The Secret To Becoming A Great Sales Manager


You, like me, probably landed in radio sales on your way to or from somewhere else. You probably began as a rep on the street armed with a one-sheet spot package and a dirge list of discarded “accounts” no one else could sell. You bloodied your nose, learned the business, grew your billing, and one day, boom, someone “leaves” (poor devil) and you are the new Sales Manager!  Congratulations my friend, you have arrived!  Trust me, I’ve been there.

Graduate From Account Exec To Manager 

No matter how good you think you are, you can never be as good as a team with a great playbook and solid execution. Check your ego and nurture new superstars. When I make a sales call with an AE, I introduce myself as his/her “personal assistant.” Prove to them every day you have their backs and are 100% committed to their careers and financial success. Do that and they will break backs for you.

Train! Train! Train! 

I wrote my own training manual with proven dialogs, tested methods, and documented strategies for “what to do and say every day.” Great meetings are all about straight talk and prepared speech. Eliminate the word “uh” and skyward glances. When a prospect asks a question, the credibility clock ticks. Understanding dialog is not enough. AEs must commit dialogs to memory. Train

Offer A Career Not Just A Job

In addition to typical cold calling, package pushing, sports, events, and sponsorships, teach them how to operate on a true, two-call consult-and-sell methodology. Too many in radio have forgotten: You can’t achieve client goals if you don’t care enough to first ask what they are. Give them the chance to grow from media rep to true Account Exec. And they will love you for it.

Give Them Great Creative! 

You, the SM, should be the best campaign developer in the building with a cunning keyboard and apex retail marketing acumen. Radio advertising is a business of words, yet it’s infested with people who can’t write ads. Provide marvelous creative and watch billing soar.

Recruit Constantly On Air & Online

To a great SM, AEs are your clients and if you lose a top performer, it can be difficult to overcome. Don’t get caught with your knickers down.  Constantly recruit. You’re looking for bravery, substance, and brains with outside sales experience and insatiable curiosity for all things retail. And nothing keeps veteran AEs “motivated” like new blood calling on neglected accounts. Recruit constantly and insulate yourself from unexpected turnover.

Tolerate Talent

Account Execs and air personalities (especially the good ones) are often ego-driven, quarrelsome, stubborn, diva/drama queens and/or roguish non-conformists not welcome in any corporate boardroom. These geese that can lay golden eggs are funny birds with fragile egos you must massage to extract max billing and on-air magic. Tolerate.

Don’t Bully Programming

Don’t force lame, client-driven promotions on your air staff. If a kennel/vet wants to give away free stays during a holiday weekend, take it to programming and, if they like, let them design on-air elements. Don’t force them into a “be the fifth caller and bark like a dog to win!”  They’ll hate you if you do.

Take Your Production Manager To Lunch

So many in radio trivialize production. Big mistake. Your Production Director is the gleaming Pininfarina body bolted to your Ferrari 12-cylinder engine. You may be a great painter, but you still want a beautiful frame.  Retailers notice. Recognize and glorify often.

Be A Coach, Not A Cop 

I have seen so many SMs and even more GMs kill morale and run off profitable AEs because they simply make life miserable on the sales floor: too many meetings, rigid scheduling, daily and weekly call sheets, weekly, monthly projections etc. Give them what they need most: daily one-on-ones, working together to manage accounts, write, produce, strategize, and grow new and existing business.

Keep It Fun

There’re only two reasons to work in radio sales: money and fun. Take the fun out of radio and all the good people leave. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Follow these steps and you can be a great Sales Manager.


  1. To the contrary, Shelly.
    I am, however, eager to recognize and reinforce pertinent information, particularly when it is delivered by a grownup.
    My cudos to Kevin are about his inclusion of those of us in programming and creative. Perhaps that slud right by you…? 🙂

  2. I worked with Kevin as an AE for 7 years. Do what he says, live it and follow it and you WILL be Successful. Packages are Crap and make no money. I know we were forced to try it. Lots of work for someone to only “Do Radio” when it’s cheap instead of realizing radio is a medium that needs to be used often and frequently to reach maximum coverage and Name Recognition. Plus regular schedules and visiting with you customer to change ads based on coming seasons or promotions keeps us all happy and successful! I Love Kevin and his Methodology. I left to open my own business but would go back to work with him anytime!

  3. Kevin, good job on an article that is well true. Coming from a top sales talent that can’t be tolerated (I loved that part), I can only tell you to add ONE more thing or thought to your list. Career individuals NEVER leave their jobs. They leave their managers!

  4. Many managers treat the station’s talent and spot-crew like indentured servants – and even then with special and obvious disregard for that crew.
    As so many sales execs have stressed: “We are the stars and we’re the ones who make the big coin. Know your place and sty there.”
    Trying NOT to sabotage them took great discipline.
    Thanks for the inclusions, Kevin.

    • Oh Ronnie,

      You’re blowing smoke just to join in again. You don’t know a good sales manager from a bad sales manager. You just know that you dislike them both.


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