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Sales and Programming: One Side, One Team

Dave Greene

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Put this one in the “wish somebody would have told me sooner” category. Had I known sooner that the smartest thing an on-air host could do is make relationships with clients and sellers, I might have been able to overcome my painfully average on-air abilities. I might even still be on the programming side.

As it was, I learned this lesson much too late. In the early days, I thought sales did their thing on one side of the building and programming did theirs on the other side, and that was it. No reason for much interaction between the two. Talent came in to do shows and the sales people went out and sold the advertising.

Today, if programming and sales aren’t working hand in hand, coming up with ideas, features and events that sell – you’re dead. It’s the only way it works. My belief is it’s no longer “the programming side” and “the sales side,” it’s one side, one team. Each side needs the support of the other. It’s all about “revenue and ratings,” right? Well, I have news for you – without the revenue the ratings don’t matter. At the same time, you have to have good programming to sell and air talent that can help your clients message stand out and sound authentic.

Note to air talent: your best friends should be those that sit in the cubicles in the sales pit. That is, if you want to be around long. Trust me, this is the best piece of advice you will ever get – get involved with clients, get to know sellers, do things in the community, get involved with charities. In a nutshell – be a star. It’s one of the things you bring to the table. Another is that you know people – and any leads you can provide to sellers are always greatly appreciated. You help a seller make money, they will be more than likely to return the favor when they can.

Another thing – be great at delivering ads. Make the clients business sound like it’s the most important thing to you at that time. Care about the clients that support you and go out of your way to build a relationship with them. It will come back to you in ways you might never have imagined and one day those relationships may save you or get you a job.

Back in the early 2000’s, in the early stages of my management life, I had to let go of an air talent. He was good, but he was loud and obnoxious and a lot of people we talked to about sponsoring his show were afraid of him and the things he might say.Truth be told, it was also time to cut expense, so the decision was made to let him go.

A couple of months later, the same air talent asked to meet with me as he said he had an idea I would like. He said one of the things I mentioned when letting him go, was we were having trouble monetizing his show – and he wanted to know if he could come back if that was no longer a factor. At first, I told him it would always be a factor, so what was it that he proposed he could do about it. He said he would pay us for the time and he would sell the advertising himself.

The young, greedy me was very intrigued, but thought to myself “how will he be able to sell the show and be able to pay us if we weren’t ever able to sell his show?” After the conversation, I thought about it but eventually told him I was concerned he wouldn’t be successful selling and it wasn’t worth the risk of us having to make a change, again, a short time later. He left dejected. Then, he called me back two weeks later and said he had signed contracts with multiple advertisers. Two weeks after that, he was back on the air. To this day he is an incredibly talented host, one of the best in the sports format, who did very well financially selling his own product for years.

You see, he had the relationships with people. Off the air he was very likeable, and loved interacting with people. His personality and natural ability to take over a room, led perfectly to being able to make business relationships with big time advertisers. He never had to worry about whether or not his show would sell, because he was out doing it himself.

Now, sellers, here’s my tip for you: the way to an air talent’s heart goes through either their wallet or their stomachs. Get them paid, get them fed and you will have happy air talent. And you need them. You need them a great deal as they can make your lives so much easier. Most importantly, you need to make sure you’re getting to know them. What are their interests? Where do they shop? What do they need or want? What is their family situation? Knowing all of this can help you prospect and it can help you if you’re ever looking for an air talent to endorse a client or product for you.

We all know that people buy people. They are buying in to a relationship. If they buy advertising, they believe you have something that can help them grow their business. They trust you. Now, couple that with the “familiarity” listeners and prospects have with air talent, where they feel like they know them or that they are friends. Put those two things together and it makes it much more difficult for a prospect to turn down working with you and your station.

The best sales calls are ones where the salesperson can use the celebrity and personality of the air talent to help pitch ideas or just entertain the client, while they handle the business end of things and close the sale.

Strong air talent are good at what they do usually because they are creative. Sellers should use that creativity to their advantage, or more so their clients advantage. If the sellers get the air talent involved and allow them to use more of that creativity, brainstorming ideas or concepts, they will also be more “bought in” to the overall idea that’s decided on.

We are in sports so we should be quite familiar with the concept of teamwork. Sales and programming working together isn’t an optional exercise anymore if you want to win. We have very little in our business that makes selling “easy,” but when it comes to the two sides working together to achieve revenue goals – doing so sure makes selling “easier.”

Dave Greene is the General Sales Manager for 610 Sports in Kansas City. He’s previously served as Vice President and Market Manager for Cumulus Media, Townsquare Media, Flinn Broadcasting, Simmons Media Group, Grand Slam Sports and 590 The Fan KFNS. Follow him on Twitter @DaveGreene34.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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