So you want to be a Radio Advertising Sales Person?

One of the most miserable jobs on the planet is sales. You’re stuck between the customer and the product. If anything goes wrong it’s your fault. You are often selling things to people they don’t need or want. In radio it can be even harder, because clients sometimes have unreasonable attitudes and expectations. You are assesed on hitting your tagets. You don’t hit, you get fired. You are mostly on the road alone… and your company doesn’t appreciate how hard it is!

Radio Sales is a tough profession. Only a handful of people in my experience really excel at it. On the bright side it can be fun, challenging and financially rewarding… IF you are good at it. Hopefully I can give you some hints on how to be a great sales person from what I have experienced and observed.

Work Harder

The best sales people work hard at it! You have to do more presentations to do more sales. You have to close more business to hit your ever increasing targets. The higher your targets the better the commissions.

Work Smarter

You need to be well organized. Try to get all your appointments on one side of town, at the same time! Communicate with your Sales Manager and keep a well filled in diary (on line shared ones are great). Know how to report to your SM. Keep appointments and if you’re late, call ahead! Make time for paperwork. If you’re brighter and sharper in the afternoons, make sure your afternoons are nothing but selling…. Or the other way around! If you find yourself at your desk with nothing to do (cancelled appointments etc.) use the time to make appointments, cold call, follow up.

Don’t try to sell radio

It may sound like a cliché, but don’t try and sell your clients spot…. try to sell them solutions. I’ve had sales people come to me wanting an “idea for the client”… well what is the client trying to achieve? What’s their problem? What’s the brief? If I don’t know, how are we supposed to offer a solution. It’s easy to sell toothpaste because it solves a problem, be it cavities, bad breath or sensitive teeth. Find out what the client solves and then you can show the client how we can communicate that to listeners.

Work with clients

Don’t be a sales person, be the person trying to help their business. Know advertising and marketing. You are sitting along side them, not on the other side of the desk.

Be trustworthy.

Imagine you have a client who asks you what their opposition is about to do on your station. If you tell them, they will think that you will tell people about their business. Just answer “I’m sorry, just like your business with me in confidential… the same is true for the stations other clients.”

Ask for Money

Sales people should not be afraid to ask for money. You are worth the money, your time and effort You should be confident that your product can deliver solutions. If you’re not… go to another station or get out of radio.

Know your product

It’s amazing how many people selling radio don’t listen to the station… ever! You need to know your product. But remember you’re not selling the station, you’re selling solutions

Work with your writers and producers

It should not be a war between departments. Give decent deadlines to your people for them to turn the work around. Most creatives stay in radio because they really care about doing a good job for clients. Hey! I can write an ad in 20 minutes… but I wont have given it much thought, or gone through the brief carefully. Use the writers to meet with clients and present the scripts. Try if possible to do this in the station, since in most stations the writer will be servicing several sales people. If you lie to your writers, or mess them around it’s only natural that they wont feel so good about you, and the work you get will suffer. Praise goes a long way. If you don’t like a script… ask them how it answers the brief?

Every call is a selling call…

There is no such thing as a “service call”. Yes you can pop into see the client and have a coffee, see how the campaign is going, but have something in your briefcase. “Hey! The weather is up for sponsorship and this would be ideal for you to support your spot campaign”.

Be tenacious but realistic

There are potential clients who say they will spend and end up just wasting your time. They get pleasure from calling you across town, making you wait, dangling the carrot and then sending you back to the station empty handed. You’re maybe doing spec script after spec script. Don’t be a sucker!! If a client is wasting your time, leave it and move on to something worth doing.

“Laying siege to a city is only done when other options are not available.”
“If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength”
The Art of War by Sun Tzu, 600 BC

Don’t “dis” the competition.

It’s amazing the reactions of some sales people when they hear the client is considering another station. Don’t fall into the trap of bad mouthing the opposition. In one market I worked in a small station was offering a silly price on airtime. Instead of telling the client how worthless the station was I told them they should lock into that price for a year and sign a contract… I told them how great their creative writer was and which sales person they should deal with because they were top radio people. THEN they should be on our station too, since they needed to reach our listeners (a significantly higher number and of the right target market). The client signed.
It’s the same with radio, TV and online. The radio will work more than twice as hard if they are using other media. Of course there are ways they can free some money up to fund their radio campaign.

How do you get a job in Radio Sales?

Cold call. Call the radio station, ask to see the Head of Sales… if you get to talk to them take a brief. Are they making enough sales? Are they short of sales staff? If you’re too shy to pick up the phone and sell yourself, then sales is not the career for you.

Make an appointment and pitch yourself… how would YOU solve their problem!

Have a small gimmick… something they will remember you for. Something like leaving your contact details in an unusual form… like printed on the bottom of a rubber duck. (I’ve used that… copyright me! Get your own idea!)

Then close the sale. Leave them with no doubt that you want to work for them. When can you start?

If they don’t have any vacancies at least they have someone who made an impression…. Follow up!

Let me know how you get on!

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4 thoughts on “So you want to be a Radio Advertising Sales Person?

  1. Hi Simon, great post!

    I agree with much of what you say here, except for the fact that there is no such thing as a “non-selling visit”.

    As a Creative Writer, I would tell my reps to let me be the one who was always calling with business; that way, they can be the one to go in and just chat about business. No mentions of expanding their buy or selling your new promotion, just talk business. Their business. This will go a long way to strengthen the idea that you actually care about their business and not just selling more airtime.

    Oftentimes, you’ll gain some great insights into your clients business from these chats. They may discuss how they’re trying to get this new product in and are having trouble with the distributor, or maybe the competition is killing them with their discounted prices. Take this knowledge back to the station with you. NOTE: DO NOT SELL THEM ON ADS AT THIS TIME, it will only reinforce the idea that you are always selling and don’t really care about the success of their business.

    Instead, leave the meeting saying that you’ll check in with them at a later date. Take those difficulties back to the station with you. Speak with your writer/producer team and see what sort of spots you can come up with that address the clients issues.

    THEN take these ads with you to your next meeting. “Say, remember our last chat? You had said that you were having troubles getting this new product in. Well we thought that we could boost the desire for this product if we start to advertise this now. This will help you sell them faster when you do get them in and when you run out of them and have to bring more in, the fast reorder and potentially larger order may help with your distributor dilemma? What do you think?”. This will show that you not only care about their advertising issues but their business as a whole and goes a long way to strengthening your relationship with this client.

    Sometimes, working on the relationship results in more sales later on.

    p.s. love the part about treating your writer/production staff right. 24 turnaround should be the exception, not the rule!

  2. I don’t think we’re far away from each other. Taking a brief is part of the selling process.
    BUT I would disagree with the “having a chat”. I think you can start with general catching up… but you are there to do something for their business, to help it grow.

    Let the client know why you are there! It’s been shown (some work that was done while I was with GWR back in the 1990s) that clients got quite irritated when the exec just dropped in for a coffee and a chat. Time was precious. But asking -” what are you planning for the next two months? Can I take a brief and put some ideas together? Have I told you that “x” is coming up for sponsorship… we’ve got a great idea for a new year promotion and we’re looking for a partner to do it with..can I bring you the presentation?” It’s all selling AND relationship. I think you have to BRING something of value to every meeting that will help the client. That’s sales!

    Finding out there business problems IS a key to selling… Alvin Eicoff formula. Find the problem and show how your product or service can solve that problem.

    It’s often the problem with the “chat” is that’s what the brief is based on. And chat is often wooley, unfocussed and irrelevant. Lets get the chat done and then take a brief. Properly.

  3. Most of us who entered the field of radio advertising sales (I’m approaching my 40th year in the biz) did so “accidentally,” as Chris Lytle has famously documented in his book, THE ACCIDENTAL SALESPERSON.

    The late Jim Williams, perhaps radio’s first true, full-time sales trainer, observed that 3 out of 4 people entering the field of radio ad sales will leave it within their first year; of those who make it past their one-year anniversary, 90% go on to make radio advertising sales in one form or another (e.g., management or station ownership) their lifelong occupation.

    Watch the activity at whenever a new radio ad salesperson discovers the site and asks for help. The outpouring of wisdom, encouragement, and practical advice from veterans is remarkable. I’d like to think that anyone inclined to pursue radio ad sales as a career (at least here in the USA, though I don’t see why Australia or the UK would be any different) would find plenty of opportunities, especially in the small and medium markets, where the quality of life is usually quite attractive.

    Best wishes to you in the coming year!

    -Rod Schwartz
    Grace Broadcast Sales

  4. Great article helps as we expand and venture out! Nice introduction to sales & advertising!

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