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.