Rolaids™ or Rep Councils?By Charles Cohon
Over lunch recently a MANA manufacturer member shared his experience with rep councils, and also shared an unexpected outcome from a recently assembled rep council: relief from excess stomach acid.
But I’ll let him tell the story.*
“We’ve been a big believer in rep councils for a long time, for all the usual reasons.
“Because our five rep council members collect input from all of our reps, analyze it, and then present it to us without identifying the source, nobody feels that they might jeopardize the line by pointing out our weak spots.
“But anonymity is only the first step. No one will spend time preparing that feedback unless they know that we will act on it. So, step two is prompt executive response. Our rep council’s report goes directly to our top executives and they respond within six weeks, bullet point by bullet point. Some of the bullet points are acted upon quickly, some are queued for attention later, and some may not be practical to pursue, but every bullet point gets a response.
“We get great results from our rep council, but I recently got an unexpected benefit from the rep council: relief from excess stomach acid.
“Let me explain. One of our reps who also happens to be a member of the rep council made a request we just couldn’t accommodate. When a rep requests something we just can’t do they often will ask again a second or third time, but eventually they accept the bad news and move on to other opportunities.
“But this guy was like a dog with a bone. He just wouldn’t let go. Every couple of weeks he’d push me for the same thing again, as if I could give him a different answer the 16th time he asked than I had given him the first 15 times.
“But he is a very, very effective rep, so I bit my tongue. Then at the rep council meeting he asked the other four reps serving on the council to back his request. And all four told him that his request was completely unrealistic. When I had to turn him down, it sounded to him like I was just defending my company. But when he heard it from his counterparts, it sank in. He never brought it up again. No more heartburn.
“How do you spell relief? R-E-P-C-O-U-N-C-I-L”
* I’ve recounted the substance of the manufacturer’s story, but details and phrasing have been changed.