The Business of Contact Lenses

Upselling Versus Right-Selling

The Business of Contact Lenses

Upselling Versus Right-Selling


Iwanted to put a dog run in my backyard, but I didn’t want a conventional fence. So, I contacted an “invisible” fence company. I wanted to section off part of the backyard that was big enough for the dog to play in, was visible from the house, and would keep him away from the property line.

The salesperson walked around the property with me and agreed that where I was thinking of installing the fence was the ideal spot. I had no desire to put a fence around the perimeter. It wasn’t the extra cost, but because it wouldn’t address the reasons why I wanted the fence in the first place. She drew up a proposal, took a deposit, and said to expect a call from the installer.

About one week later, the installer showed up and wanted to review where I wanted the fence. I repeated my reasons for why I wanted it the way that I did. His response: “You know, if you fence off the entire property, it will be better. It will give your dog more area to run.” I thought: “And if I fenced off the state of New Jersey, that would give him even more room.” But instead, I repeated what I wanted, and he was still pretty insistent that I do it his way. To avoid a lengthy discussion and probable confrontation, I told him that I would hold off for now and think about it. When he left, I called the company and got my deposit back.

What Happened?

What went wrong, and what can we learn from this? Was this simply a case of upselling gone awry, or was there more to it?

When you’re in the exam room with a patient whom you believe would benefit clinically from a different type of contact lens that may be more expensive, do you shy away from that recommendation because you don’t want to appear to be selling something to the patient? That’s a concern that our consultants often hear from practitioners.

For now, let’s just suffice it to say that this isn’t upselling at all. If something is clinically superior for your patient, you are “right-selling.”

More appropriately, you’re not selling at all, but rather just doing what’s best for the patient. Whether your recommended new modality costs more, less, or the same, simply tell the patient why it’s best for him.

Lessons Learned

Now back to the fence story. The first salesperson did, in fact, tell me what was best for me and my situation, and I readily handed her my credit card for the deposit. The mistake happened when her recommended “treatment” was not conveyed to the installer.

Once I told the installer what I wanted and that it was already agreed upon, he should have backed off. But, he also should have shown up educated about what he was supposed to install and why it was to be installed that way. The key error was a lack of communication between the salesperson and the installer.

What happens when you discuss upgraded contact lens X with a patient, and then he goes to your front desk and says: “I think I’ll just stay with what I have now.” How does your staff handle that situation?

The best answer is that it should never happen in the first place. Your staff should be informed of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and the patient should know that you’ve had that discussion. Consider bringing your staff into the exam room when you make your recommendations, you’ll be surprised how much smoother things run.

Speaking of “how things run,” the dog is still running around the entire backyard—for now. CLS

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.