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The Unforgiveable Sins In Radio Sales


There are two. The first one speaks for itself and needs no explanation. Being sold out and short of budget. Dumb! Enough said. The second deserves some examination from the seller all the way up the ladder to management and ownership.

(The names have been changed in this very true story)

Several years ago I was examining the forward revenue pacing of the markets I oversaw and noticed one of my markets was pacing -10 percent 60 days out.

While on the phone with that market manager, I asked, April is looking soft, Jim, what are you seeing? Whats up?"

He answered, We have some accounts that arent renewing for one reason or another and were in replacement mode.

His answer could easily be accepted and blown off by most of us in management, but, for whatever reason, I decided to dig a little deeper. Like who? I asked.

Steve Johnson Chevrolet, for example, wont be on in second quarter, he said.

Why not?

Im not sure."

Then I asked, If Susan is there right now, will you ask her to join us? (Susan was the GSM).

Moments later I had both Susan and Jim on speaker. I said, Susan, Jim and I are looking ahead a little and are seeing some weakness in Q2, especially April. Jim mentioned that theres some non-returning business. Can you shed a little light on this? Maybe I can help you.

Susan began naming a few accounts not on the air in second quarter and one of them was the same large Chevy dealer Jim mentioned. Whats the story with Steve Johnson Chevy? I asked her.

Unfortunately, Susans answer was similar to Jims. Im not sure, she answered.

Who is the seller that handles Steve Johnson? I asked.

Linda, she answered. Linda was a proven, veteran sales rep at this cluster and wasnt the name I was expecting to hear.

If shes there, will you ask her to join us? I asked.

Moments later I had all three on speaker, together, the GM, the GSM, and the seller. I told Linda we were looking at the second quarter and were discussing some accounts not on the air, one being Steve Johnson Chevy. Linda, Steve Johnson has been on the air for years. Why are they not returning in second quarter? I asked. (Now, listen closely to Lindas answer.)

"The agency said they were looking to take a different direction starting in April.

When did they tell you this? I asked.

A month or so ago, she answered.

I said, Linda, as you know, Ive met Steve Johnson. Hes always been a fan of our radio stations. Its difficult to believe hes suddenly decided to fire us. What did he tell you about this decision?

The agency just said that.

I interrupted, Yes, I heard that. What ideas, presentations, promotions, or solutions did you present or put in front of Steve Johnson for second quarter that he rejected? I asked.

She answered, When the agency said there were no radio plans for second quarter, I presented nothing.

Then I said, Okay everyone. Were going to take a two-minute break and refill our coffee cups. Linda, I want you to go to your office and bring back your copy of the last presentation you made to Steve Johnson. Ill wait here for you."

Everyone returned to Jims office and the speaker phone moments later.

Linda said, The only one I have is from last fall for first quarter of this year.

So, we have no record of ASKING FOR HIS BUSINESS since last fall and now hes off the air, correct? I asked.

There was silence in the room. Jim? Susan? As managers, how long has it been since either of you have looked in Steve Johnsons eyes? Not the agency, not the buyer, but Steve Johnson? I asked.

Its been a while, were the words that filled the room.

Heres what were going to do, folks. Everyone listen closely. Linda, you no longer handle Steve Johnson Chevrolet. Susan, please reassign this account today. Linda, youve always been a good seller, but youve been sitting on this account and, obviously, not asking for the business. Susan, you havent handled this well, either. Linda should have been in front of this client every week, presenting proposal after proposal to keep them on the air. If Steve Johnson continually said no to Linda, your job, Susan, is to make sure he says no to you too. Jim, as general manager, if Steve Johnson has rejected Linda and Susan, then its your turn to see if he wants to look in your eyes and fire you, too. If that doesnt work, Ill fly in and take a shot at saving this myself. My point is, right now were losing this business because were lazy; sitting on the account and not asking for the business. Susan, I want to see the next three presentations put in front of Steve Johnson. He may fire us, but it wont be because we didnt ask for the business.

The first unforgiveable sin in radio sales is being sold out and short of budget. The second is SITTING ON ACCOUNTS. No radio station should wonder why their revenue is off if they cant document theyve asked for the business.

Rob Adair is the President of Pinnacle Solving. His company provides revenue growth solutions, branding and differentiation strategies to radio and other industries. Adair is a former radio industry COO and Sr. VP overseeing 25+ stations and multiple major markets. He can be reached at 405-641-0458 or by e-mail

(5/3/2013 2:05:51 PM)
Great stuff and so true. You can't control a lot of what happens in the marketplace but the one thing you can control is the amount of business you ask for.

- Realist

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