Sales representative Jane Lewis provides practical advice on how to boost skincare product sales and retain patient custom
Selling skincare products in your clinic can provide the patient with a more complete approach to their skin health. Certain products can help with preparing the skin for treatments, as well as complementing and maintaining the outcomes of the treatments you offer. Providing your patient with the appropriate skincare regime can help keep them loyal to you and your clinic, especially if the ongoing advice and care is given with the purchase. The majority of patients will benefit from a good skin regime, which includes the use of sunscreen, antioxidants and a retinoid.1 A standalone product routine may be ideal for the younger patient or for those that are not ready to have treatments, potentially reaching out to a new clientele.
According to the UK Office for National Statistics, 35% of the population will be 50 years of age during 2016-2030.2 Research conducted by beauty retailer Escentual indicated that women over 50 have become the biggest buyers of beauty products in Britain.6 Celebrity endorsement often sells products and there are ranges that are available that have appropriate celebrity endorsement; marketing campaigns that are using models such as Helen Mirren are very attractive to this particular age group.6 Find out which celebrities use the products, or ingredients, you retail to enhance your marketing efforts. Another opportunity is male facial skincare, which is estimated to be worth £96 million in the UK.4 The male grooming market is valued at $6 billion in the US alone and £25 billion globally. In the US, 43% of men are using skincare products beyond shaving; eye creams, moisturisers, luxury facial cleansers and concealers have become routine.5
With many excellent cosmeceutical ranges available, knowing where to start can be confusing. You may consider looking at the most popular brands being promoted in other clinics, you might wish to offer products for the most common conditions that you treat or there may be other criteria you use to start to select your range; whatever your rationale, you will need to have a plan. Consider: what gaps do you have in your product portfolio? What is new and exciting and would it enhance your business and would your patients be interested? Before taking on a product, it is also important to research the technology and where it may fit in with the other ranges you stock. Clinical studies that support the product are very important.
Firstly, make your initial product selection simple, as you can always expand the range later. It is helpful to have a core basic range that resonates with most patients, looking to build key products to complement your most popular treatment. This core basic range could include a sunscreen, retinoid and antioxidant, as mentioned earlier. The look and the design of the packaging may be something to consider, but more importantly, patients like to feel they have been given a bespoke skincare regime which is unique to the problem and has been put together on the day with their skin type and aesthetic concern in mind.
Cost can be an objection for some patients in clinics; your location may play a role in this. Consider choosing products that have a high, medium and low price range, therefore stocking several different brands that will suit all pockets. This may help overcome any objection.
Consider ‘tried and tested’ products that you would feel confident using and recommending. If a product is backed by clinical data and gives proven results, you and your staff will be confident in the results that can be achieved when advising patients. Encourage clinic staff to use the products themselves, so they can see firsthand what the benefits are and therefore be able to communicate these to patients more effectively. Is having your own brand an option? It’s a sure-fire way of keeping patients loyal to you, as they won’t be able to find your product elsewhere, but this comes with research, commitment and investment. There are a few companies that specialise in creating your own brand and can help guide you in the process.
It’s important to display the products you have invested in. You need to consider practicalities; your access and the patients access to the product, so don’t have them tucked away in a cupboard. Have them on display and at eye level so the customer can see them clearly; it will spark a conversation. This is especially true for products displayed at the reception area. Displays should be bright and open so patients can touch and read the details on the product packaging. There should be lighting inside the display or directed on to it, items and shelving must be dusted daily and the display units should have a storage area underneath the main shelves so stock can be replenished quickly.
Having products available in the consulting room so you can show the patient how to apply and what they feel like will help break down objections. Samples are also helpful when allowing patients to feel and try a product, such as a sunscreen, but if the product is ‘active’, it may take longer than the sample lasts to see any changes on the skin, so this may add a negative to the patient’s view of the product, therefore, samples should be selected carefully.
Selling is considered by many to be an ‘art of persuasion’. The sales process refers to a systematic course of repetitive and measurable milestones. In this case the stages of selling and buying, involve:
For many of us who consult with patients on a daily basis in-clinic, the sales process can be a hurdle to overcome, as most medically-trained professionals are not always natural ‘sales people’. This does not mean we have to go in with a ‘hard sell’ but we do have to consider how we can follow a process, which allows us to overcome obstacles and doubts we face from our patients to enable us to promote and sell appropriately. We should not assume that our patients will ask for or know what they need, therefore it’s important to communicate openly with them to ensure that the patient’s requirements are assessed and properly met without the fear of ‘selling’. How you approach the conversation is key.
Competing with internet sales can be challenging, especially as some suppliers have their own website, which means they could be in direct competition with us as clinic owners. In a similar vein, self-diagnostic sites, which allow you to input details about your skin type and a product regime will be designed for you, also usually have the advantage of being able to sell at a lower price. It’s important to note that counterfeit products are a problem, especially on the internet; some $15,000,000 is lost per year through counterfeit goods in the US.3 You may need to advise your patients that expired and counterfeit products are being sold, which may be detrimental, or at best, ineffective. Additional challenges include other clinics reducing prices, and patients believing that OTC products are as effective as a clinic product and/or that clinic products cost many times more – educating the patient is key. This can be challenging at times without technology such as a skin imaging system. You’re also likely to meet patients that are anxious due to a bad experience from previous use and so will need to take time to overcome this.
Find out what percentage of your patients are buying products – I would personally expect 50% of patients to regularly purchase products. What is the percentage of repeat sales? What is the ratio of products to treatment sales? Once you can answer these questions you can implement strategies so the numbers can be improved.
See the patient regularly to tweak or augment the regime; some patients will benefit from seasonal reviews. This can be as often as weekly, particularly if they are suffering from acne or rosacea. Once a regime is working, reviews could be three to four times per year.
Have measures in place to be able to show the patient how much their skin has changed and is improving; it’s often difficult for patients to remember their starting point and it’s encouraging for them to see improvements. Offering imagery, such as those taken with a complexion analysis system, are invaluable. It also helps practitioners to see if a product is working as expected so they can react appropriately to get the best result for the patient. If you can show patients results they will trust you and continue to purchase your products. Be aware of life and product usage. Does your patient’s product need replenishing in one month or three months? Make sure you have a review session in place so that you don’t allow your patients to run out of their products.
It is important to know what are you selling. What are your best selling products? What doesn’t sell and why? Be ruthless. If you can’t sell the product, then consider dropping it. Sales should be reviewed monthly with an overview of performance of the product at three months; this should give you an idea if it is working for the patients and the staff who are selling. Make time to review your range quite frequently so that you can consider condensing or expanding to give you the best offering, outcomes and to not waste your hard-earned cash on something that’s not working for you or your patients.
Product sales in-clinic give an opportunity to engage with new and existing patients; you’ll be able to increase patient spend per visit, and engage patients who do not want to or who are not ready for treatment, if products are seen as a fundamental part of the patient journey. The patients’ outcomes should be improved by your suggestions, enhancing their loyalty for longer. Selling appropriate products in the right manner can create a long-term gain for your business.