When you look for a sports media seller to profile, you might as well start with one of the most experienced. Matt Hochman started in media sales in 1987 and has been in the sports format, with WEEI in Boston, since December of 1995. For the math challenged, that’s thirty years in radio and coming up on twenty-two years in the sports format. That’s a lot of time and a lot of knowledge to tap into:
DG: Take me all the way back, how did you end up in radio?
MH: I started in radio in 1987. I graduated from UMass-Amherst and went to New York City for my first job which was going to be a buyer for Macy’s and I was going through their training program. I spent a year there and had my store set on fire by customers three different times, which was quite entertaining. After about a year I realized retail wasn’t something I wanted to do. I was contemplating my next move. I had done some stand-up comedy in New York and thought maybe radio would be something I might like.
DG: What did you know about radio at that point?
MH: Everyone I talked to about radio as a possible career painted this horror show, that it was a tough way to make a living. You are selling an intangible and it is really difficult. My first interview referred me to a gentleman at a talk radio station which was WRKO, right after they had the Celtics, for a number of years, with (Larry) Bird and (Kevin) McHale winning championships. So, I sold talk radio and the station was bought and sold by CBS and then Entercom. Since then, it has been pretty much all sports radio for me with talk shows, Celtics and Red Sox play by play and specialty programming for the Patriots.
DG: If someone asks you what you do, what do you tell them?
MH: Twenty years ago, it didn’t matter what type of format you were in, if you sold radio, you were a radio salesperson. Now, it is so different, with so many companies wanting to get involved in sports and brand their company with sports play by play, and with all the digital assets.
WEEI.com, over the course of a 24-hour period, can deliver over a million impressions on some days. The digital end is so big. I really feel like myself and my colleagues are really sports marketing professionals. There are so many different components to it that it really does need a little more clarification with what we do. Our industry isn’t that simple.
DG: How has selling radio changed since you started in 1987?
MH: It has changed immensely, but I tell you, I would not be in this business right now if I was not involved in sports. I feel so fortunate and I try and instill this to the folks I work with, especially the less experienced people, how fortunate we are to be in this marketplace where sports is so important and relevant. To be able to talk to companies now about a sports platform and have those companies understand the combination of sports radio with play by play and the digital aspect, it is so much more than just marketing, it’s a real relationship and partnership.
DG: Why are you good at what you do?
MH: There are others that have had successful runs and the common denominator for those of us in Boston that have been doing it so long, is the attrition rate is very minimal. When I am trying to do business with someone I am not talking about coming on board for two weeks and then let’s see what happens. Too many people that are involved in radio feel either a pressure, or they are scared, and they make a sale and the sale didn’t have an opportunity to work because there wasn’t enough thought put behind it to have something that was measurable. So many times, I think people in our industry don’t try and find out what the expectations of the client are and when the campaign is over, they aren’t on the same page as far as if the campaign was successful. I try to, minimally, put together a six-month program, and I feel very confident in the assets I have as well as the support people behind me that we are going to execute and deliver the deal.
DG: Why do you think so many people fail at media sales?
MH: I think sometimes we in the industry don’t put enough emphasis to our new people on the creative aspect of what we do. Somebody could know all the statistics about how many people are listening and where the reach is, but the magic is what’s coming out of that speaker. I try to get across to new people that it’s the creative end. I know that the biggest part of my success is because I am creative. I am not an analytical person, at all, but I can write a commercial in my sleep. If I can take a great piece of production, and we have great production people, to a client and say “how do you think this would sound on a Monday morning, fifteen minutes after Tom Brady has done his weekly appearance on WEEI?” Then I hit play and I’m quiet.
I don’t think that we in the industry emphasize that it really is simpler than we think. It’s the creative aspect, it’s the imagination, that’s the magic and I think that’s what we need to encourage people to keep doing more of.
DG: What’s your secret to prospecting and finding new business?
MH: The first thing, you have to know who your audience is. Part of prospecting is being able to share with a prospect, what you had in mind. The days of calling and saying you just want to come in and talk about their business are over. People don’t have time. The internet gives us a big advantage over those that started many years ago. Now, we can learn more about their business and we can have more of a valid reason for calling.
When you go in, these people are busy and are getting bombarded by all kinds of media. You have to get to the point and go in with a purpose. Many times, I have gone into a first call already with a spec commercial based on a conversation I may have had with the individual on the phone and then any reading I did about the company online.
DG: What advice would you give to a new seller about the keys to having success in our industry?
MH: You only get one chance to really prove yourself. I believe people can read through “bs” in a heartbeat. You are judged by clients and prospects more when something goes wrong. It is about how we in our industry respond, whether it be to an incorrect spot running or if a talent says something that isn’t overly complimentary of an industry or about a particular company. How quickly we are able to respond and make the situation better, that is how we get judged. I believe my clients know that I am a member of their team as well as the company that I represent. They know that when something goes wrong, which can happen, they won’t hear me blame anyone, I will be responsible and I will fix it.
The successful people are the ones that display great integrity and if you say you are going to do something, you do it. That’s so easy to say, but so many people don’t do it. People have so many options and they are buying you, the individual. We all have fine products and they can make a number of choices, but they have to feel comfortable with the individual before they start writing out checks.
Also – it’s all about treating people with respect. It doesn’t matter how new someone is to the company or what their job is, everyone needs to be treated with respect, dignity and appreciation. In our business, we need so many people behind the scenes to make things happen. Without all the support that I have had, I wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful. This is not an “I” business, we can’t ever take the other people for granted.
DG: What is the creative idea you are most proud of?
MH: I once invested my own money on my radio station and bought my own advertising campaign for about four months. I did that because what better way to show potential prospects that I believe in what I represent than by putting my money where my mouth was. Now, I gave myself a great rate, but I spent thousands of dollars of my own money and recorded my own messages that were running on WEEI. To this day people still ask me about running those commercials.
What They Say:
“Matt is a rock star. I’m amazed by his continued energy and enthusiasm in this business after 30 years. More importantly, he is a good soul and an all-around good human being that people respect and look up to. He is gracious to everyone in our building. His clients trust him implicitly, 90% of his business is direct, and to date, he has achieved 10 out of 10 of his monthly goals. He is simply, the best of the best. I couldn’t be prouder to work alongside him. – Kelly Sutton, General Sales Manager, Entercom Boston