Four days after one of my recent sales seminars, I received an e-mail from an attendee I'll call Ted, who was asked to resign from his sales job. After a little e-mail bantering, I asked him what had happened; it's not very often that management fires a person after just paying to send him to an all-day seminar. To his credit, Ted admitted that he had been fired; he also admitted some of his mistakes, for which he took full responsibility.
Of course, we're missing the other side of the story - the one that Ted's sales manager would tell. However, Ted is not alone in his story: having a manager who is responsible for managing the sales department while simultaneously carrying his or her own list. I have seen the same thing at other sales departments, but this is one of the toughest jobs in broadcasting: managing and selling at the same time. Very few people can do it, as Ted's e-mail illustrates.
If you're a sales manager who carries a list, you might want to read the following e-mail carefully and hope this is not happening in your department. The cost of turnover will kill you, and the cost of not training your people will get you an exit visa from your current job.
Here it is - with Ted's permission:
... the truth, eh? I started with the station seven months ago. I had experience in print advertising and other sales jobs, but no radio experience. The sales manager is working her own big accounts and has little time to spend with her sales team, aside from a 30-minute weekly meeting with everyone and then a brief one-on-one.
My training consisted of being told to learn the rate card and radio terminology, familiarize myself with TAPSCAN and Qualitap (which consistently had fatally low respondent rates), and to "get out there and sell, sell, sell." The problem with "sell, sell, sell" was that the general manager kept control of the account list.
For a newcomer, this poses a couple problems: Sure, I had access to the list, but since I was not permitted to take it out of the station, and since I was encouraged to be out in the field most of the time, I had no way of knowing if any business I considered approaching was already being worked by another rep. Naturally, I felt like I was spinning my wheels and wasting a lot of time.
I switched to a telephonic qualification process, where I would do my best to find business to approach from my desk. Sales were not coming fast and furious. Those calls I did make were, of course, met with objections. Lacking experience, I wasn't the best at overcoming these objections on the spot.
After seven months, I had built up relationships with a decent number of prospects who seemed on the verge of coming on board, but management felt things weren't working out. Two seasoned reps had left the month before, and two of the four remaining were disgruntled (a fifth was out on medical leave). Two new salespeople were hired, and the latest started the day I left. I was given the option to resign, which I took.
That's my side of things. I'm sure management would have a different way of explaining what happened. I'm sure their version would focus on my lack of sales. I can't argue with that, since I didn't do a great job selling. I simply question their decision to throw their investment away like they did when I was honestly putting forth effort to do the job, despite some obstacles. Just a month before, they sent me to RAB training, which easily cost them $600. I'm not sure what their thought processes were or how immediately they expected results - but I obviously didn't deliver.
All my best,
This entire incident is, of course, unfortunate. What a shame for all parties involved. In seven months, this sales rep cost the station at least $15,000, rather than becoming an investment. Who knows how much the previous month's rep departures cost this station? A number of problems exist, and some of them probably can be traced to the company's hiring practices.
When will this kind of situation stop? Will the radio industry ever take charge with initial training programs, the same way UPS, Federal Express, and Northwestern Mutual have? If not, we'll never see that 8-percent share of the overall advertising pie that we keep dreaming about.