Make Your Own Rep Council

by Tom Hayward, CPMR, United Sales Associates

Goal: Organize/Attend a Rep Council

If you want to stir up the conversation amongst a group of representatives, ask their opinion as to whether Rep Councils are worth the time investment. Opinions on Rep Councils will vary from swearing by them to cursing at them — and everything in-between. With the intention of Rep Councils being to increase communication between the representative and their principal, how can this be?

The traditional setup of a Rep Council is as an in-person event between a principal and some subset of their current reps. There is an agenda of topics, then a discussion, and finally, an action item list. Sure sounds like a meeting to me. The energy in the beginning is strong, but too many times the energy drops off to the point that there is little to no follow-up. Or there is a management change, or a new product launch, or a trade show. Inevitably, the Rep Council is doomed. Too bad.

But there is another model to consider — one that can have real value to all. Call it a Council of Reps — getting together with a few of your rep peers to discuss your business, your ideas, and your challenges. Think of it as a Board of Directors that has only each other’s best interests in mind. With Rep Councils, you often have attendees looking to make change to others, but with a Council of Reps your intent is to find ways to change yourself. Here are some ideas:

  • Pick 2-3 other reps/rep firms that are of similar size/focus, and that are geographically non-competitive.
  • Pick a location that is easy for all to get to, has a comfortable gathering area, and has several entertainment options.
  • Give the session a name (“2014 Summit”) and let it have its own life. If the event is good and all agree to do it again, great. But don’t force it.
  • Don’t allow for showing up and just brainstorming. Have attendees pick specific discussion topics and choose to lead a discussion on them and/or make a presentation. Communicate who is doing what well ahead of time.
  • Give each their time to have the lead in front of the group, but keep it even and time-bounded.
  • Maybe mix in a non-rep, or a strategically chosen principal, to bring in an alternate point of view. If not for the whole meeting, maybe for a segment.
  • Establish some type of commitment to something that resulted from the meeting. Hold each other to it.
  • Make it fun. Schedule an entertainment activity with the event.

Picking the right Council can be done in many ways, but it has to start with actively targeting people with whom you “reach” intellectually. Typically this is another rep, and oftentimes it is a rep in which you share a common line. But these people can also be found by networking at events like a sales meeting, or at educational programs like CPMR. Other ideas include utilizing MANA’s Rep Locator, or even talking with MANA staff as to ideas they might have.

The best business plans are formulated with input from several sources. So why not make contact with some candidates and see where this could take you in 2014?

Tom Hayward is with United Sales Associates (Cincinnati, Ohio), a 15-person agency covering eight states and focused on the marketing and training of personal protective safety equipment and related products. Hayward has been with United Sales since 1989, and became a CPMR in 1997. USA has been a proud MANA member since the agency was founded in 1982.