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Sell Your Most Valuable Asset: The Talent

“It’s the communication business. If you can effectively communicate to a prospect why they should trust you, they are going to want to be in business with you.”

Demetri Ravanos

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What is a sports radio station’s single most valuable asset? It is a simple question with a very simple answer.

It’s the talent. It has to be, right?

Jim Rome on Twitter: ".@ArianFoster in studio right now on @CBSSportsRadio  and @CBSSportsNet… "
Courtesy: CBS Sports Network

Why do shows get names like The Jim Rome Show or Toucher & Rich or Greeny? It’s because stations and networks want to make it clear to those broadcasters’ loyal audiences where their content can be heard.

This is not to say that sellers do not have plenty of value in their own right. They put just as much work into monetizing content as we do into creating it. Still, it is the voices that are heard on air everyday that are the real stars and get people excited about the brand as a whole.

That excitement isn’t confined to just listeners. Plenty of clients get excited by the talent as well. A lot of them are probably interested in advertising on the station because they listen. Tim Brady, sales manager of 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh encourages his sellers to involve talent in meetings as often as possible, because it can go a long way towards turning prospects into clients.

“If the prospect is a fan of the talent already it’s a no brainer to bring the talent along for an introduction and a discussion about how they can help sell their goods or services,” he told me in an email. “Meetings like this also help the talent know how to talk about and endorse the client’s business better than just being handed some generic talking points.”

Tim Brady (@TimBradyJr) | Twitter

It’s an easy decision to make when dealing with a prospect that is already a fan. While some sellers may have questions about when to involve talent if a client hasn’t expressed any type of fandom already, Brady considers it a good way to break the ice and get the ball rolling on figuring out what a partnership might look like.

From a talent’s perspective, there are advantages to meeting a prospect too. Anthony Stalter, afternoon host at 101 ESPN in St. Louis says he recognizes that there will always be nerves that need to be calmed when a business owner or manager is considering letting a station or broadcaster tell their story.

“I would meet with a client before the sale was finalized so that the client feels comfortable knowing their company or their product is in good hands,” Stalter said in a text message. “Ultimately, they’re taking a risk that we’ll represent their company with the same passion that they do so if we’re not on the same page from the start, then they won’t be clients with us in a few months.”

Jonathan Zaslow is the mid day host at 790 The Ticket in Miami. He says that he hopes sellers in his building would always default to asking for his help or input when it comes to closing a deal with a potential client. The outcome isn’t something he is worried about at that phase.

Broadcast Bio: Jonathan Zaslow | Miami Heat
Courtesy: Miami Heat

“I’ll tell sales to let me know when you’d like me to show up, call, whatever you’d like me to do that you think would help. But if I come to a meeting at the very beginning, and it turns out the client wasn’t very serious, or doesn’t really understand what we’re looking for, then our sales person feels like they wasted my time and feels bad. Of course, I tell them there’s nothing to feel bad about, and I’m perfectly happy to help.”

Gone are the days of talent shouting at sellers to leave them alone. Certainly there will always be times that someone oversteps a boundary. No one wants a seller coming in and asking them to make time to stop by a coffee shop on the way home while they are in the studio. But this is more of a team game than it has ever been before. Smart hosts know that taking time out for their sales staff is just good business.

How many times have we heard that radio, or really, the media in general at this point, will not make you rich? It is an endeavor you undertake because you love it. Well, if it isn’t going to make you rich and you really love it, then every penny matters. So what do you do? You chase, or when necessary you create, opportunities.

Stalter doesn’t think there is much of a guessing game here. It’s the communication business. If you can effectively communicate to a prospect why they should trust you, they are going to want to be in business with you.

Remembering Dunc: Anthony Stalter shares memories of Chris Duncan - YouTube
Courtesy: 101ESPN

“Even in today’s day and age, face to face is always best from a communication standpoint and they need to know that I’m going to provide them value. If not, why would they invest?”

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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