I remember being at client dinners where the GM would ask the waiter or waitress, "What's your favorite station?" There's just something about a focus group of one that seems meaningless, and frankly, I was embarrassed by having to sit through this little exercise.
But every once in a while, this "research" technique would yield a sharp, intelligent, vivacious server who just loved the client's station. Oftentimes, he/she would rattle off all the reasons they loved the station, the morning show, the contests, and even those weekend themes. On occasion, the GM would even give this person their business card, encouraging them to call and discuss a possible sales job.
My takeaway on this was that radio operators had to be a little desperate to be enticing an Olive Garden waitress to join the sales team. After all, account rep jobs were in demand, with no shortage of bright and reasonably talented professionals who wanted to break into radio or move up the small-medium-large market chain.
Sadly, that's not the case anymore. Many radio stations - even in large markets - have to use their own air to advertise sales openings and "job fairs," hoping to find reasonably intelligent candidates to sell radio time. And more often than not, sales efforts are failing radio in markets, clusters, and stations all over the U.S.
I've come full circle on this. We are frequently asked to put together and present basic presentations for the sales staff to help them defend Rock or Classic Rock stations. Yet, in many cases, we're talking about heritage stations with consistently great ratings. In situations where you'd least expect it, it's Sales 101. Too often salespeople either don't get it or just don't have that passion for stations that are otherwise highly successful.
So, a couple weeks ago, I was in another restaurant, at another client dinner, and another waitress (from Detroit) happened to overhear our radio discussions. After chatting with her for a few minutes, it turned out she actually had some experience in event promotion, knew the client's station very well, and was a motivated, smart, and attractive person.
I encouraged the client to give her a business card, and look forward to seeing her in an upcoming sales meeting.
Aren't we at that point where it's time to acknowledge that we need sales reps who love our stations, who are enthusiastic about our morning shows, who appreciate our special programs, who enjoy surfing our websites - and who can work with clients to help them attract customers with a great, local media outlet - our stations? Aren't we tired of pulling great ratings and hitting our goals, only to continue falling well short of our objectives?
Maybe it's time to rethink where those sales reps are coming from - and how we find and recruit them. People who are upbeat, "into" radio, young, and pleasant are no longer plentiful in radio station conference rooms.