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Maybe Its Time For Her To Go


A newly hired sales manager in a small market has inherited a perplexing problem. One of his senior reps, an employee at the station for decades, is consistently bringing in the lowest average rates as well as the lowest average orders. Due to her longevity, the account executive has a very large account list and is personal friends with many of her accounts.

I know that many.... well, most of her accounts are capable of spending much more than they are currently spending, says the manager. But my rep insists that she is thorough and that she is maximizing her share of her clients advertising budgets.

This rep is by far the biggest biller on the station and she works very hard, but the manager feels she is short-changing her clients with thin schedules and mediocre commercials:
She churns a lot of accounts. Many will drop out for months, saying they dont feel like our station is working for them, but they are loyal to her and eventually she convinces them to come back on. This has been a pattern for a long time.

She came in the other day with an order for a brand-new restaurant. The schedule was very sparse and only written up for one month, which is typical for her. I was concerned that for a brand-new client on our station, the frequency level was too low. She told me that based on her experience, this was an acceptable amount of spending to introduce the restaurant to our audience.

Another downside with this seasoned veteran was her influence over the other reps. She mothers them, says the sales manager. But I believe she is singularly responsible for the small order syndrome we have in this market. She has created a glass ceiling on rates and average orders, and regardless of the conversations weve had on this subject, she wont budge. She loves her job, and she has no intention of ever retiring. Its driving me crazy.

This situation is not unique. Reps like this one are unintentionally stifling growth in markets all over the country. The question is how to effectively modify her behavior and crack that glass ceiling.

The answer to the dilemma is to lead by example. You as manager will have to prove to this salesperson (and the rest of the staff) that it is absolutely possible to bring in bigger orders at higher rates.

Insist on going with her on appointments so you can personally meet with her advertising decisionmakers. Come up with higher-frequency long-term campaign strategies, then take her and junior reps with you and sell them yourself. Take what she normally asks for a month and routinely ask for that much each week. Back up your larger budget proposals by using the clients own numbers her average sale and gross margin of profit.

Why run a commercial per hour on our station? Because we let you. Mrs. Client, your average sale is $1,500. Your gross margin is keystone, or 50 percent. How many $750s would you need to justify the $2,000 a week were suggesting you spend with us? Three. This is what it would cost you per week to dominate your category on our station. You could easily afford it, and your calculated risk is low. This is the best way to utilize our station and get new customers.

Once your senior rep sees that your plan works, she will either step up to the plate or she wont. But you will succeed in breaking her spell over the rest of the staff, and you will quickly raise the bar on what is an acceptable order on your station and what is no longer acceptable.

Paul Weyland can be reached at 512.236.1222 or Also visit