Read an Excerpt
Since you’re reading this book, I’m assuming that you are a media salesperson or you’re thinking about becoming one.
Perhaps you are a student considering broadcast sales as a career. Congratulations! Media sales can be an exciting and glamorous career if you know what you’re doing. You get to hobnob with big shots and entertainment stars, and you may drive big, fancy cars. You could have access to the best tickets in town to everything from sporting events to concerts. You’re invited to the best parties a and you may travel to exotic places. You acquire skills that allow you to work anywhere you’d like, even in foreign countries. You can make as much money as any credentialed professional person a including good doctors and lawyers, and you can do that without an advanced degree. That is, if you know what you’re doing.
Unfortunately, there are many people in the media sales business who don’t know what they’re doing. Life for many of them is hard. Limited success turns to low self-esteem. Morale problems lead to fewer client calls, which mean even fewer sales. Fewer sales mean lower commissions and strained relationships with managers.
Eventually most of these account executives either quit or get fired.
Turnover rate in radio and television sales departments is abysmally high and getting worse. Add that to other industry concerns like a languishing broadcast stock market, the downward trend in transactional (agency) business, declining market costs per spot, increasing demands for “added value” (free advertising), and an influx of new broadcast media competitors like iPOD, satellite radio, TiVo, interactive cell phones, and the Internet, and you’d wonder why anyone would really want to get involved in terrestrial broadcast sales to begin with. I’ll tell you why. Because there is still tremendous opportunity for those who know how to look for it and harvest it. And that’s what this book is about.
For the better part of two decades, we’ve moved away from building relationships with local direct business, instead focusing more on developing relationships with advertising agencies. In the process, we’ve sacrificed time and resources needed to properly educate and close long-term local direct clients. Particularly in medium and large markets, catering to media buyers and their agencies became our primary task. Many of us have learned, however a that our “friends” at the agencies can be fickle, stingy, and overbearingly demanding with their budgets.
Lately, this realization has led radio and television stations to put more emphasis back into building relationships with local direct clients. This makes logical sense because satisfied local direct clients offer less rate resistance and ask for less “added value.” We have more control over local direct budgets than we do when we wrangle with the agencies. We have more control over the local client’s marketing and advertising plan, we have much more control over the local client’s creative process, and there are fewer revisions and cancellations than we experience with agencies.
In 1990 I received a letter from a former client who owned an office products store. He said he’d just sold his business to a national chain, and he just wanted to thank me for helping him become a millionaire. I shook the envelope to see if he’d written me a check, but there was no money, just the letter. That was okay. This client had paid me very well every month for many years as had many other business people who advertised on my station for decades. Many of these business owners are not only clients but also friends, who confide in me about every aspect of their business.
Unlike many of the new media, broadcast has a uniquely local advantage that provides local businesses with the perfect marketing and advertising vehicle for reaching out to local consumers.
Simply put, local businesses and local broadcast stations are made for each other. Unfortunately there are two big problems keeping local direct clients from spending more advertising dollars with broadcast stations. The first problem is the client’s perception that broadcast advertising is confusing, complicated, and a crapshoot.
The second problem with local direct business is ourselves. Let me explain.
I think you’ll agree that right or wrong, perception means everything.
Many local clients are skeptical about broadcast advertising because they “tried us once and it didn’t work,” so naturally they think spending money with us is a crapshoot instead of a good, calculated risk. Clients are in the business of taking calculated risks a but understandably they do not like gambling with their hardearned dollars, especially when they don’t fully understand the rules. And the rules for using radio and television seem incredibly complicated to many business owners.
What is reach? What is frequency? What is average quarter hour?
What are gross rating points? Why are rate cards so complicated?
How much should broadcast advertising really cost? Why pay rate card when the next month the same station presents a special package at one-third the normal cost? How can virtually every station claim to be number one? Why does the client have his third representative from the same station in a year and a half? Clearly many clients feel comfortable investing with the newspaper or the Yellow
Pages, and they are skeptical about broadcast, which leads us to the second reason we don’t have more local direct business on our stations.
And we are that problem.
Instead of making broadcast advertising look easy and logical a we have tried to sell with computer-generated proposals infested with terms and calculations that many of us in broadcasting don’t even fully understand. Why do we inflict these complicated proposals on local clients? Why do we make broadcast advertising seem so confusing and complicated? Could the reason be because most of us don’t know what we’re doing because we got into broadcast sales completely by mistake? The answer is yes.
Nearly every single broadcast account executive I’ve ever met also got into the business by mistake. When you were 15 years old, a would doubt that you ever said, “When I grow up I want to be a salesperson at a radio or television station.” Think about the bizarre a meandering path that your life had to take to get you into this business. a have. When I was 15, I wanted to be a drummer in a rock band. When that didn’t work out, I wanted to be a disc jockey at a radio station. While working on-air, I became aware of the salespeople at the station. They seemed to come and go as they pleased.
They dressed well, and they drove expensive cars. They went to lots of parties. I thought, “That’s what I want to do.” So I lobbied the general manager into letting me sell. I had to sell local direct because some of the people who worked at our station had been there for forty years, and they had all of the agency business locked up. I had no idea what I was doing at first and made every conceivable mistake. I wince now when I think of the early clients a would have served better had I known more about what I was doing with their money.
I, like you in all probability, entered into this business with very little or no experience in marketing and branding, no experience in the difference between good and bad advertising, and no experience in managing a business owner’s expectations about results in an advertising campaign. Because I really didn’t know anything my first year, I am certain that a lot of my early clients perceived me as a pest rather than a resource. When you combine a client’s skepticism about radio and television advertising with media sales reps who don’t know what they’re doing, you wind up with a train wreck.
Even seasoned veterans in this business still don’t really have a clue when it comes to properly educating local direct clients about the benefits of broadcast advertising. Many of us still don’t know how to explain modern marketing and branding to clients in language they understand. We know as little about the creative process as the client does. Once the client determines that her sales rep is ignorant about how to make a good commercial, the “tail starts wagging the dog.” The client, also ignorant about the difference between good and bad advertising, ends up telling us what needs to go into the commercial. And when the commercial doesn’t work, who does the client blame? Your station, of course.
Speaking of the tail wagging the dog, let’s discuss budgets. If, in the client’s mind, he feels that working with us is more of a gamble than a good, calculated risk, why wouldn’t he hold back on how much he spends with us? Why risk a lot when it doesn’t look like the odds are clearly in his favor? Thin schedules combined with bad spots add up to a disastrous campaign. Add to that nasty formula the fact that most of us have no way of teaching clients how to calculate return on investment when they advertise with us. Consequently, the client may have unreal expectations about broadcast advertising results. And when those unreal expectations don’t work out, the client cancels. And again, who does he blame? Your station.
By failing to contact, educate, and service direct clients properly a we are doing our local businesses a tremendous disservice as they are now in the fight for their lives against big box-store national competitors. All over the nation (and the world) consumers are drawn to rows of big, shiny, and flourishing national discount stores while local businesses are dying. The individuality of a local business has been lost in the bigger is better box-store craze. A shopping center in Austin looks like one in Indianapolis, or Portland, or
Phoenix. Downtowns once populated with local retailers look like ghost towns. The national chains took away their customers. And with the customers went the money.
Surviving local businesses believe that in order to compete, they must match or beat the prices of the national chains. You see the evidence in local newspapers, Yellow Pages, and to a smaller degree on radio and television stations. “We’ll match or beat any competitor’s advertised price.” “Buy one pair and the second pair is free.”
“Save 30 to 50 percent today only.” Without even being asked, these local businesses are voluntarily giving away a huge percentage of profit in order to attract a few customers away from the national competitor. How long can this war last?
The price war is not a war that the local businesses can ultimately win. These businesses must have good marketing and advertising expertise or face extinction. They are quaking in the shadow of Darth Vader, and they need our help. The problem is, they don’t recognize the help we could give them because we’re not doing a very good job explaining it to them. In this book you’ll learn innovative ways to help local clients that don’t involve discounting their prices.
Just because we got into the broadcast sales business by mistake is no reason to be doing business by mistake. This book is the result of decades of experience working with local direct clients. It is designed to help instill good selling habits in new sellers and help them avoid frustrating pitfalls that waste time and effort. It is also designed to help experienced radio and television salespeople expedite the long-term local direct selling process, regardless of your geography, your market’s economy, your market size, your ratings (or lack of them), your format, or your program.
The book is written in sections and covers virtually every aspect of prospecting, educating, and closing long-term clients. The first section deals with better ways to prospect for and then to get appointments with decision makers. We also deal with the disease of call reluctance and how to avoid it. I’ll show you how to explain modern marketing and branding to a local direct client in language that he or she will absolutely understand and relate to. This section will include six very important concepts that you’ll want to learn and include in every single local broadcast sales presentation that you do.
The first concept covers why broadcast advertising is easy, not difficult. We then go over a model of what a perfect business should look like in a perfect world, but how most businesses illogically spend the least amount of their time, money, and resources on the side of the business involving advertising. We discuss the difficulty that local businesses have competing with the thousands of other commercial impressions that are inflicted on a client’s potential customer every day and how to break through that clutter. We’ll cover how to explain the importance of branding to a client and how important that explanation becomes in selling the client on buying your station on a long-term basis. We’ll also go over how consumers really listen to and watch radio and television commercials and why we’re not trying to reach everybody during a campaign on your station.
This concept will come in very handy as you work to manage your client’s expectations about results on your station. It will also contribute to your ability to close long-term business with little or no rate resistance. Finally, in this section we’ll see how your station is logical for the client regardless of whether you’re rated number one or number twenty.
The second section deals primarily with the creative process.
Here you will learn how to write genius creative regardless of whether you’re a creative genius. These creative concepts alone will help you become a valuable resource in the client’s mind. You’ll study logical creative secrets that most agencies aren’t even aware of to make your client’s messages stand apart from the clutter. What you’ll read in the creative section will also help you get more appointments with clients who are wasting their money with other advertising venues because you’ll be able to prove that their advertising copy is inefficient and ineffective.
Then we will discuss how to help your clients calculate return on investment on the advertising they buy. This process will help you manage your client’s expectations about results on your station a and it will be the final nail in your argument that advertising on your station is a good calculated risk, not a crapshoot. Explaining this ROI method to your clients will also help you to further establish yourself as an essential resource to your client’s business.
Finally, we will cover the day-in day-out mechanics of the broadcast selling process, including better ways to make proposals and presentations. You will learn how to become a better negotiator a how to answer objections to radio or television advertising, how to overcome rate resistance, and how to close long-term local direct contracts. You will learn how to super-serve your local clients and how to handle collection problems. You will also find exercises at the end of each chapter to help you think about ways to apply each lesson to situations you encounter on a daily basis.
If you follow the advice presented in this book, you’ll no doubt close more long-term local direct contracts. You will thrive in this business. Your income will increase exponentially. You will become an expert in identifying and solving customer problems, and you will gain a reputation as a resource. Your clients will love you for what you do for them. You will become as much a part of your client’s lives as the other professional people they trust, like their doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, insurance agents, and tax consultants.
The one thing this book cannot do is change your personality or monitor how you spend your work time. Broadcast sellers possess various combinations of personality traits, but top billers generally have two traits in common—a strong competitive nature and empathy for others. The competitive nature fuels your drive to succeed.
Empathy is the catalyst you need to help clients by understanding their unique situations and helping them identify and solve their problems.
To succeed, you must be competitive, and you must be willing to do the work. The most successful radio and television sellers average about thirty active accounts on the air in a given month. In order to get to that point, you must have long-term contracts. And in order to sell the long-term contracts, you’ll have to get appointments and make presentations. Think about all of the local businesses in your signal coverage area that are not aware of who you are, what you do, or how to get in touch with you. How can they possibly do business with you or your station if they don’t even know you exist? You must contact them because it is highly unlikely that they will contact you.
If you spend your time wisely and use your head, your efforts will pay off and you will be rewarded. If you’re not busy, then you should be. There are so many clients out there who are not advertising with us simply because they’re ignorant about how using radio or television properly could positively and permanently improve their businesses. And the only reason many of these businesses are ignorant about us is because we’ve never contacted and educated them properly. Or worse, they were contacted, but not by a broadcast salesperson who knew what he or she was doing.
Being busy is important, but don’t confuse effort with production.
The best part about beating your head against the wall is it feels so good when you stop. Too many of us waste time with spoiled, rate-contentious clients who won’t buy us no matter how hard we try. Or, we find ourselves slipping into the rut of spending too much time in the office creating computer-generated proposals that nobody will ever read, instead of getting out on the street and properly educating clients in language they understand.
This book was written so that it is easy to read and easy to understand. The concepts have been simplified on purpose. We’ve tried the confusing and complicated way to communicate with clients, and it doesn’t work very well. If you, as a media representative a clearly understand the concepts of how you and your station can help local businesses, then you’ll become an evangelist about those concepts, and you’ll explain them to every local businessperson you can find. As you explain them, you’ll be amazed at how the client listens, asks intelligent questions, and takes good notes. Once clients are on the same page you’re on, once you have clients who realize that you are a resource who helps them identify and solve marketing and advertising problems and not a pest like their other media salespeople, you’ll have customers who will stick with you for a long, long time.
Enjoy the book. Use it wisely and build a rock-solid career in a really exciting business. Enjoy your position. Enjoy your time with clients and together let’s put the show back into show business.
Good luck and good selling!