ITP Or Nothing.
A few weeks back for Radio Ink, I wrote about the open house we did in a large market. We interviewed 15 candidates on a Saturday and found two sure-fire potential sales reps. One came almost directly out of a university and the other had sales experience from selling alarms and satellite services. Here's an update on that story.
The two new reps we hired are now in their second week of a four-week ITP, or initial training program. That's right: four weeks of initial training. During the program, these new reps cannot make a call on anybody by themselves.
I know, you're saying you can't afford to train someone for four weeks. And you may be right. Most stations are not set up to invest four weeks of management time in their new hires. And anyway, you can't put them through four weeks of initial training because you need them to hit the streets. And they'll hit the streets, all right. Face first.
Especially in today's new media selling world, with objections becoming more and more about "radio not working" and media-allocated money going to the Internet, you'd better have salespeople trained to overcome these objections, or they won't sell and they won't stick.
Stock brokerages invest, on average, six months of training in a new broker before that broker can pick up the phone and make their first call. That's how much UBS Wealth Management invests in its people. "Oh, we're not an investment brokerage. We sell radio." Then how about Glaxo Smithkline Pharmaceutical? They have a three-month minimum sales training program before their reps hit the streets. "Oh, we're not a pharmaceutical company. We sell radio." How about Northwestern Mutual Insurance? Their program is a minimum of six months of initial training. "Oh, we're not an insurance company. We sell radio."
No wonder we lose top-flight candidates to other companies and the best people think of selling radio last or by accident. Think about who you're competing with for today's top-flight talent coming out of colleges and universities. These people want to be trained. They don't want to be told to search through Yellowbook.com to find their leads and hit the streets on their first day of work.
What's Your ITP?
What does your initial training program consist of? "They watch tapes in a conference room," might be the response. I say at least that's something. It's a start. It's not the answer, though. They need good classroom instruction, followed up with real-world, in-the-field shadowing of current sales reps. And those reps should be using your company's sales training, not winging it.
I'm not going to go into our entire ITP for this large-market, multiple-station property, but I will say it competes with anybody in the market -- I'd put in the top five programs for companies selling any product or service in that market. That's the kind of program you need to compete and garner top-quality sales reps.
If a new hire finds out you don't really train your people, they will tend to not get serious about working for you (unless they're desperate). If you're just filling a hole in your sales department, there are plenty of people who can fog up a mirror. If you're just filling holes, you don't need an ITP anyway, just send them out there. Why waste the time in training if you do nothing more than wait for people who are looking for a last chance at a job to come in off the streets?
In our ITP, we put reps through the RAB online training program. That gets them some basics, and we then take them through Luce Performance Group Modules with video and CDs. They have a solid template for their first four weeks, and they can start prospecting for new business.
By the way, management will be in the classroom, helping these new reps set up appointments on the phone. Will your management do this? If they won't, reps could be leaving the office without a plan and knocking on doors with no purpose. They could call on 10 people a day and find no decision makers. In most cases, depending on your compensation program, they are doing this on YOUR money.
Quit wasting money. Train people the right way at the beginning. It will pay off for you down the road -- and the road won't be a 12-month wedding march to justify their existence.
The above is just a sliver of what new reps go through. It's not easy to keep someone in the office for four weeks unless you have a really well grounded and well thought-out ITP.
As part of their training, reps can get me on the phone and ask any questions they want, based on their training modules from LPG. Here are a few things these rookies asked in our conference call.
Q: "When is the best time to ask for referrals?"
What? Referrals? Radio sales reps don't ask for referrals! I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, just truthful. They don't ask because they're afraid that the business owner might say no. That's no excuse. We sell for a living, so you need to ask for referrals.
So I replied, "You can ask for referrals at any time, as long as you ask for them."
After you have worked with a customer for a period of time, you really can ask for referrals any time. We have a three-step process, and it's pretty simple. The first step is to describe a typical listener of your radio station or stations. Step two is to have the prospect or customer imagine specifically the faces of the people they know who might fit the station's core audience. The third step is to ask directly, and wait for the response.
Depending on the response, we then go into the rest of the referral. There is NEVER a bad time to ask for a referral. If you're a rep who has been in the business for at least a year, 20 percent of your new business contacts should be coming from referrals.
Q: "When and how do you get testimonials?"
Testimonials are one of the most powerful approaches to selling you can have in your arsenal. Trying to sell without testimonials is a tough way to make a living. Imagine selling somebody with no success stories. But we try to do it all the time.
Once you get a customer happily involved with you on the air, and you are meeting or exceeding the expectations you outlined for their growth and profitability (that's a whole other article), then get your testimonial.
I like to tell customers during the closing call that one of my purposes in helping a business owner achieve their goals and expectations with us is so I can help other businesses grow as well. So in the future, I'll be asking the business owner for a video testimonial.
Video testimonials can be used in your closing presentation to a new prospective client; edit them down to 30 seconds and have three ready to play on your computer. You can also use them as leave-behinds in paper form, as long as they follow the video or recorded message exactly.
What to ask when you're getting a testimonial?
"What would you tell other business owners about KXXX?"
"Did we meet your desired expectations on KXXX?"
Make sure you ask for specifics! You want to hear things like, "We have increased our business by 15 percent over the past year using KXXX. Our internal monitoring system lets us know the leads are coming from the station."
Q: "If there was one thing you could say to young reps before they hit the streets about what they need to do to be sure they are successful, what would it be?"
"Master the phone," I replied.
Regardless of the market, you must be able to set up appointments over the phone. Walking around all day burns up a lot of gas and rubber. And some business owners don't meet unless it's with an appointment. If you can't set up appointments on the phone, you're done with this type of business owner.
You have to be able to walk in as well; in some markets, that's acceptable too. If you do that, being able to state why you're credible is vital -- as long as you have some credibility.
New blood is vital to a sales force. It forces sales management to continuously train their people and keeps them sharp and focused on the field. Your best sales trainers should be on your management team. Nothing keeps sales management on top of their game like training new people.
I'll keep you updated on the progress of these two reps.