Successful Local Broadcast Sales
Author: Paul Weyland
Pub Date: September 2007
Print Edition: $14.95
Print ISBN: 9780814431627
Page Count: 240
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814409800
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Since you’re reading this book, I’m assuming that you are a
media salesperson or you’re thinking about becoming one.
Perhaps you are a student considering broadcast sales as a
career. Congratulations! Media sales can be an exciting and glamorous
career if you know what you’re doing. You get to hobnob with
big shots and entertainment stars, and you may drive big, fancy
cars. You could have access to the best tickets in town to everything
from sporting events to concerts. You’re invited to the best parties,
and you may travel to exotic places. You acquire skills that allow
you to work anywhere you’d like, even in foreign countries. You can
make as much money as any credentialed professional person,
including good doctors and lawyers, and you can do that without
an advanced degree. That is, if you know what you’re doing.
Unfortunately, there are many people in the media sales business
who don’t know what they’re doing. Life for many of them is
hard. Limited success turns to low self-esteem. Morale problems
lead to fewer client calls, which mean even fewer sales. Fewer sales
mean lower commissions and strained relationships with managers.
Eventually most of these account executives either quit or get fired.
Turnover rate in radio and television sales departments is
abysmally high and getting worse. Add that to other industry
concerns like a languishing broadcast stock market, the downward
trend in transactional (agency) business, declining market costs per
spot, increasing demands for “added value” (free advertising), and
an influx of new broadcast media competitors like iPOD, satellite
radio, TiVo, interactive cell phones, and the Internet, and you’d
wonder why anyone would really want to get involved in terrestrial
broadcast sales to begin with. I’ll tell you why. Because there is still
tremendous opportunity for those who know how to look for it and
harvest it. And that’s what this book is about.
For the better part of two decades, we’ve moved away from
building relationships with local direct business, instead focusing
more on developing relationships with advertising agencies. In the
process, we’ve sacrificed time and resources needed to properly
educate and close long-term local direct clients. Particularly in
medium and large markets, catering to media buyers and their
agencies became our primary task. Many of us have learned, however,
that our “friends” at the agencies can be fickle, stingy, and
overbearingly demanding with their budgets.
Lately, this realization has led radio and television stations to put
more emphasis back into building relationships with local direct
clients. This makes logical sense because satisfied local direct clients
offer less rate resistance and ask for less “added value.” We have
more control over local direct budgets than we do when we wrangle
with the agencies. We have more control over the local client’s
marketing and advertising plan, we have much more control over
the local client’s creative process, and there are fewer revisions and
cancellations than we experience with agencies.
In 1990 I received a letter from a former client who owned an
office products store. He said he’d just sold his business to a
national chain, and he just wanted to thank me for helping him
become a millionaire. I shook the envelope to see if he’d written me
a check, but there was no money, just the letter. That was okay. This
client had paid me very well every month for many years as had
many other business people who advertised on my station for
decades. Many of these business owners are not only clients but also
friends, who confide in me about every aspect of their business.
Unlike many of the new media, broadcast has a uniquely local
advantage that provides local businesses with the perfect marketing
and advertising vehicle for reaching out to local consumers.
Simply put, local businesses and local broadcast stations are made
for each other. Unfortunately there are two big problems keeping
local direct clients from spending more advertising dollars with
broadcast stations. The first problem is the client’s perception that
broadcast advertising is confusing, complicated, and a crapshoot.
The second problem with local direct business is ourselves. Let me
I think you’ll agree that right or wrong, perception means everything.
Many local clients are skeptical about broadcast advertising
because they “tried us once and it didn’t work,” so naturally they
think spending money with us is a crapshoot instead of a good, calculated
risk. Clients are in the business of taking calculated risks,
but understandably they do not like gambling with their hardearned
dollars, especially when they don’t fully understand the
rules. And the rules for using radio and television seem incredibly
complicated to many business owners.
What is reach? What is frequency? What is average quarter hour?
What are gross rating points? Why are rate cards so complicated?
How much should broadcast advertising really cost? Why pay rate
card when the next month the same station presents a special package
at one-third the normal cost? How can virtually every station
claim to be number one? Why does the client have his third representative
from the same station in a year and a half? Clearly many
clients feel comfortable investing with the newspaper or the Yellow
Pages, and they are skeptical about broadcast, which leads us to the
second reason we don’t have more local direct business on our stations.
And we are that problem.
Instead of making broadcast advertising look easy and logical,
we have tried to sell with computer-generated proposals infested
with terms and calculations that many of us in broadcasting don’t
even fully understand. Why do we inflict these complicated proposals
on local clients? Why do we make broadcast advertising
seem so confusing and complicated? Could the reason be because
most of us don’t know what we’re doing because we got into broadcast
sales completely by mistake? The answer is yes.
Nearly every single broadcast account executive I’ve ever met
also got into the business by mistake. When you were 15 years old,
I would doubt that you ever said, “When I grow up I want to be a
salesperson at a radio or television station.” Think about the bizarre,
meandering path that your life had to take to get you into this business.
I have. When I was 15, I wanted to be a drummer in a rock
band. When that didn’t work out, I wanted to be a disc jockey at a
radio station. While working on-air, I became aware of the salespeople
at the station. They seemed to come and go as they pleased.
They dressed well, and they drove expensive cars. They went to lots
of parties. I thought, “That’s what I want to do.” So I lobbied the
general manager into letting me sell. I had to sell local direct
because some of the people who worked at our station had been
there for forty years, and they had all of the agency business locked
up. I had no idea what I was doing at first and made every conceivable
mistake. I wince now when I think of the early clients I
would have served better had I known more about what I was doing
with their money.
I, like you in all probability, entered into this business with very
little or no experience in marketing and branding, no experience in
the difference between good and bad advertising, and no experience
in managing a business owner’s expectations about results in an
advertising campaign. Because I really didn’t know anything my
first year, I am certain that a lot of my early clients perceived me as
a pest rather than a resource. When you combine a client’s skepticism
about radio and television advertising with media sales reps
who don’t know what they’re doing, you wind up with a train
Even seasoned veterans in this business still don’t really have a
clue when it comes to properly educating local direct clients about
the benefits of broadcast advertising. Many of us still don’t know
how to explain modern marketing and branding to clients in language
they understand. We know as little about the creative process
as the client does. Once the client determines that her sales rep is
ignorant about how to make a good commercial, the “tail starts wagging
the dog.” The client, also ignorant about the difference between
good and bad advertising, ends up telling us what needs to go into
the commercial. And when the commercial doesn’t work, who does
the client blame? Your station, of course.
Speaking of the tail wagging the dog, let’s discuss budgets. If, in
the client’s mind, he feels that working with us is more of a gamble
than a good, calculated risk, why wouldn’t he hold back on how
much he spends with us? Why risk a lot when it doesn’t look like the
odds are clearly in his favor? Thin schedules combined with bad
spots add up to a disastrous campaign. Add to that nasty formula the
fact that most of us have no way of teaching clients how to calculate
return on investment when they advertise with us. Consequently, the
client may have unreal expectations about broadcast advertising
results. And when those unreal expectations don’t work out, the
client cancels. And again, who does he blame? Your station.
By failing to contact, educate, and service direct clients properly,
we are doing our local businesses a tremendous disservice as they
are now in the fight for their lives against big box-store national
competitors. All over the nation (and the world) consumers are
drawn to rows of big, shiny, and flourishing national discount stores
while local businesses are dying. The individuality of a local business
has been lost in the bigger is better box-store craze. A shopping
center in Austin looks like one in Indianapolis, or Portland, or
Phoenix. Downtowns once populated with local retailers look like
ghost towns. The national chains took away their customers. And
with the customers went the money.
Surviving local businesses believe that in order to compete, they
must match or beat the prices of the national chains. You see the
evidence in local newspapers, Yellow Pages, and to a smaller degree
on radio and television stations. “We’ll match or beat any competitor’s
advertised price.” “Buy one pair and the second pair is free.”
“Save 30 to 50 percent today only.” Without even being asked, these
local businesses are voluntarily giving away a huge percentage of
profit in order to attract a few customers away from the national
competitor. How long can this war last?
The price war is not a war that the local businesses can ultimately
win. These businesses must have good marketing and advertising
expertise or face extinction. They are quaking in the shadow
of Darth Vader, and they need our help. The problem is, they don’t
recognize the help we could give them because we’re not doing a
very good job explaining it to them. In this book you’ll learn innovative
ways to help local clients that don’t involve discounting their
Just because we got into the broadcast sales business by mistake
is no reason to be doing business by mistake. This book is the result
of decades of experience working with local direct clients. It is
designed to help instill good selling habits in new sellers and help
them avoid frustrating pitfalls that waste time and effort. It is also
designed to help experienced radio and television salespeople expedite
the long-term local direct selling process, regardless of your
geography, your market’s economy, your market size, your ratings
(or lack of them), your format, or your program.
The book is written in sections and covers virtually every aspect
of prospecting, educating, and closing long-term clients. The first
section deals with better ways to prospect for and then to get
appointments with decision makers. We also deal with the disease
of call reluctance and how to avoid it. I’ll show you how to explain
modern marketing and branding to a local direct client in language
that he or she will absolutely understand and relate to. This section
will include six very important concepts that you’ll want to learn
and include in every single local broadcast sales presentation that
The first concept covers why broadcast advertising is easy, not
difficult. We then go over a model of what a perfect business should
look like in a perfect world, but how most businesses illogically
spend the least amount of their time, money, and resources on the
side of the business involving advertising. We discuss the difficulty
that local businesses have competing with the thousands of other
commercial impressions that are inflicted on a client’s potential customer
every day and how to break through that clutter. We’ll cover
how to explain the importance of branding to a client and how
important that explanation becomes in selling the client on buying
your station on a long-term basis. We’ll also go over how consumers
really listen to and watch radio and television commercials and why
we’re not trying to reach everybody during a campaign on your station.
This concept will come in very handy as you work to manage
your client’s expectations about results on your station. It will also
contribute to your ability to close long-term business with little or
no rate resistance. Finally, in this section we’ll see how your station
is logical for the client regardless of whether you’re rated number
one or number twenty.
The second section deals primarily with the creative process.
Here you will learn how to write genius creative regardless of
whether you’re a creative genius. These creative concepts alone will
help you become a valuable resource in the client’s mind. You’ll
study logical creative secrets that most agencies aren’t even aware of
to make your client’s messages stand apart from the clutter. What
you’ll read in the creative section will also help you get more
appointments with clients who are wasting their money with other
advertising venues because you’ll be able to prove that their advertising
copy is inefficient and ineffective.
Then we will discuss how to help your clients calculate return
on investment on the advertising they buy. This process will help
you manage your client’s expectations about results on your station,
and it will be the final nail in your argument that advertising on
your station is a good calculated risk, not a crapshoot. Explaining
this ROI method to your clients will also help you to further establish
yourself as an essential resource to your client’s business.
Finally, we will cover the day-in day-out mechanics of the
broadcast selling process, including better ways to make proposals
and presentations. You will learn how to become a better negotiator,
how to answer objections to radio or television advertising, how
to overcome rate resistance, and how to close long-term local direct
contracts. You will learn how to super-serve your local clients and
how to handle collection problems. You will also find exercises at
the end of each chapter to help you think about ways to apply each
lesson to situations you encounter on a daily basis.
If you follow the advice presented in this book, you’ll no doubt
close more long-term local direct contracts. You will thrive in this
business. Your income will increase exponentially. You will become
an expert in identifying and solving customer problems, and you
will gain a reputation as a resource. Your clients will love you for
what you do for them. You will become as much a part of your
client’s lives as the other professional people they trust, like their
doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, insurance agents, and tax consultants.
The one thing this book cannot do is change your personality or
monitor how you spend your work time. Broadcast sellers possess
various combinations of personality traits, but top billers generally
have two traits in common—a strong competitive nature and empathy
for others. The competitive nature fuels your drive to succeed.
Empathy is the catalyst you need to help clients by understanding
their unique situations and helping them identify and solve their
To succeed, you must be competitive, and you must be willing
to do the work. The most successful radio and television sellers
average about thirty active accounts on the air in a given month. In
order to get to that point, you must have long-term contracts. And
in order to sell the long-term contracts, you’ll have to get appointments
and make presentations. Think about all of the local businesses
in your signal coverage area that are not aware of who you
are, what you do, or how to get in touch with you. How can they
possibly do business with you or your station if they don’t even
know you exist? You must contact them because it is highly unlikely
that they will contact you.
If you spend your time wisely and use your head, your efforts
will pay off and you will be rewarded. If you’re not busy, then you
should be. There are so many clients out there who are not advertising
with us simply because they’re ignorant about how using
radio or television properly could positively and permanently
improve their businesses. And the only reason many of these businesses
are ignorant about us is because we’ve never contacted and
educated them properly. Or worse, they were contacted, but not by
a broadcast salesperson who knew what he or she was doing.
Being busy is important, but don’t confuse effort with production.
The best part about beating your head against the wall is it
feels so good when you stop. Too many of us waste time with
spoiled, rate-contentious clients who won’t buy us no matter how
hard we try. Or, we find ourselves slipping into the rut of spending
too much time in the office creating computer-generated proposals
that nobody will ever read, instead of getting out on the street and
properly educating clients in language they understand.
This book was written so that it is easy to read and easy to
understand. The concepts have been simplified on purpose. We’ve
tried the confusing and complicated way to communicate with
clients, and it doesn’t work very well. If you, as a media representative,
clearly understand the concepts of how you and your station
can help local businesses, then you’ll become an evangelist about
those concepts, and you’ll explain them to every local businessperson
you can find. As you explain them, you’ll be amazed at how the
client listens, asks intelligent questions, and takes good notes. Once
clients are on the same page you’re on, once you have clients who
realize that you are a resource who helps them identify and solve
marketing and advertising problems and not a pest like their other
media salespeople, you’ll have customers who will stick with you
for a long, long time.
Enjoy the book. Use it wisely and build a rock-solid career in a
really exciting business. Enjoy your position. Enjoy your time with
clients and together let’s put the show back into show business.
Good luck and good selling!
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