For this sales profile we head way out west to 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, which has been in the sports format since 2011. Janet Rogers has sold a lot of radio in her day, both in English and Spanish, but this was her first foray into the sports format. As you’ll learn, it doesn’t seem to matter which format she is in, the common denominator has been success.
DG: How did you get started in radio?
JR: I met the Public Affairs director for KCBS Radio way back in the day in the early ‘80s. I met her at an event and she said I should apply for a job at KCBS because I’ve always loved radio. I applied for a receptionist job and the interviewer said, “You don’t want a receptionist job, you would never stay in that job!” Fortunately, about six months later, I got a call from the CBS National Rep Office and Rocky Cosgrove who ran the FM National Sales Office. It was a two-person office and Rocky taught me all about radio and radio sales, how to put a program together and how to conceptualize an idea and sell it.
I then got a job inside CBS at a classic rock station and then was recruited to work for KBLX radio where I spent nine years working with Barry Rose and Harvey Stone, two legendary names in the San Francisco market and ended up being Retail Sales Manager. Then, I was recruited to be a Regional Sales Manager working for a group of stations that covered the San Jose area. At one point, I worked for five owners in one year, going through a lot of changes during consolidation. I worked in Spanish radio for a little bit and then came back to general market. It’s been a long and interesting ride, selling a lot of different formats. I feel very fortunate to have started my career in radio when I did and worked in radio when I did and its led to, coincidentally, working with the CBS stations again because of the merger with Entercom.
DG: When you first started, do you remember how long it took you to really feel comfortable?
JR: It probably took me a good six months. I had to get over the sheer terror of picking up the phone and calling to talk to someone, that was not natural for me. I had to understand how to find a good, qualified prospect and that takes some time. I won a new business selling contest at the end of my first year of selling. I did that because I had done a lot of prospecting and was able to close some business that had never been on the station before and some that had never been in radio before. After six months I really started to feel like I had something to really offer the customer.
DG: Do you do things today to continue to make yourself better?
JR: I feel like I really do. One of my former sales managers taught me a long time to ask yourself, “What did you do right and what would you do different next time?” That is something that always stuck with me. I love that, and I still use it to this day. I had to learn how to sell sports when I started here, because I had never sold sports before. There are things that I’m still learning from veteran sellers that have sold sports their entire careers such as the types of targeting you can do and the types of programming and integration you can do. So, asking myself those questions, associating with people that are successful and bring new ideas to the table help make me better. I am a big believer that you can teach old dogs new tricks as long as the old dog wants to learn the tricks!
DG: What makes you good at what you do?
JR: I am a great listener, I ask great questions and I really work at developing relationships. People can buy from anyone and the differentiations can be so small. I truly believe that at some level they are really buying the trust and faith and relationship they have with me. I’ve had some customers for a very long time and I truly get a kick out of having success for the customer, that gives me a great deal of job satisfaction and joy. The ability to look someone in the eye and really feel like we’ve done a good job for them.
DG: Do you think having support from programming is more important when selling sports versus another format?
JR: Absolutely, because of the ability of product integration. It’s so much more robust than music stations. The ideas can just flow. It’s so important to have those relationships, not just so you can get things done, but also to tap in to that creativity of your co-workers and people from other departments. I am super fortunate that I work for a General Sales Manager who is very creative and has great ideas. We have a new program director that has a willingness to partner with sales and understands that it’s all a circle – if sales is happy, programming is happy and if programming is happy, sales is happy. I think its hugely important in sports and when it works it’s such a great tool.
DG: What is the main difference in selling play-by-play versus regular programming?
JR: With play-by-play, you find the fan! Finding that fan and allowing them to peek behind the curtain and the opportunity to bring their business and co brand and partner with one of their favorite teams or players – that is really fun and can be very productive.
DG: What’s the main reason you’ve noticed of why new sellers don’t work out in our industry?
JR: I don’t know if there is any one reason, but a lot of it is not having the understanding of how hard it is to do this, especially the first couple of years. Also, you have to have a strong manager that is willing to roll up their sleeves and get in the trenches and guide you to help with ideas, overcome objections and close business. I have been really lucky that I have had some great managers. Also, it’s having co-workers that are willing to share their experiences and pay it forward the way they were mentored and molded. If you don’t have that supportive work environment and some place to come back to and be able to ask questions and get help, it is really challenging to do this.
DG: What piece of advice would you give to new sellers in sports media?
JR: To understand the passion that drives your listeners, so you can connect with that – the personalities, the partner teams – and to understand and tap in to that passion so you understand why people are listening and then formulate your strategy around that. You really have to understand your product and be an evangelist for the product. Be passionate – that authenticity really comes through to people. They can feel that when you are passionate and believe in it.
DG: Your manager told me that you are great at finding what keeps business owners up at night. How would you advise others to be good at that?
JR: I think it goes back to what I said I was good at – listening. I can really shut up and listen to what is being said and then ask good follow up questions. You can’t stop, you have to keep digging one level deeper as you build that relationship. When I go to a new business meeting, I start very broad and then let the conversation dictate where it goes. Just keep digging and then get the consensus and ask if you heard what they said correctly so they agree that it is a problem and now you come up with the solution.
DG: I was told you are the station’s top biller, so what continues to drive you?
JR: My credibility and my ability to help and to be a team leader, that is my biggest driver. Sometimes that comes with being the top biller, but let’s face it you have to be somewhere near the top to be a leader. The most important thing for me is to feel like I have the respect of my teammates and that they feel like they can learn things from me and I can offer knowledge and experience.
DG: How do you feel about the state of our industry?
JR: On the product side, for those companies that believe in live and local – I say keep going. The word relevant is so meaningful – you have to be relevant in people’s lives and just because the vehicle has been around a long time, doesn’t mean the content is still relevant. The companies that aren’t doing live and local, I think they are doing a disservice to themselves and most importantly to our industry. From the personnel side, I think their needs to be a much stronger effort to involve younger people in this career. We really have to mentor younger people. It used to be okay to throw the yellow pages at people, and if you’ve been in this business a long time you remember that. People could do that and find new business and afford it and grow and make a living, but I don’t believe that is the case anymore. I think people have to be mentored and trained and given an opportunity to have a stable financial base that allows you to not flip out after three months and wonder if you can afford to stay with this job. I think our industry needs to take a really hard look at that and understand what it costs to do business these days.
What They Say:
Janet is the top biller at the station because she finds ways to build meaningful relationships with the ultimate decision makers. She is relentless in finding out exactly what is keeping that business owner up at night. She uses their managers, spouses or any other source she needs, in order to find information that helps her build a solution for their business. Janet’s success is one of ideas and relationships, and does not rely on audience size. – Jim Richmond, General Sales Manager, Entercom San Francisco.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
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.