By Samantha Cortez

There are some topics out there that rightfully ruffle some feathers. One of those topics was recently expressed on the 20/20&U blog in a post by Brad Childs, vice president and COO of Eyetique in Pittsburgh. “A New Bill of Rights” describes Mr. Child’s strong opinion that “there are roughly 25 frame reps across the country who truly earn their money.” What followed was a slew of over 30 responses, each asserting their opinion on whether or not the majority of sales representatives actually do their job right.

Frame sales reps and retailers work together so both parties can make a profit and maintain a successful client base. The exact duties of a sales representative vary from company to company but are definitively the same on a broader spectrum. Their job is to communicate with their clients in an effective manner and provide informative details about what’s “selling” or what’s new within the company. As noted on the blog, good sales reps make frequent visits to the retailer and are always up-to-date with what’s happening on the inside—new launches and products being discounted or discontinued. One reader, Paige Buscema of Eyetopia, Inc., expressed her opinion of a good sales rep as one who “doesn’t push but rather informs and actually likes the product they are selling.”

Another response identified as “Frame Sales Rep” set the stage by describing two primary kinds of salespeople: “The first [kind] sees a customer and feels like he or she is going to sell as much stuff as they can so they can make as much money as possible. That really is the majority of salespeople. The second is the kind of person that honestly cares about your business. This person wants you to sell as much as possible.”

But what if your sales rep is the former kind?

Another reader, Betsy, related to this with an account of a sales rep who repeatedly told dirty jokes despite her request for him to stop. “I’ve flat-out told him I’m not a ‘joke person’ and that I do not like dirty jokes, yet he continues.” Betsy puts up with him simply because he handles a “great line” that sells.

This may be an extreme case unshared by the majority of retailers out there, but plenty of opticians who commented on the blog have had their share of substandard encounters, many of whom remain working with the rep simply for the product they stand behind.

Buscema believes that no retailer should stay with a rep who behaves this way. “If a sales rep is pushy, lies, pads orders, doesn’t follow up routinely, talks bad about the company they represent or exhibits poor interpersonal skills, then you don’t need them.”

Stewart Gooderman agrees: “I will have nothing to do with reps that act unprofessional. And I’ll refuse to deal with them even if they change companies. I’ve told a company, ‘If I have to deal only with an in-house rep I will, but the person representing your company will not be allowed in my office. Period.’” Reader Wendy Salle takes it even further arguing that retailers shouldn’t even work with a company that supports a “bad” sales rep.

Lisa Voss shared her story: “I had trouble with one company when we received several dollars in inventory that was not ordered and the rep wouldn’t take it back. I tried calling the company, as well as the manager, and got the ‘we don’t care’ attitude. The next time the rep came in, I tried again to have them take back the inventory that wasn’t ordered and they still refused. I told them that they were not welcome with their line in the store and that I would replace it with one that I knew would stand behind their product and not try to pad the order.”

While the majority of those who commented kept the buzz generating around the antics of unsatisfactory sales reps, the other side of the fence presented some valid points. “Frame Sales Rep” chimed in defending frame sales reps by saying, “I take offense to some of the comments from egotistical opticians who have no respect for the work we reps do… We deal with the inconsiderate people who leave you a message thirty minutes before your appointment to say you are cancelling… We deal with the breakages—it’s always the frame’s fault, never the person who works on the frame.”

Similarly, a reader with the pseudonym “Sales Rep” pointed out some factors that others had not mentioned: “What opticians, buyers and owners are not taking into account when it comes to reps servicing their business is that almost all reps work on 100 percent commission. No salary, no expense account, no company vehicle… They are spending money out of their own pockets every time they get in the car to visit you. Most of us reps are just barely getting by.”

Both retailers and sales reps have had their share of the all-too-familiar horror stories.

Louis Fullagar came up with four important concepts for what constitutes as a “great” sales rep: 1. Show up. 2. Stay in contact. 3. Return calls. 4. Build trust. Says Fullager, “These are four very simple ideas that we came up with in about five minutes. They are the very basic rules for building a successful client base.”

We’d have to agree.

The connection between retailers and sales reps is comparable to that of any working professional or personal relationship. It takes time to build trust and requires a great deal of communication and consideration. If something isn’t going right on either end, speak up. Talk it out. Set boundaries. If neither party can find a common ground, well, it’s never too late for a divorce. ■