Call Reports?

by John Roba, The John D Roba Company, Inc.

As a long-time MANA member, I have found that one of the most frequently discussed subjects is call reports. Jerry Leth, MANA’s vice president and general manager, and longtime liaison to the membership, recently told me he gets at least three calls a month regarding the subject.

Many years ago I was visiting a new principal for orientation and to discuss strategy for the product line. As we were wrapping up the meeting, the sales manager very nonchalantly said, “Oh by the way, we require call reports.” During the course of the day, I noticed a pile of call reports sitting on his desk. I could not resist the temptation of pointing to them and asking if he was behind in reading the ones he had. He stammered a bit and then admitted that being so busy had not gotten to them, but would catch up soon. Quite frankly, it was apparent that by the time he read the reports he had, if he read them at all, the information would be obsolete. This launched a long debate on the merits of call reports and their overall value.

Most of the principals I have worked with over the years have recognized the time constraints put on the professional outsourced sales team and have been very content knowing they are well represented, and the salespeople produce outstanding results. However there are times when sales managers demand call reports. Sometimes they are well-meaning but unfortunately they also attempt to control the team in a very unproductive way.

Good communication is essential between parties, and to do their job properly, every sales manager needs quality information from the field. However, the representative looks at call reports as against IRS independent contractor regulations, time-consuming, unproductive, and taking valuable time from their core objective, selling. As members of the team, we need to be able to work together in a way that produces the greatest benefit between parties resulting in a win-win partnership. The question then becomes: what is good communication and how much information is necessary? Is it a simple straightforward product line or is it one that is very intricate that requires more detail?

In my particular case, after a long conversation the sales manager admitted to me that reviewing call reports was a tedious and time-consuming process. Although some of the information was valuable there was a lot of peripheral information that was not needed.

The answer was simply providing a quarterly productivity report. It gave a brief description of all pertinent information that the principal was looking for, it was short and to the point, and they loved it. This became standard procedure with this company and as they admitted later, it freed up a lot of their time.

They now read all the reports on a timely basis and are much better informed than they have ever been. It was a home run for all concerned and greatly enhanced our relationship with this principal. It worked so well we used it with great effect with other principals when the circumstances required it.

This solution was a good way to compromise a very delicate situation. The key word here is compromise and looking back over a 40-year career, the ability to properly communicate, negotiate and compromise is paramount to long-term stability and success.

A member since 1974, John Roba is a past MANA District Director and Chairman of the Board, and co-founder of the Upstate New York Chapter of the Association. The John D Roba Company, Inc., was founded in 1970 and is celebrating over 47 years of business serving the recreational vehicle, manufacturer housing, marine, and automotive industries. Roba has also served as president of RVAA (Recreational Vehicle Aftermarket Association) and PRVCA (Pennsylvania Recreational Vehicle and Campers Association). In 2014 he received the prestigious honor of being elected into the RV/MH Hall of Fame.