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July 28, 2014

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6/18/01 The Light Bulb Over My Head

When I moved to Silicon Valley and found myself face to face with sales executives from some of the top companies in the world, I was not prepared for the encounter. These people heard the word "Radio," took one look at me, and saw Herb Tarlick. You remember Herb, don't you, the fabled character from the old TV show WKRP in Cincinnati?

Herb Tarlick was the stereotypical Radio sales guy loud dresser, cocky attitude, would do anything for a sale anything. Sadly, Herb remains the image of Radio sales for most people in America. Herb represented precisely what the RAB has been fighting to overcome "shoot-from-the-hip, unprepared, utterly unsophisticated hypester."

If I were a character in a cartoon, the moment when I realized that other professionals heard "Radio" and saw me as Herb Tarlick would have been the precise moment that a light bulb appeared over my head. Since my light bulb epiphany, I have raised my standards, and I am now deeply disturbed when I encounter salespeople who shoot from the hip and are ill-prepared, poorly trained, unprofessional generally a couple notches lower than the rest of us. Have I become a snob? No, I've just been exposed to higher-quality, truly professional salespeople.

My friends in other industries, though, still thumb their noses at Radio people because, in spite of the progress we've made, other industries have made even more. Radio may have leaped forward, but we are not meeting standards set by the sales and business-development executives we sell against in other media. My friend Ray (whose last name will be withheld) is a former network television sales executive who refused even to consider Radio sales people for his company. When I finally convinced Ray to interview a few Radio folk, those Radio people to my dismay lived up to his expectations.

Ask Roy Williams, whose company speaks to hundreds of Radio sellers each year. Ask trainer Dave Gifford, who recently stuck out his neck to tell you that the quality of our sales people is substandard. Ask the all-new Chuck Mefford, who "re-invented" himself and his training program more than a year ago when he saw that Radio was falling further and further behind the times.

Are you listening?

Life is a series of lessons, a series of chances to grow, to expand. Are you investing in your own growth? Are you reading things outside your industry? If you plan to survive and thrive, it's critical that you begin rubbing elbows with the new breed, attending seminars with them, absorbing and learning from their strengths.
Radio is seeing the New Guard gradually beginning to replace the old. The New Guard is bringing in fresh ideas, raising the standards and improving the level of sophistication. But the Old Guard is unwilling to invest the time to learn new ways; they feel the old ways served them well. Watch what happens to them.

David Field, interviewed in this issue, is another early signal that the New Guard is bringing fresh ideas, new approaches, a different perspective and a new level of sophistication. While the Old Guard brings great wisdom and should not be looked upon as "ready for pasture," the New Guard is delivering new concepts. It will be enlightening to see who will embrace and who will resist.

Keep your eyes open.

Eric Rhoads


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