Tag Archives: School of Journalism & Broadcasting

My First Sale

red-gas-pump-clipart.jpgI began my broadcasting career as a disc jockey when I entered the 10th grade in high school. Broadcasting would pay for my college undergraduate and graduate degrees. Anyone who knew me from the outset would have told you I was a real radio guy. I thought I knew it all.

That is, until I decided that if I were to ever to be promoted to the position of general manager, I would need to have proven myself in the area of sales.

Account Executive

The way I would become an account executive happened when I was approached by a general manager, at one of our competitors, who wanted to hire me to come work for him as his program director/operations manager; the same position I currently held. I thanked him for the offer but said my goal was to become a general manager and I wanted my next move to be in sales.

“Seriously?” he asked astonishingly. “Let me get back to you on that,” and the phone call ended.

Two weeks later, he called back and said, “I’ve got your sales job. Let’s talk.”

The offer to become a radio account executive would pay me the same money I was currently paid as a program director/operations manager as a salary with 10% more for each sale I made. I was stunned and wondered why I had not made this move sooner. I took the job.

Front & Back of the Building

From my earliest days in radio, I learned there were two parts to a radio station building. The front half and the back half.

The front had all the executives and sales people. The back had the DJs, production people and engineering. Both ends seemed to always get a rug burn when they met in the middle.

My First Week in Sales

When I was hired for my new sales position, I was told I would be given an active list of advertisers. That might have been the case, but my current employer wanted me to give them two weeks’ notice before leaving – unusual in broadcasting when a person is crossing the street to a competitor – and I did, which meant by the time I arrived at my new station, the active advertisers had now fallen in love with other account executives who had been asked to babysit those accounts until my arrival.

So, my first day in sales would see my list of active advertisers whittled down three and on my first morning all three of those called in to cancel their advertising. But I was still excited to be in advertising and could not wait to hit the streets.

My boss told me at the outset, that since I would be using a lot of gas for my car driving around to prospect for new advertisers, I could sell a gas trade to off-set this expense. It didn’t take a lot of math skills to realize that such a sale would result in 100% commission to me.

All that first week, the only businesses I called on were gas stations.

I heard a lot of “NOs.”

Until Friday around noontime, I called on a gas station owner who was eating his lunch. He said if I would come back after he finished eating he’d listen to me. I did. He liked the plan I proposed and I signed my first sale, a gas trade.

Friday Afternoon at the Sales Office

At the end of a week, sales people are usually back in the sales office, taking care of orders and planning out the coming week before going home for the weekend. They also are sharing stories of their week in sales.

“So, how did your first week go in sales?” someone asked me. “Did you sell anything?” inquired another.

Yes, I responded. I sold a gas trade.

The room went deathly silent.

“You sold a gas trade?” they asked, almost in unison.

“Yes, yes I did.” I replied. “Don’t each of you have a gas trade?” I asked.

Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done, Until I’ve Done It

It was at that moment I learned I was now the only sales person in that radio station that had a gas trade. And the reason was simple. They all knew what I didn’t. They all knew gas stations didn’t trade gas for advertising, but I didn’t know that.

Pam Lontos often says in her sales training, “Don’t tell me I can’t do something, until after I’ve done it.”

I was sure glad that I hadn’t been told that gas stations didn’t trade advertising for gas at the outset or I might never have had that gas trade for the entire time I was in sales and sales management at that radio station.

The Lesson Learned

The lesson I would learn from my first sale was not to let others tell me what I could or could not accomplish. If I was going to be successful, I would need to set my own goals, make my plan and work my plan.

I became a general manager at the age of 30. That job morphed into a market manager as the radio industry began consolidation.

My next goal was to use my college education in teaching to land a job as a broadcast professor at a university. That happened in 2010 when I joined the faculty of The School of Journalism & Broadcasting at WKU.

In 2014, I began this mentorship blog with the goal of paying-it-forward to others.

Throughout my life, so many people have been there for me, openly sharing their knowledge, wisdom and help to further my career.

That’s why I work every day to lead and mentor others in finding their own success in broadcasting.

 

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Top 3 In-Demand Radio Jobs

What is the future for jobs in radio in our digitally connected world? Three jobs in particular stand out as being in demand right now and look to be still in demand as radio celebrates its 100th Anniversary in the year 2020. The first won’t surprise anyone, the second is a job that only recently became critical and the third is a job that’s been a part of radio since day one.

#1 Radio Sales People

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the need for trained, professional sales people is the number one radio job in demand today and as far out as the eye can see. Since I’ve been in radio it seems hiring good sales people was always on the lips of general managers and sales managers. So when we asked the operator’s of Kentucky’s 300 radio stations what were the jobs they most needed to fill, sales was job one.

Ironically, it’s the class not offered by many of America’s colleges and universities that offer a broadcast curriculum. Where I teach at Western Kentucky University, Bart White started teaching radio sales decades ago as part of the broadcast degree program in Radio/TV Operations. In fact, Barton C. White wrote two books on radio sales, his second called The New Ad Media Reality Electronic Over Print should have been widely distributed from the day it came out in 1993. I know I wished I had been aware of it back then.

I was hired to replace the retiring Professor White and immediately charged with teaching both the Broadcast Radio/TV/Digital Sales class as well as the Radio/TV Operations Capstone class. Since I began five years ago as a tenure track professor at WKU, I’ve overseen the creation of the KBA WKU RADIO TALENT INSTITUTE that contains a strong sales component as well as adding a second sales class to the broadcast curriculum in Advanced Radio Sales that enables students earn their professional Radio Advertising Sales certifications in both radio and digital sales from the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB).

My students have learned that with this type of training, they are almost guaranteed a job upon graduation wherever they decide to live. I’ve successfully placed students with companies like iHeartMedia, CBS Radio, E. W. Scripps, Cromwell Broadcasting, Alpha Media, Commonwealth Broadcasting, Viacom, Summit Media, and Forever Communications.

This year at BEA2015 (Broadcast Education Association) in Las Vegas I’m moderating a panel I proposed to encourage other colleges and universities to consider adding radio sales classes to their curriculum by letting them hear directly about the need in this area from some of the radio industry’s leaders who will be in Vegas attending the NAB April Convention.

#2 Internet Content Creator

The next position that is in demand is for people who can create original content for radio station websites. Not cut and paste artists who “borrow” others’ website content and re-purpose it but innovators that can act like a combination of journalist/advertising/public relations specialist and populate radio station websites with engaging, compelling original content that is of interest to people in the station’s service area.

#3 RF Broadcast Engineers

Not that it was ever easy to hire great radio engineers, the talent pool used to be a whole lot bigger. Consolidation chased a lot of them out of the business and what they learned was the job could be more lucrative by becoming a consultant engineer to groups of radio stations. Other engineers found new opportunities in other industries that could apply their talent and strong work ethic that was instilled into them by radio’s 24/7 on-call employment. Computers and digital technology also demanded that radio engineering learn this new radio operational system or get out.

Well, those who went into private consulting are now reaching the age of retirement. Those who went into other industries learned the pay and hours were often better than radio. Further complicating things, most schools are teaching the skills needed for the digital world and radio stations still generate broadcast signals using radio frequency (RF) and there are fewer schools turning out these types of engineers for radio stations. Graduates are sought by the wireless communications companies that have similar needs to radio stations and have the deep pockets to entice them to work for them.

Positions Not In-Demand

General Managers, Promotions Directors and News Reporters are found on the bottom of the employee needs list. It would appear this is a result of radio’s consolidation. One manager is now needed to oversee a cluster(s) of radio stations. Promotions are now planned on a group-wide basis and news hubs have been set-up to serve regional areas.

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Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales