving your practice? Website? Do you perform community services, or donations with your business name attached?
We all know we’d answer yes to at least one of the above questions.

And, while I hate to be the one to break it to you, would you like to know what all those things have in common? You are SELLING YOURSELF to potential customers!  You spend somewhere in the neighborhood on a national average of 5-10% of your yearly revenue selling yourself. Telling potential customers why they should choose you over another practice. Perhaps offering incentives to get existing patients to refer family and friends. These are all retail selling tools. They are designed to culminate in more revenue for your practice. Hmmm…that sure sounds like selling to me.

So what, you might say. Yes, you have to advertise to get people in your door to spend money, so you can stay in business, pay your bills, and eat. Well, here’s my response. The white pedestal of ‘I am NOT a salesperson (insert mental image of sleazy gold chain wearing used car salesman here), I am a professional and want to be treated as one’ has quite a few cracks in it. You ARE a salesperson, a marketing person, but the problem is if you refuse to acknowledge this you are not being a very good one, nor are you being a truly effective health care provider. You want your cake and don’t want to bake it yourself.

If you are going to put yourself out there in advertising as the BEST for _______ (eye care, eye wear, contact fittings, low vision, etc), then don’t you have an obligation to ensure you really DO give your patients/customers the best in those things? If you examine them, or if they walk in your door based on your marketing, and you don’t tell them absolutely EVERYthing they need to have, you have not fulfilled your advertising promise. You have welshed on the promises you made to ‘hook them in’ your door. And the optimum word here is NEED.

Eyewear isn’t a want. Not at its core. It’s a necessity. Now, a customer may WANT a nicer frame, or a pair for every outfit. But the need is that of better vision, or in some cases, any visual improvement.
Say Sally Smith walks in, after seeing your ad regarding the best quality frames, and the most personalized care in the area. This is what brought her in. 30 minutes later, Sally walks out after having purchased one pair of great frames and progressive lenses, no add ons. Ok, good job. Umm…did you find out about Sally’s cross-stitching hobby? Or that she routinely spends 8-10 hours a day on the computer editing books for a publishing company? How about her love of golf? So, you just did this woman a disservice. She NEEDS anti-glare. She probably needs a pair of near only eyewear for all that accommodative work her poor eyes are doing while sewing. And let’s not even get into the sunwear and how progressives don’t tend to work as well for golf. If I were a betting woman, and Sally had had an exam, I bet one of her complaints would have been ‘eye strain’. Hmmm…wonder why. And you did NOT give her the personalized care you promised you would. So….now you have failed as her eye care provider AND as a salesperson.
Think about that. And the next time you start to shudder at the word ‘sell’, remember…sell is a synonym for ‘being in business’..which you ARE.

Nikki DiBacco, ABO/NCLE, is an educator, writer and owner of DnD Consulting&Design. She is also co-founder of The Visionaries Group. Learn more at

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