Lew Dickey: "I'm frankly surprised radio's done as well as it has (because of staff and budget cutbacks)."
Peter Smyth, noting the paucity of sales training: "I'd rather have smart people (selling), because if you put dumb people out on the streets, you're gonna have 100 people selling spots for $5."
Both these observations sadly tell an accurate story about why radio continues to fall short in the sales arena. I cannot tell you how many times in the past 12-18 months, a GM or CEO has said something like this to me: "Fred, it's not the ratings. They're fine. We just can't sell them."
And this applies to all the Rock formats we work in, and many highly successful, iconic personalities. And in conversations I have with other broadcasters, sales problems are rampant in all formats, and in all market sizes. Rates are cratering. Sponsorships of signature events go unsold. Webcams that are generating page views that are off the charts are unsponsored. Clearly, there is failure for the transactional side of our business, and it's crippling the industry's ability to keep putting out a competitive product.
Sales training is either non-existent, or it's ineffective. Many stations, clusters, and companies have multi-layered sales management teams, but strategy, innovation, and new initiatives are few and far between.
Twelve years after the Telecom Act of '96, and companies are still struggling to figure out successful sales models. We continue to watch clusters "experiment" with different configurations - each station having its own staff, one staff for all five stations, sell the Rock stations together, etc. And more often than not, a strategy is scrapped after a year only to be replaced by another failing concept.
As the industry now races toward digital products and content, how do we expect to sell and market these new offerings when we continue to falter with the tried-and-true :30 and :60 spots? If we're not careful, there's going to be a lot of $5 units out there before long.