I've now been in radio for 32 of its 100 years. In a 2006 interview with a state broadcast association, I
discussed the changes I've witnessed in radio station management during my tenure in the industry (note how these still have relevance today), as well as some necessary steps that radio must take to increase its share of overall marketing dollars.
Q: WHAT WORKED FOR MANAGERS 20 YEARS AGO THAT NO LONGER WORKS?
SL: Not having to train new sales reps. I didn't expect training 20 years ago, but our industry has since separated the wheat from the chaff. Managers who think they can toss a 22-year-old college graduate
onto the streets without any training will be fired. So will the AE. Recent surveys show that having a
comprehensive training program accounts for 68 percent of the hiring decision for prospective sellers
We haven't grown much in the management of accounts over the past 20 years. Then, only about 5 percent of sales departments in radio had account management systems, which is much more than having a database on accounts. Today, around 20 percent have them, but it should be at 100 percent compliance.
Q: WHAT IS VITAL NOW THAT WAS UNHEARD OF YEARS AGO?
SL: Research before the initial contact. Back then, salespeople could get in the car and drive around dropping in on business owners. Today you must do your homework to rise above the clutter.Your sales reps must do the extraordinary to get in the door now, because there are more salespeople and more media options than ever before. In fact, the average business owner is solicited by 28.6 sales reps per week. That's about
six sales calls per day for the average business owner, either inperson or on the phone.
Q: ARE WOMEN BETTER REPRESENTED IN RADIO SALES MANAGEMENT?
SL: Yes.We have more women in management and sales than ever before: 20 years ago, management comprised about 10 percent women; today, it's well over 35 percent and growing. Over 60 percent of the local radio sales force is female. Women in radio sales careers far outpace the growth of women in the workplace versus 20 years ago.
Q: HOW HAVE THE METHODS OF MOTIVATION CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
SL: Better sales trainers and consultants who develop better sales managers. Having top-flight sales managers can make a huge difference, but motivation still comes from the inside when that person makes a conscious decision to improve. Until then, nothing changes for that person or sales rep. Good sales managers can motivate their sales forces and increase market share well above the local market growth.
Q: WHAT OTHER SIGNIFICANT CHANGES HAVE OCCURRED IN THE PAST 20 YEARS IN RADIO?
SL: Radio Ink magazine.We didn't have Radio Ink 20 years ago, and it's made an impact on training and educating our sales reps and managers. I'm not just saying that because I write for Radio Ink. Eric Rhoads, the voice of the radio revolution, has probably made the single biggest impact of any one person in radio the past 20 years. The RAB has done good work in the past 10 years, and has been a great research mechanism for radio stations. Its annual conference is emerging as one of the featured conferences for managers and reps to attend.
Q: WHAT HASN'T CHANGED?
SL: The patience to hire the right "fit" for a sales rep. Personnel assessments have come a long way, but they should be mandatory before the hire is made.