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 In Independent Pharmacy

OTC products account for over $30 billion in sales every year, according to Consumer Healthcare Products Association. In your pharmacy, however, OTC sales likely account for less than 10% of your total revenues. Under these current conditions of decreasing reimbursements and increasing DIR fees, boosting OTC sales is one of the most natural ways for pharmacies to compensate.

How do I boost my sales?

Increasing sales in any department is always easier said than done. There are lots of great tips out there for getting this done like keeping up with trends, improving customer service, implementing a loyalty rewards program, and enhancing your appearance. While all of these (and more) have their merit, one of the easiest ways to do this is by simply making recommendations. This is one of the more underutilized tips because pharmacists already feel over worked and just the idea of making more trips from behind the counter when you already have enough to do is exhausting. To avoid this, utilize “stop notes” to make recommendations to your customers.

The stop notes contain a list of OTC items that in some way complement prescription medications. For example, since PPIs can decrease magnesium absorption, you might list magnesium, the recommended dose, and a brief explanation why people taking PPIs should supplement. Then, when checking a PPI prescription, you would check the box next to this suggestion and at the point of sale, cashiers and technicians would simply read the recommendation you’ve made ahead of time. Therefore, instead of pharmacists personally making every recommendation, technicians and cashiers can extend the pharmacist’s recommendation to customers.

Training your staff

All staff will need to be on the lookout for the prescription medications on your list. I recommend (see below) check boxes next to each option. This way, the staff member can simply check the appropriate box. It is also a good idea for pharmacists to familiarize themselves with the medications on this list because customers are likely to want further explanation.

Ancillary staff will need to be trained to stop, hence the name “stop note”, every time they see one attached to a patient’s prescriptions. It is a good idea to print these on colored paper that will stand out from your bags and receipts and then attach them to your customer’s prescriptions or bag.

Your staff might also need to be trained with a “script” to increase the likelihood of the sale and to ensure the pharmacist is correctly represented in the recommendation. I suggest using something like this, “The pharmacist (use his or her name) has analyzed your prescriptions. Because this medication (use medication name) decreases magnesium absorption, he recommends that you take 500 mg of magnesium once daily to make sure you get all of the magnesium your body needs to function properly.” Your staff should be properly trained not to say anything that might fall outside of their scope according to regulations regarding their position.

Additionally, you might consider training your staff to retrieve the products that you’ve recommended at the point of sale. I’ve noticed that for some reason people have a tendency to feel like they are obligated to pick up their prescription because you already have it filled. Similarly, when they think your cashier has already “gone through the trouble” of pulling the recommended items, they may be more likely to complete the sale.

Will this actually work?

Pharmacy is constantly changing. Independents must be able to keep up with trends and technology. This requires you to be creative and willing to implement new ideas. My philosophy is this: if you never try something new, you can never expect new results. I cannot guarantee that this will increase your sales. But I can guarantee that they will never increase if you don’t try anything new.

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Feel free to use as you see fit. If you think I should make any additions, deletions, or changes that might help other independents, please let me know.

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