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Why the interview is vital to optical sales


By asking a series of targeted questions, the optician learns about the specific set of needs and wants of the customer. The goal is to learn how, when, where, and why the customer uses his or her eyes each day.



By asking a series of targeted questions, the optician learns about the specific set of needs and wants of the customer. The goal is to learn how, when, where, and why the customer uses his or her eyes each day.


Dispensing Solutions By Arthur De Gennaro

The introductory article to this series discussed the first of seven parts to a retail sale (“Opening the dispensary sale,” Ophthalmology Times, March 15, 2014, Page 44). If an optician uses all seven parts and does them skillfully, then the likelihood that the customer will purchase increases dramatically. The reverse is also true.

This article discusses the second step in the retail-selling process: the interview. During the interview, the optician attempts to learn the customer’s unique set of needs, wants, and desires. Notice I did not say just needs, or just wants. Both of these are important and strong motives to buy, but desire is even more important. Without being able to increase desire to purchase a product an optician will have a great deal of difficulty establishing value in the product(s) being offered.

A few techniques can help an optician determine a customer’s needs, wants, and desires:



This is the process of critically observing a customer. Some assessment clues are:

How the customer is dressed. What a customer wears can provide a good deal of insight into what he or she is looking for. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, handbag, hairstyle, makeup, and current eyewear are all clues to what the customer may be looking for. It also can provide some idea of how important fashion trends and appearance are to the customer.

How the customer speaks. What the customer says, how he or she says it, and the words the customer chooses to use are all clues to the customer’s education level, socioeconomic group, and desire for status. These, in turn, can be clues to what the customer views as desirable.

Physical attitude. Is the customer focused and engaged in the discussion or is he or she disengaged, distant, fidgeting, or tense?

When training salespeople, I often ask them to assess customers as they sit in the waiting room. The opticians guess as many of the customer’s attributes as they can come up with. Later on when serving that customer we see how close was the assessment. Questions I ask often are:

  • Is looking fashionable very important, somewhat important, or not important to this customer?

  • Is this customer seeking luxury brands, designer brands, or not interested in branded products?

  • Is the customer a member of the upper, middle, or lower class?

  • Is the customer single or married?

  • Does the customer have children?

  • Does the customer have a college education?

  • Does the customer have a white- or blue-collar job?

  • What kind of car does the customer drive?

  • Does the customer own a house or rent?  


Asking questions

When an expressed need or want is matched with an appropriate product, the likelihood the customer will purchase goes up. The goal then is to get the customer to express his or her needs, wants, and desires.

The optician begins the interview by using what he or she surmised during the assessment. Armed with that information, the optician begins to ask a series of probing questions.

What questions should be asked? One optician I know asks the same basic set of questions to every customer. She then follows up with a set of unique questions based on her assessment or the customer’s responses.

I tend to use a more freewheeling approach. I do, however, ask every customer: “What do you like most about your current glasses? What do you like least?” I also ask: “What have you seen that has caught you attention?

Whatever questions you choose to ask, they need to be open-ended. They must always encourage the customer to explain something in detail. Questions must get the customer to explain how, when, where, and why he or she uses their eyes and eyewear each day. In fact, you could start each question with one of those key words. (How often do you . . . ? How many hours a day do you . . . ? When did you begin to notice that . . . ? Why are you looking for . . . ? How important is looking fashionable to you? What brand of progressive lenses are you wearing now?)

I always ask questions about wardrobe and color preferences. (Do you always wear your hair that way? What color do you look best/worst in? What types of clothes do you prefer to wear: business, casual, or sporty? How would you describe the shape of your face?)

I find that getting the customer focused on their appearance and how it might be enhanced takes the focus off price. In fact, it is unusual for customers to ask me how much the frames cost.


Recommending products

The interview continues until the optician feels he or she has a command of what the customer needs, wants, and desires. Only then can he or she begin to recommend products. Making recommendations before this point could result in losing the customer’s interest simply because the product offered is not specifically what the customer is looking for. Remember, you are looking to increase a customer’s desire for the product(s) you recommend. The desire will be highest for the product the customer has in mind, that is, what the customer sees as the most valuable.

Bill Borover was an ophthalmic consultant whom some readers will remember. One of Bill’s favorite expressions was: “Practice does not make perfect. Practice only makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Bill’s axiom applies to learning to conduct an interview that finds out what a customer is looking for. It is much easier to get the customer to open up if and when the optician has done a good job of opening the sale.

Most of the interviews I observe are woefully incomplete. The optician generally asks one or two questions and then quickly will move on to demonstrating products. It seems easier to “let the products do the talking” than to ask a lot of questions. The merchandise approach to selling, however, is an error because it is too random. What works better is to use what you learn from the interview to recommend products. This will be the subject of the next article.


‘When an expressed need or want is matched with an appropriate product, the likelihood the customer will purchase goes up.’ - Arthur De Gennaro



Arthur De Gennaro is president of Arthur De Gennaro & Associates LLC, an ophthalmic practice management firm that specializes in optical dispensary issues. De Gennaro is the author of the book The Dispensing Ophthalmologist. He can be reached at 803/359-7887, arthur@adegennaro.com, or through the company’s Web site, www.adegennaro.com. He maintains a blog at www.adgablog.wordpress.com.




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