Most account executives think of radio as a way of giving an advertiser access to a target audience. The upside of this way of thinking is that it allows the account executive to escape any feelings of guilt or responsibility when advertisers don’t see the results they had envisioned. The downside is that it means you can easily be replaced with another station, another rep, a lower cost per point. But you get to sleep well at night, knowing that your client paid for access, and you gave them access.
The keys to success as a seller of access are:
1. Be easy to be around. Make sure people like you.
2. Dress impressively. Clients take you more seriously when you look successful.
3. Be disciplined in your cold-calling. You’ll forever need new prospects to replace the ones you lose through attrition.
4. Pray for a good ratings book.
The less popular but far more rigorous and rewarding way of looking at radio is to think of it as a tool for enticing customers to make purchases from your clients. Most sellers of access think they see radio this way, but their actions illustrate otherwise.
These are the actions you must take to become a seller of results:
1. Always know how your client intends to measure success.
2. Be certain you can deliver this success before you ask for their money.
3. Before you can know whether you can deliver this success, you’re going to have to see the ad copy your client intends to air on your station.
4. Keep careful records of all successes and failures.
5. Celebrate your successes. Successes elevate your confidence.
6. Learn from your failures. Failures teach you what not to do again.
7. Understand that 70 percent of every success is due to the message of the ad. Twenty percent is that you had the right schedule; reach and frequency are vital. Ten percent is due to the fact that you were reaching the right target.
8. Ask your clients and prospects to tell you stories of things they’ve done that worked miraculously well. Try to figure out why those things worked. Don’t think of this as a way of selling. Think of it as a way of learning what advertising success looks and smells and feels like. Keep it up, and soon you’ll be able to spot successes before they happen. (See point 2 above.) Finish this part of the interview by asking, “Why didn’t you just keep doing that?” This is when you’ll learn astounding things.
9. Ask your clients and prospects to tell you stories of things they’ve done that made perfect sense at the time, but that failed miserably. Try to figure out why those things failed. Don’t lie to yourself or to your client, and don’t look for easy answers. This isn’t about selling. This is about learning to spot the kinds of things that don’t work so that you can avoid making those same mistakes.
Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions. When you ask clients and prospects to tell you about their failures, you gain experience from the bad decisions made by other people. A smart person makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise person finds a smart person and learns from them how to avoid that mistake altogether.
10. In these interviews with clients and prospects, listen closely, and never argue or try to look smart. This isn’t about selling, remember? But also never swallow the client’s analysis of what went right or wrong. Quietly listen and smile and keep them talking, and for-the-love-of-god don’t give them your own analysis of what went wrong.
Even if you immediately know exactly what it was, wait until your next visit to tell them. It will sound something like this: “You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about something you shared with me the last time we spoke. Do you remember when you told me about blah, blah, blah and how that didn’t work as well as you had hoped? Here’s what I think might have gone wrong….”
The upside of selling this way is that you can never be replaced. Your client will soon begin to think of you as a sustaining resource, a member of their privy council. Your advice will be coveted.
But there are also a couple of downsides to selling radio this way.
1. It’s not easy, quick, or painless. You’ve got to have patience and determination and spend a lot of time listening and thinking about what went right and what went wrong.
2. Your boss isn’t going to like it. When you begin thinking of radio as a tool for enticing customers to make purchases from your clients, you’re soon going to realize that you can make success happen for your client on just about any station in town. Your station and your audience will no longer be “special.”
But hey, they probably won’t fire you. After all, your boss is smart enough to know that your entire client list would move to the next station with you.
Because those clients were never buying your station.
They were buying you.