Better Than a Smoke Signal


Since the invention of the telegraph in 1840, the velocity and density of communication has grown exponentially. While the telephone was a step forward, one should remember that teletype machines were still state-of-the-art during the ’60s and ’70s. Fax machines did not become a commonplace tool until the late ’80s. E-mail went mainstream during the mid to late ’90s. While today’s communication tools are now commonplace, it is only recently that we have arrived at the Golden Age of Communication.

Given the present (and ever-increasing) personal communication options, why then is the most common question that I receive from reps in my district, “Why does this agreement have a call report clause?”

While the IRS forbids the strict enforcement of a call report requirement, one can easily understand the motivation of the sales manager. A territory — usually exclusive — is entrusted to a rep without a written requirement for news and reports from the territory. If the only communications from the territory are RFQs and purchase orders, how is a sales manager to have a feel for that territory? A full-time employee would provide a wealth of information — the calls that he had made, recent trends, competitive changes, emerging opportunities. Should a rep do anything less?

Today there is no excuse for anything less than excellent communication with principals. Representatives and principals should review their communication expectations and develop a mutually agreeable plan for effective communication. One can so easily speed dial, text message, e-mail or even fax any bit of news that it seems a foregone conclusion that principals would complain about too much communication rather than too little. Excellence in communication with principals is simply the best and most cost-effective thing a rep can to do to maintain a strong and growing relationship with his principals. If a rep elects not to do so, then the second most common call will be heard: “I just lost a great line for no reason.”

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  • photo of Richard Sinclair

Richard W. Sinclair is a past MANA Director and has been a MANA member since 1990. He is an AIM/R member as well as a member of the MANA Capital Equipment SIG and founded the Arizona MANA chapter. Sinclair has been in the rep business since 1988 and has completed the CPMR program for which he received his CPMR certification. His rep firm specializes in industrial wastewater treatment equipment.