Building Your Practice with Storytelling

by | Nov 10, 2021 | Business Management, Sales

As eye care practitioners, we play a huge role in our patients’ lives. We spend dedicated time with them in the exam room, listen to their needs, and have a wide variety of tools at our disposal to give them such an important gift – the gift of sight! I usually find that the more excited my patients are, (the more they have “buy in,”) the more likely they are to follow through with my treatment plans. Plus we are more likely to keep those sales in office.  How can we get our patients excited about glasses and contacts, and about our offices? I find the magic of storytelling to be an essential part of practice success.

Why We Buy

What was the last big purchase you made?  How did you feel about that purchase? What made you want to buy that car, house, TV, or article of clothing? Research shows that more than 80% of our purchasing decisions are made with emotion, and they are more memorable than facts and figures. 

Our goal in office communications is to influence our patients, and studies show that information alone is not as effective – we need to make our patients feel something, and be part of a story. Messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than just facts. Are you trying to upgrade your patient to a thinner, lighter lens material? Instead of talking about the material using words they may not understand, talk about how their glasses will be more comfortable, not be as heavy and leave marks on their nose, and how the lenses will look thinner. I guarantee that is more memorable and impactful to that patient. 

Using Storytelling to Increase Perceived Value

Where else is storytelling useful? In our office, our optical dispensary is a huge driver of revenue in our practice. Opticians that weave storytelling and emotion into their sales can be extremely successful not just in sales, but in patient retention and driving an exceptional patient experience. A pair of glasses is not just a commodity- it is a work of art with a story. Learn the backstory and key pieces of information about each line (and frame) that make it special. Was this frame handmade in France and took 8-12 weeks to produce? Is this frame line the oldest optical company in America and the frame they are holding was produced here in the USA? Do you have an environmentally conscious patient in your optical? 

Now is a great time to show them the frame line that is made from recycled metal and a tree is planted for each frame sold. Understanding what makes each frame line unique and tailored to that patient elevates the entire office experience and introduces emotion into the process. According to Paul Smith, the author of Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince and Inspire, “if you want to influence people’s decisions – in other words, sell them something or be a leader – you need to influence them emotionally. Stories can do this.”

Getting Started with Storytelling

Unsure where to start? Your frame reps are a great resource. They too would love to get your emotions involved to help guide your business decisions. The really impactful ones will give you the reasons these lines must be in your office, and why your patients must be wearing them. Use the information they provide and know the history and uniqueness of the lines you carry. Each optician in your office should have a few bullet points for each frame line and have their own way to share this message with your patients. Scripting will sound too forced, so encourage them to make the information their own. After all, it is part of their story, too. A great way to have everyone feel more comfortable with this is to write true stories of experiences in the optical that were powerful and worked. Have them practice these story scripts with each other, their spouses or their friends. Making them become second nature is key to success.

One of my favorite storytelling books is by Kindra Hall. In Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences and Transform Your Business, she simply says “people don’t buy the thing. They buy what the thing will do for them.” What is the difference between a pair of glasses that cost $100 and one that costs $1000? They both help us see better, but the difference between the two is the story we tell about them.

Using Storytelling to Support Practice Goals

 Are you looking to increase your average frame price? It is not enough to add a higher end frame line to your office (although this is a great start!) What is the story behind that frame? What sets it apart and justifies that higher price tag? What emotion is attached to wearing that frame? We all want to feel and look good, and the best opticians are masters at “story selling.” According to Kindra Hall, “they need to feel the pain of it they didn’t have this thing I am selling.” We need to create the emotion of powerful need in our opticals.

Kindra Hall also points out that “storytelling gives us the ability to fast track trust.” Sales involve a level of trust between the buyer and seller. We not only want the emotional response, but we want the full buy-in at every level. Stories about other patients who have had similar problems and how they benefitted are extremely powerful. People want to feel that they are not alone, and that others have had similar issues and experiences. By talking about patients like them, they put their trust in us and are more likely to follow through with a plan. 

We use this in our office when speaking about photochromic lenses. Patients may be on the fence if they are right for them, but well placed story telling can be extremely effective. “Mary, I had a patient like you last month who had 3 pairs of glasses she was always carrying in her purse-that gets heavy, doesn’t it? We were able to simplify her life and lighten her load by making her primary pair of glasses change from light to dark when she went outside. She was even able to leave her prescription sunglasses in the car and loved having the ability to wear one pair all day. Doesn’t that sound like something that would work well for you?” Who wouldn’t want the experience Mary had, and our patient immediately puts their trust in our optician because she has helped another patient just like them. 

Where else can you use storytelling in your optical?  Start by picking one metric you are trying to improve, and work together to find successful patient experiences to share with your other patients.

Jimmy Neil Smith, the Director of the International Storytelling Center says, “We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” I encourage you to make that connection, earn that trust, and tell the stories that make your practice great.

Yours in success-
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD

By Jennifer Stewart, OD

Optometrist, internationally recognized speaker, writer, consultant, and entrepreneur.


Share This