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.