Are You Challenging Your Salespeople?


(By Dex Allen) The budgets are done, so now the hard questions begin. You and your sales managers have your revenue budgets, they’re yours — you own them! Of course, it was a bit of an arm twisting with corporate because their numbers are always more than yours. But after the negotiation you agree on the budgets. So now the first question: Do you have the talent on your sales team to hit your numbers?

If you and your Sales Managers aren’t sure, now would be a good time to find better talent. Today! Here’s a good place to start: Look around your market — what sellers selling for your competitors are killing you on the street? And how can you get them on your team? Is it a bigger list? A better commission plan? A bigger base salary? What’s the “on-button” to get this guy or gal on your team? Be creative, and give this all-star seller a reason to join your team. Maybe you have better and easier-to-sell formats and you can sell he or she on that opportunity to make more money.  Bring all the tricks out of your bag because this great seller can make your life a lot easier.

Don’t put off improving your sales team because it’s difficult and takes time. And remember, it’s always difficult to let people go, but why wouldn’t you let a seller go if you could replace he or she with someone better? Make that decision now before you’re well into the year and you’re missing your numbers.

Next question: Do you have enough sellers to make your numbers? If you’re selling a five-station cluster, you certainly need more than five or six sellers. Remember, an average sales team for a five-station cluster probably has two top producers, three or four mid-level producers, and at least three entry-level “newbees.” Nine sellers or more. It’s always better to over-recruit than under-recruit.

Look for new sellers in a couple places. The Yellow Pages is a great place to find well-trained sellers who will love the idea of radio. Maybe the local newspaper is a good place to recruit. Ask around. Ask if the copy machine seller who calls on you is interested, as they generally don’t make much money. Recruit, recruit, recruit, all day every day.

Lastly, do you have two to three great sellers you can count on to exceed their individual goals? Challenge them to do this. They are usually quite competetive and love the challenge.

These are the questions you must be asking before the year gets too far along and you’re missing your numbers. If you’re not asking these questions, it says something about your leadership skills.

Is your programming department overstaffed or understaffed? If you’re managing a cluster of stations with separate formats, in many cases you have one or two PDs programing all stations — and that’s actually too few PDs programming too many stations !

Too often, budgets cuts leave you in this situation or a predecessor made that decision. In cases where these budgets cuts are adversely impacting your product, takes steps to correct it and don’t let cost-cutting drive your strategy to correct this. Sit down with ownership/corporate and sell them on why and how this is hurting your on-air performance and what you are certain needs to be done to protect the on-air product.

This may cost more money, and if it does, stick to your guns and find the money somewhere else if it means you have to sell ownership on your plan!

Now ask yourself: Are you satisfied with the structure and performance of your office staff, accounting and traffic personnel? Getting timely and accurate info on traffic and inventory issues? Hold your Sales Manager accountable for this all-important function so that he/she is maximizing your rate structure and inventory management.

Are you getting timely and accurate information from your business manager on your station’s monthly P&Ls? You should have this by the 15th of the month following the month that just closed. Don’t have it? Hold he or she to a higher standard and get it every month. It’s pretty hard to manage expenses when you don’t have timely P&L info every month. Make sure your Business Manager is giving you the tolls you need to manage the business. The message here is take stock of the people you have and make the tough decisions early, before someone up the corporate ladder starts asking you questions.

Dex Allen can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


  1. First, very good article! I agree 100%. The talent pool in small markets (like mine) is very shallow, which makes it extremely difficult to hire the “almost extinct true sales person”. Selling involves preparation, work, creativity and a thick skin. Don’t see too many colleges offering degrees in selling radio. If a person isn’t trained how to sell, that’s my fault. Another increasing degree of concern is seeing Main Street retail stores close because of Amazon, Ebates, and other on-line retail stores than can “offer the world” from your favorite chair. We’ve had to find more non-traditional advertisers to help reach goals. Now let’s talk about increasing fees, such as the music licensing industry …… Congratulations to all large and small market owners who still maintain their passion for great radio. It’s not easy – but if it were, we’d all be fat and ugly.

  2. the yellow pages is a great place to recruit? i think that statement says it all about Radio’s revenue trajectory. Radio is having a problem keeping the talent it has, let alone attracting NEW talent. you can’t continue to slash commissions in sales and jobs everywhere else and keep top talent. “sit down with ownership/corporate and sell them how and why this is hurting your on-air performance”? Good luck with that at CBS/Entercom (who is RIF’ing people left and right), Cumulus and iHeart (combined $20B of debt). news flash… corporate stopped caring a long time ago.


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