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Sean Luce

You Can't Find Good Radio Salespeople Because You're Not Looking

by Sean Luce

"Sean, I just can't find any good salespeople." I've heard that line over and over the past few years, and it's incredible to believe that in many areas -- especially the West Coast, where there is 14 to 17 percent unemployment -- radio stations "can't find" find good sales reps. I wonder if the real answer is that management doesn't want to train them.

Back in the day, we would hire a junior rep and then bring them up through the ranks. Training started the day they walked in and lasted until the day they left. Where did we go off the tracks?

Many stations are looking for experienced sales reps. Let me tell you, the experienced reps are not out there. The good ones are still at the radio stations where they've been throughout the "Great Recession." The ones who are out there didn't make it through, but go ahead and retread them. They might be good for a few more miles. Maybe. 

Who trains their radio sales reps anymore? Really trains them on how to sell radio? When was the last time you as a manager went one-on-one with one of your reps and role-played with them on how to set up an appointment on the phone? Had them overcome objections with you?

More importantly, when was the last time you sat next to your sales rep while they were on the phone and had them set up an appointments while you coached them? Little rusty, aren't they?

Oh, sorry, you don't do that do you? Your reps are too experienced for that, right? Check their appointment-closing ratio on the phone in setting up wholly new appointments, with new business categories, and then get back to me with those percentages. I'd like to see them.

I had a general manager that runs two prominent stations (one is number one in the market) run a 10-day blast over the air (that's right, over the air) with spots for a job fair/open house on Saturday from 10am to 3pm. The idea was to get people who wouldn't normally come to an interview while they're at work for their current employer. Yes, some people still have high ethics and don't want to cheat on the dime of their employer. These are the ones I want to find -- high-character people.

We asked people to call the general manager directly or e-mail a resume, then we would get back and schedule their appointment on that Saturday morning. Limited openings -- only one every 20 minutes during those five hours (no lunch for us interviewing either). Bang, bang, bang. We'd also give them a tour of the properties either after they were done with the interview or before -- it just depended on who was in the "hot seat" and whether we wanted to spend more time with them or send them quickly on their way.

The Results: We had enough resumes for two job fairs this past Saturday.  And this is after having filtered out the "no way" resumes. We interviewed 15 potential sales reps. We had some people show up without appointments too; they were in the lobby waiting for us. Out of the 15 we interviewed on Saturday, we will hire two for sure, and beyond those two, our bench is now full for two radio stations.

Other Results: The power of radio. When all you hear is Internet, Internet, and Internet, isn't it good to hear that radio works? Yes, we did advertise  on our websites, and we did get action on our websites. But the bulk of the people came from the radio spots our general manager cut. We stopped the campaign two days before the open house because we were out of slots, and calls were still coming!

When I was on location Friday -- what a thing of beauty -- the receptionist would call over the office intercom and notify the GM that yet another job fair seeker wanted to talk to him. Everybody inside the stations knew what we were doing, and if they had any doubts that radio is as effective as it was before the "Great Recession," this eased their minds: It works better than ever! Also, a job fair like this sends a message to your current sales staff that there are no sacred cows. We expect our people to hit their sales goals each and every month.

Autopsy: We need to do an open house once a month. Our goal going into the open house/job fair was to find one sales rep. We found two plus one. We had exceeded our expectations by noon, with one of the most promising resumes set to come in at 3pm. The 3pm didn't show -- sort of like having your favorite college recruits promise to commit to your school and then, on signing day, they pick another hat. But fortunately, our scholarships were full by 3pm!