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(SALES) Are Radio Groups Mis-Training Sellers?


When I started selling radio advertising back in the Paleolithic Era (1979), the first thing my sales manager did was hand me one of Jason Jennings books, which I promptly "devoured." As I moved on to each station, my managers continued to give me the good stuff, exposing me to the likes of Chris Lytle, Irwin Pollak, Pam Lontos and, of course, RAB sales training materials. One even fed me Roger Dawson, the great British expert on negotiating. When I became a general manager, I fed my troops heads as well. We did it because we had to. Radio had to fight for every dollar it got. If you want the prize, you have to train hard for it.

Has Radio Derailed Training?
What happened to the training initiative? I recently queried several State Broadcasters Associations on the subject of training. A few were dabbling in online training programsyou know, the ones everyone bails out on when their Blackberry or Smartphone rings. I used to help train new folks at one of the rep firmsface to face. As for the stations themselves, well, Im hard pressed to believe theres much training going on. The first words out of the mouths of every sales rep that visits our agency are, Our 25-54 numbers are Excuse me, but you didnt ask me if that was even my target demo. As it happens, our agency does a lot of 55-plus business. These days, the next words are, We have a great digital package But, is your audience that digitally active? Not always.

Somewhere, as big consolidated radio groups began to dominate the landscape, the focus changed. As stations were forced to pay the debt service on their acquisitions, they shifted their model. Sales managers turned their staffs into inventory managers. Sorry, but thats not really your sellers job. As a radio seller, your primary job is to sell your clients inventory. In the process, youll get yours sold. What a concept.

Neither agencies nor direct clients really want to know about your antenna height, your personalities, your wattage, your contests. So what do we care about? We care about your audiences buying power and their level of engagement with your station. If your station cumes 250,000 and each listener spends an average of $40,000 a year in your marketplace, then your audience is spending $10,000,000,000 (yes, thats ten billion!) dollars a year. Your only questions to the prospect should be, How much of that would you like them to spend with you? And how much are you willing and able to invest to get your (un)fair share of that?

The radio industry trains people to sell and trains them how to sell radio. It doesnt train them on how business works and on how to make advertising work. Young people are hired into the industry and often have no business experience. They dont understand the clients needs because theyve never run a business. And, the management attitude is, Copy? Dont worry about it; thats the agencys job. Just get the order. But if the agency doesnt really know your audience and the copy approach or the production (execution style) doesnt resonate with your audience, the campaign bombs and you lose the account. If we trained our sellers with a grounding in business and in advertising, we would increase our client retention rate. Now, thats a beautiful thing.

Barry Cohen is the Managing Member of AdLab Media Communications, LLC in Clifton, NJ. (  He is also the author of "10 Ways to Screw Up an Ad Campaign," and co-author of "Startup Smarts." He has conducted two RAB workshops and served as a panelist at the Mid-year Radio Symposium. Contact:  Ph: 973-472-6304

(10/23/2013 11:26:19 AM)
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