By Tim Slapnicher, ABOC
Release Date: May 1, 2013
Expiration Date: December 31, 2016
Upon completion of this course, the participant
should be able to:
- Understand the pros and cons of incentivizing for lens sales.
- Create an intrinsic motivation for team members to sell.
- Increase sales by developing product knowledge and improving communication with your team.
Tim Slapnicher, ABOC, CPO is currently
the practice coordinator at Rivertown Eye Care in Hastings, Minn., where he
lives with his family.
He uses his experience of teaching
kindergarten to bring
a fresh perspective
to management in the optical industry.
This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course SJHI095
I often hear both sides of this scenario:
Should you incentivize your staff for sales
performance? I have been to seminars
where speakers from both trains of thought
have made solid points on why you should
or shouldn't incentivize employees. There
are endless opinions on this subject matter.
Let's break down both views.
YES YOU SHOULD
If you have a goal of selling more digital
PALs, you should definitely reward your
team if they meet and exceed the goal you
come up with. What's the harm? Your
practice will make more of a profit selling
luxury products, and your team
could earn: gift cards, a
bonus, profit sharing,
extra time off, etc. The staff is extra
motivated to earn a
to them. You are
excited if they meet
the goal because you
make more money. It's
Why incentivize something that should be
a requirement? Your optical team should
be selling luxury; that's what they have
been hired to do. If you pay them a fair
wage with good benefits, there is no
reason to reward. Besides, if you ever
have to remove the incentive, what's their
motivation then? They will be upset that
you eliminated the program, and they will
go back to selling low cost products. It is
unnecessary and will backfire.
When I was teaching elementary kids, I chose not to give incentives to my students.
I didn't believe in
rewarding them for walking quietly in
the hallway or completing all of their
assigned work. Those were expectations I
had for them. It didn't make sense for me to give out a sticker for every time they
followed directions or made a good
choice. That's what's expected of
them. My philosophy is if they had
ownership in their learning and their
actions, they will choose to make good
decisions because it's the right thing to
do. I wanted it to be intrinsic. Once in
a while I would hear a student say they
wanted a sticker because of their
behavior. I would tell them to grab
one of the "pretend" floating stickers
above them in the air and stick it on
their heart. They loved it, especially
when Mr. S grabbed a Dora the
Explorer or Cinderella sticker to put
on his heart.
In the optical realm, I have the same
philosophy, but it gets tricky sometimes. It is especially difficult when reps
and vendors enter the picture. You
have all been there. A lens rep comes in
to the office and tells you they have an
exciting new lens and for every pair you
sell, a $10 gift card will be given to the
optician. Sounds nice, doesn't it?
It didn't feel right to me. What happens if an optician puts a patient in the
lens that they shouldn't be in just so
they can receive the reward? What
happens once the lens company pulls
their gift card reward away? Are we
"trained" to keep selling that lens once
the motivation is gone? What happens
if our noncommissioned opticians start
stealing patients away from one another so
they can get the sale? If I stop giving students a popcorn party for walking down
the hall like they should, will they start
sprinting the halls once I take it away?
Chaos. This was sounding familiar to me.
I caved. Against my moral fiber, I told
them that I didn't want to hold any
opportunities from them, and we would
participate in a lens sale reward for six
months. They were pumped. I was wary. I
swallowed my pride and philosophical
views, and allowed them to go for it. I am writing this exactly two years later.
There was a buzz in the air. Our opticians
kicked it in gear and had that look in their
eyes. Our patients were going to be wearing this new luxury lens. It started slowly
but our numbers started creeping up.
What started as eight to 15 lenses per
month soon grew to over 30 per month.
Yikes... We were selling premium lenses.
Along with that, we were putting patients
in high-end frames to complement their
investment. Why didn't we do this
Our opticians started loving the
incentives but they wanted more.
They felt that our doctors could start
doing a better hand off for them so
they called a meeting with the doctors,
and they came up with a better flow
from doctor to optician including "the
golden recommendation" from the
docs. We soon discovered that if the
doctors hand-delivered the patient to
the optician while telling the patient
how they would benefit from the lens,
we increased the number even more.
The doctor's word was golden, and
our whole team knew these lenses like
the back of their hand. We were lens
experts and now selling more than 70
luxury lenses per month. Why didn't I
do this before? Our bottom line was
very healthy, and we were the experts
of selling luxury products. This is
what experts would've considered a
"no-brainer." Everyone wins. Maybe I
should have given out more stickers to
my poor kindergarteners. Maybe they
would be doing double-digit multiplication by the end of the year.
Based on our sales growth and ability to now sell luxury products, you
might ask, how could there be any
kind of negative to this incentive program? Going from eight to 75 premium lenses is insane. Any optical would
drool over that improvement. But there's
always more to the bottom line, right?
Let's dig deeper.
The six month test was completed, and I
was relieved. I hated it. I liked our results,
but I was honestly ready to skip the country at the end. As a manager, this was a
nightmare. Here are the things that drove
Our opticians became the most competitive people and not in a good way. They
were stealing patients from one another
and when I pooled the money for them,
they resented me when one optician
would sell 30 and another would sell
seven. However, I would find that an
optician with huge sales was taking
patients away from the others, and it
would irk the rest of the team.
The opticians were putting patients
in these luxury lenses that should not
have been in them. They put their
incentive in front of what was right for
the patient. This affected our perceived brand as a trusted optical. Most
of the patients benefited from these
luxury lenses, but some were quite
peeved with us for selling them optical
snake oil. They paid a premium price
for a lemon in their eyes. To this day, I
still get negative feedback from a
handful of patients that made a huge
investment and literally saw no benefit. They were pressured by their trusted optician to get these lenses. Good
luck selling them anything ever again.
The trust is gone for these patients.
After a while, the doctors (and even
the paras) wanted in on the action. If
the doctor's word was golden, that
means they were basically selling the
lenses. Why wouldn't they get a big
cut of the action? And if the patient
care coordinators were making the
appointment for these patients to
come and the techs were talking these
lenses up, why wouldn't they receive a
reward? After all, if there is no patient
there, how would you sell them a lens?
Experts on this side of the argument
would tell me that this would be considered a backfire.
After six months, I pulled the program. I
resented the lens company. I had a toxic
environment of employees that would be
whispering about who got what, who
stole a patient and who was getting nothing. I was the one who had to deal with
patients that were pressured into buying a
failed product in their eyes. We made
more money but it contributed to an
unhealthy culture in our clinic.
I really like how the incentive program
forced us to re-examine our hand off. We
truly became better at this skill. I'm also
thankful for it because we learned
how to sell luxury lenses and frames in
our optical. Going from eight to 75
lenses was a proud accomplishment
for our team. We are still selling premium lenses, and we are selling way
more high-end frames. We were a bit
scared of selling this kind of product
to our patient base in the past. We
were protecting their pocketbook
without offering them the best.
I do love the lenses we sell. We are
selling more of a variety of lenses and
frames, and our take-away from this
experience is we now understand that
we need to know all of our products
like the back of our hands. If we
become the experts, and the doctors
reinforce that, we are in good shape.
I still hold the belief that the reward of
being an optician needs to be intrinsic.
If an optician has some ownership in
their career path with our practice,
then it becomes more important to
them. As a manager, I need to pay
them fairly, provide important benefits
and give them an environment that
allows them to flourish.
I find that taking a team member out
to lunch to celebrate with them or
focus on their goals does much more
for both of us compared to a gift card.
When I know their hopes and dreams,
I can give them the tools to succeed, and I
can stand back and be a cheerleader for
them and guide them toward their goals.
Like my experiences as a teacher, education and knowledge is king. If my optical
team has the resources to understand
products and best practices, they will care
more, and we will all make more money.
If we are attending conferences and reading professional journals, and learning
best practices online, then we are feeding
our knowledge base. That in turn leads to a healthy culture of lifelong learners
and a pretty cool place to work.
Several years ago, when I first started
managing our optical, my brother
encouraged me to watch at least one
TED video per week. I had never
heard of these videos, and when I
checked them out I was a bit confused. They had nothing to do with
the optical industry. How would this
benefit me? Nonetheless, I followed his
advice and started watching these videos on a regular basis. Now I'm here to
encourage you to do this.
When you visit www.ted.com, you will
be inspired by their tagline: Riveting talks
by remarkable people, free to the world...
TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. Their
countless videos are organized by the following adjectives: persuasive, courageous,
ingenious, fascinating, inspiring, beautiful, funny, informative and jaw-dropping.
If you're looking for topics, they are
arranged as follows: technology, entertainment, design, business, science and global
I have seen a ton of these videos. I often
watch them on Mondays when I need to
refocus my energies and goals for the
week. I might watch them on Wednesdays
when I need a touch of inspiration to get
me through the last few days. Or maybe I
will catch them on Friday to make sure
I've made the most of my week. Whenever you decide to view a TED video is up
to you, but I must warn, they become
addicting... for all the right reasons.
This past week, I chose to organize the
videos by "most popular" and ended up
on Dan Pink's "The Puzzle of Motivation." Over 4.5 million people have
viewed his TED Talk on this subject. He
gives us a scientific viewpoint on how
people are motivated at work.
He suggests that "if-then" rewards don't
work, they are outdated. We can't continue
to do more of the same thing we have been
doing (offering a sweeter carrot or threatening with a sharper stick) if we want a
dynamic work environment with greater
results. The formula has changed. This
method dulls thinking and destroys creativity. And it's not a philosophy; it's a fact.
So how do we boost worker engagement, satisfaction and productivity? How
do we sell our high-end/luxury product
without the promise of a gift card? The
demands of our work are not the same as
the typical "going-through-the-motions"
assembly line. We are required to problem solve using math and science applications and formulas. We are also using our
brains to appreciate the art of fashion and
style. Gift cards do not fulfill all parts of
our brain's desires for this type of work.
They stunt them.
Dan Pink shows individuals are motivated by three things: autonomy (urge to
direct our own lives), mastery (desire to
get better at something that matters) and
purpose (yearning to do what we do in
the service of something larger than ourselves). The type of reinforcement programs set up by our labs and office cultures are therefore insulting.
Do you want better results and a better
work culture? Train your team. Provide all
necessary tools and resources to encourage
mastery. Create ownership and autonomy
in the journey of your employees by supporting their hopes, dreams and visions in
their career path. Give them a purpose.
How are they contributing to the bigger
picture in life? Send them to a conference
or a mission trip to see how what they do
helps millions of people. Save those gift
cards for your in-laws.
In the meantime, check out a TED
video. Go and be inspired. And by the
way, you may just find a video or two
directly related to the optical industry.