50 Shades of Reps
Point/Counterpoint: Two Sides to Every Story
By Karen Michaelson, ABOC, and Tim Slapnicher, ABOC
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Expiration Date: April 10, 2018
To update the ECP on changes and adoption practices for a lens material that is capable of being the overall lens platform including:
- Create a true rep-account relationship with no surprises.
- Develop a Vendor Relationship Agreement to ensure partnership is beneficial and positive for both parties.
- Implement a Rules and Guidelines for Vendors and Reps Form so trust and expectations are defined and accountability is established.
- Conduct a set of Guiding Questions for Your New Account to learn the flow of your new account.
Tim Slapnicher, ABOC, CPO, is currently the practice coordinator at Rivertown Eye Care in Hastings, Minn., where he lives with his family.
Karen Michaelson, ABOC, is a certified optician and practice management consultant, staff and professional trainer for private and wholesale practice applications.
This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course SJMI122
AN ACCOUNT'S ACOUNT:
Rep after rep, meeting after
meeting, I was seeing a
pattern of what reps do. They come in, schmooze
with me, tell me how
great we are, and how
much money I will make
selling their amazing prod-
uct. They may promise me
exclusivity if I do enough
business or tell me how
our business will suffer
if I don't carry their
product. They may offer
some sort of rewards if
we sell their stuff or
maybe a 20 percent discount if I act today. If I
don't, they will have to go
to my competitor down the
street because they need
some presence in our market.
They'd like to have it be with
me, but they have to make a
living too, you know. They make
sure to let me know how their
competition is struggling and lost
another frame line or how the
competition's product is just not
holding up like it used to. They promise me
training and coming
in regularly, and
being available any
time there's a question
or problem. I like what I hear. I go for it. I
get a great discount,
buy a bunch of product and wait for it
to turn my business
into a profit machine because I'm the only
place around that
has this product.
Reality sets in. The
frames don't look as
sexy when they arrive
in plastic baggies eight
days later. I also see some
interesting styles I don't
recall purchasing. Could
they have padded (four
frames too many) our
order? The provided 3-by5 countercard doesn't seem
all that inspiring. I'm left to
make them look spectacular
in our display case. We wait.
I figure we'll sell these
like hotcakes right away. No one else has
them. We are now
THE hot spot.
day now. After a
week or so, I con-
tact our rep to let her (or is it
him?) know it's not going
well. She returns my e-mail
three days later and tells me I
flipped the wrong product,
and our optical team just
doesn't know how to sell
her special frames. We are
not seeing eye-to-eye. I
ask for her to come in to
do brand training. Her
calendar is booked for
a few months. I tell her
that I found all of these
frames online for an aver-
age of $75 less than what
we're selling it for. She danc-
es around the issue and tells
me that hardly anyone actually
buys frames online, and her
company can't control
it anyway. Ugh. How
did I get myself in this
mess? Foiled again! Typical rep.
Months later, I find this exclusive frame
line in an optical shop down the road. It's
explained to me that we are not getting a
healthy turn on these frames, and she's
losing money because we can't sell the
product. She has to make money too. She
did, however, bring in a new line that she
will definitely keep out of any stores near
us. Are you kidding me? I take her exclusive line and discount it at our store and tell
her we've decided on a new direction.
I meet with a new rep with a new line the
following week. He tells me how special
we are and how his frame line fits our
brand and will make us a ton of money. He
will give us a 15-mile exclusive and a 15
percent discount if we bring in the 24-piece minimum order. I
hate him already.
Now I feel paralyzed with
what direction to go next. I don't trust any reps
anymore. They are
hurting their colleagues. When one rep drops the ball,
they all do. Help me
'NOT SO FAST,'
SAYS THE REP:
I arrive at the clinic a few minutes
before my scheduled appointment. Apparently, I'm a surprise because no
one knows why I'm here. I somehow
need to make them understand they
need to value my time as I do theirs. I
wait for about 20 minutes before an
available optician finally brings me
back to their lab. There are plenty of
patients in today so our first meeting
feels a bit choppy. We get started on my
frame trays, then she gets pulled away
to dispense. Then she gets a phone call. Then she comes back frustrated…
today's not the best day. Well, that's good
to know, as I scheduled this over
three weeks ago. Hmmm, how do I
help them schedule their time
more efficiently? I have great ideas
but until I earn some respect, it
will seem self-serving.
We finally get a break. She leads
me to an empty (and quiet)
exam room to go over
things. I tell her a bit
about my frame lines
in our dimly lit
space. She then
next 45 min-
every… single… one… on. Yes, they do look amazing
on you. She complains that some are just
not her style. OK, so now we're stocking
inventory that looks good on one person?
At this point, I would love to take her to the
frameboards to see what might be missing
from styles, colors and materials as well as
talk about their patient base. However,
today she doesn't have time. I want my
product to shine!
My first visit has turned into a marathon
event. Every available staff member tries
on every frame. Cute! Oh, fun! I want a
pair! I do my best to continue to smile. I
love my job, but it's been over two hours
of complimenting the entire staff. I am
concerned I will be late for my next
appointment, and I am struggling to stay
composed through the fashion show.
The skeptical doctor comes in. He wonders
sarcastically what big deal we have going on,
and how he "got screwed by a frame rep four
years ago… they're never coming back here
again!" He mumbles something else and carries on his way. Ah, the welcome team! Get
me outta here! Here is where I gain some
ground by introducing myself and creating a
relationship with him. I give him my card and
let him know if there is ANYTHING he is
not satisfied with to contact me. I am
determined to be a rep he remembers for how efficient I am as well as the sell-through on the product. This is a partnership.
The optician flips 45 frames. Nice. These frames all look
good on her and are starting to
resemble the rest of the inventory
here… I see a pattern. I'm
excited to get a big sale,
but have a funny feeling
I'll be exchanging most
of them. There is no
accountability here. I
will close this call by
making an appointment
to review the initial sell through on the order and request time looking at inventory to be sure the best product
is there for them. The doctor does not want
to be involved. I have a feeling there will be
some headaches down the road with this
one. Shoot. I'm running way behind with
one of my favorite accounts. That was an
experience. Kind of reminds me of yesterday. And the day before. I need an organized office that can knock this product out
of the ballpark. This story is getting old.
AN ACCOUNT ON
THE PERFECT REP:
Give me a rep I can trust. I feel like I get the
same "speech" with almost all my reps
(frame, lens, pharmaceutical, etc.). This
predictable formula has run its course. I am
craving a partnership where I can trust my
rep, we have common goals and they can
help me be the best optical around.
I've been burned many times before. Yes,
other reps have ruined it for you. They've
padded my orders, done deals with my
opticians under the table, not followed
through, been jerks when I needed help
with exchanges, and unreachable when I
needed them most. I've been played many
times, so it is hard for me to trust you. How
will you be any different?
I'd love it if instead of gift cards and
spiffs, you gave us more
support through brand
education credits, tips
on selling, sending us
to conferences and
giving us the tools to differentiate our optical.
You've seen a thousand
we do different?
Who is doing something extraordinary?
What are the best practices out there?
If you invest in our growth, we will be
loyal with you. I'm looking for a longterm partner/relationship, not an optical
A REP ON THE
I am taking cues from your "flow." I can't
come in and tell you how to run your business. I've had to bite my tongue more
than once… this week. I play by your rules
even if I know things should be run very differently. The infrastructure should be
established so a rep understands who is
responsible for certain decisions. Your
opticians are running the business here.
That can work, but it's not in your case.
Your doctors need to be involved. It is easy
for me to work with the frame buyer, but
the owner needs to know more about this
side of the business. A frame selection
team is an approach to be sure that all
demographics are covered.
Be honest, focused, goal-oriented and
strive to create partnerships based on business first. Establish what your needs are. What are your goals? Where are you headed? I have tools and resources that I'd love
to share with you. You're not utilizing me.
Share your needs and desires, and let me
know when something needs attention. If
we can establish better communication
lines, and we're all on the same page, there's
no wiggle room for surprises. It works great
when there is accountability on both ends.
I too crave more trust. I apologize what's
happened to you in the past, but I'll do my
best to exceed your expectations so we can
move forward together.
GETTING ON THE SAME PAGE
Both sides agree: Expectations and guidelines need to be established. We need to be
on the same page. If we are to become a
true partnership, things need to be laid out
clearly so there are no surprises. Here's a
suggestion: Start with a Vendor Relationship
Agreement (taken from iKare Optical and
Clinic Services). It will help you get some
foundational understanding and background of your rep and the frame company.
It works in both directions too. A rules and
guidelines for the partnership is also appropriate to outline your expectations (see
example). Also, be sure that the practi
business owner has seen these forms so it
sets an expectation for the relationship.
The rep should ask questions of new
accounts. This will help organize your
account and make them think about their
policies and expectations if they seem a bit
MAKE IT LAST
These questions (and ones you come up
with) will help get you on the same page.
They take the guesswork out of it all. If
either side is not holding up their side of
the agreement, then it's easy to go back to
these expectations. It takes two to tango.
Be honest, trustworthy and hold your end
of the bargain. Support this partnership
and develop a long-lasting partnership.