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Sales routes

How to train a radio account manager

I have been learning the trade of selling advertising since 1991.  I’m in my 22nd year of learning this and I want to give some plugs for the 5 great sales mentors that taught me along the way, namely: Frank, Harry, Dale & Larry.  Thanks! I learned something unique from each.  Don’t jump to the conclusion that I learned sales from these guys and apparently not math.  The 5th mentor I credit all the lessons learned are the various merchants I have negotiated with; over 65,000 B2B sales calls I estimate I have made.  And it’s really not that many…fewer than 12 per day.  We all know there is more day than just 12 sales calls.

So let’s get to this important topic.  It could/should be topic #1 for EVERY new sales person to read when they get in the business and mandatory that EVERY VETERAN study, memorize and read over monthly.  How do you sell radio advertising?  First, let’s find out if we’re doing a good job of teaching people how to sell radio advertising.  Back in 2000-2004 I was on the board of Directors for the Kansas Association of Broadcasters.  The KAB had started an annual “sales training” seminar.  It was great and participation was very high.  I was a presenter for 3 years.  I always asked how many in attendance had less than 1 year of radio advertising sales experience.  There were always 80% of the hands raised.  I was recently in a radio station with a staff of 4 sales people.  I asked each person how much radio sales experience they had.  The veteran had 8 months; one rookie less than 2 months.  I recall an RAB study conducted around the year 2000 that asked “former” radio station sales people why they quit the business.  The answer predominantly was “lack of training”. 

So, everyone that was trying to help their sales reps that read that study took inventory of their own sales staffs and started to train more.  We really did train more!  And based on my visit to that station a few weeks ago with the staff of 4 and combined experience of less than 2 years, the radio business is apparently still not getting the job done with regards to sales training.  What are we doing wrong?  I think it is a failure at showing people “how” to do it along with accountability and oversight.  I am going to use the route delivery person as my way to explain “how” to set up your sales staff and how to manage the process.  BTW – forcing reps to fill out a “sales sheet” is not a positive management tool.  I believe sales sheets are part of the reason why so many people around the country can say: “I used to sell radio advertising”…waiting for the friendly response of… “Me too” followed by the follow up question; “did you like it”?  To which the answer is almost always something along the lines of: “no, I hated it…everyone (meaning merchants) were rude to me!”  Poor sales reps certainly do not help the next guy either.

Let me introduce you to the route delivery sales person.  The rude merchant, mentioned above, sells chips, soda, cigarettes, steaks, pasta…etc!  It doesn’t matter “what” the merchant sells to the public in this example.  If they do not have it…they cannot sell it.  So, what happens if the route delivery sales person does not go to his/her prescribed merchants on a regular schedule?  Exactly!  He or she gets fired because the merchant calls the supply company and complains that they are not getting the stuff they need to sell in order to be in business.  So, the supply company has a plan, based on history, on how to hire people and then teach them.  We, as radio station sales managers, can learn from this plan.  The supply company needs a reliable person that is going to show up to work each day and go to his or her assigned merchants and give them what they need to sell to the public. 

First, after narrowing their selections down to a few, these supply companies conduct a back ground check of those finalists BEFORE they would ever consider hiring them.  The questions are simple…did he/she come to work every day?  Did he/she do what they were told to do?  Does he/she seem to be a responsible person in your opinion?  ANY answers that get a “no” should cause you to pass on that person and the reason is all based on history; people seldom change.

Second, they conduct a drug screen.  What does a drug screen do?  It weeds out the people that miss work a lot due to drug/alcohol problems.  Trust me, at $50, a test is much less than 90 days of a poor sales person. 

Third, the route delivery sales person gets shown (usually by the manager) where to go, who to see, how often to go, what to stock, etc…

WOW!!  How many of you guys got trained that way when you joined the sales staff at your first radio station?  Yeah…zero.  How many would have LOVED to get trained that way? 

The next topic I’ll focus on is how to set up your sales routes so you’ll be productive & effective.

Call me Phil @ (913) 221-2543

Luke 6:38