How to find RADIO sales people

I worked in the radio industry for over forty years. In that time, I attended a lot of meetings, conferences and worked with radio companies owned by “mom & pop” to iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel).

The most often heard question everywhere I went was “How do I find people to sell for my radio station(s).”

Well I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is, it’s going to get worse. So what’s the good news? You’re not Google.

I was drawn in by an interesting article called “5 Reasons You May Not Want to Work for Google.”  It makes some excellent points from the employee’s point of view. But the bigger question is WHY do so many people aspire to work for Google?

Google has created a powerful employee brand. Google did this by building a culture. The culture then virally spreads the good word about working at Google.

Radio has been good at building cultures over the years. I just finished reading Ron Jacob’s “KHJ – Inside Boss Radio” and Ron pulled back the curtain on this iconic radio station from its Top40 birth in 1965.

Just like Google, KHJ created a powerful employee brand. Every disc jockey aspired to work there. Every performer wanted their record played on KHJ. KHJ went from being the misfit of RKO General (its owner) to becoming the economic engine that would lead the entire media company. It even out-billed KHJ-TV9 in Los Angeles.

Think KHJ’s general manager asked “How do I find people to sell for my radio station?”

When I was managing WFPG in Atlantic City I was often asked where I found my sales people. I used to joke that it was easy, because the station was located in front of a bus stop and we’d just abduct them while they were waiting for the bus. The real answer was, we created a powerful employee brand in South Jersey.

We had the reputation of being a fun, professional and winning place to work. We had applications coming in on a weekly basis for just about every position.

Sitting just a short expressway drive from Philadelphia, many rookies would be told to head for Atlantic City and WFPG to learn the business. We had earned the reputation for producing top talent both on-the-air and in sales.

Most radio stations are afraid to lose people to bigger radio stations in larger radio markets, but not us. We knew that only enriched our employee brand. Word gets around quickly that you’re the path to radio’s big show. That type of buzz helps to keep your pipeline of great candidates full.

Every employee I hired, I told “Tell me where you want to go and I will do my best to get you there.”

I tell my students today what I told my employees for years: “what will you do this quarter that you can add to your resume of successes?” Success only happens if you plan to be successful.

Now you may be wondering if I ever lost a sales person to another radio station in my market and the answer is yes. I lost sales people to other stations when they were offered the job of sales manager or general manager. I celebrated their good fortune right along with them.

I also remember some people who left because they thought all radio stations operated the way we did only to learn that they didn’t. Some of those people returned and became even better employees than when they left.

It’s never been more important for radio station owners to focus on creating a strong employee brand. A recent study by the Career Advisory Board says 93 percent of hiring managers feel they can’t find the right talent for their jobs. The job applicant pool hasn’t been this lean since 2008. You can’t stop the aging process of 77 million Baby Boomers set to retire and the brain drain that will be created as they walk out the door.

The companies that put their focus on creating a strong employee brand will be the winners.

Remember, if you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.

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Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

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