(By Paul Weyland) A couple of years ago in this very publication I came up with a new word for little bitty accounts with acorn-sized budgets that run you crazy and take up all of your time. I call them squirrels, and there’s a reason for that. It’s because they’re fascinating, but if you let them, they’ll monopolize all of your valuable time and drive you crazy.
Squirrel chasers are busy, busy, busy! They have to be, because it’s always
the tiniest accounts that require the majority of your time. Although they’re small, squirrels bark the loudest. They may seem nice, but they are usually the hardest accounts to please. They fight you on rate. They complain the most about the times their commercials are running. They cancel for no reason at all. Their commercials have to be tweaked over and over. And…uh-oh! They’re late paying you again. Besides accounts that you keep calling on that never ever close, squirrels are absolutely the biggest wastes of our time in local broadcast sales.
Beware of secret flying squirrels. These are little bitty disloyal accounts that fly from station to station, canceling you so they can secretly run on your competitor’s station. Yes, there are squirrel thieves in every market.
How do you know your account may be a squirrel? Here is some actual Squirrelspeak™.
“”Mom says cancel!”
“”Can’t you get everybody else in the farmer’s market (or strip mall) to advertise as well? When we advertise we feel like we’re advertising for them too, for free!”
“”You said the spot would run at 7:28 and it ran at 7:37!”
“My uncle listens all day and he says he never hears our spots!”
“Mom wants you to get all of our spot times for this week.”
“Dad says all of the customer’s radios in the cars at our shop are dialed to your competitor’s station!”
“None of my friends listen to your station.”
“We can’t pay you now.”
“My sister’s new CD is out. Can’t you play it on the station just once?”
“I know the show is next week. But can you pleeeeeeeease get us six Lady Gaga tickets?”
“You’re running the wrong ad. We wanted the one with our dog in it.”
“I know we haven’t paid you, and yes, we’re running on another station. Why? Because if we had the money, we wouldn’t have to advertise!” (True excuse.)
“We heard we could get a better deal from you if you set us up as an agency.”
“What about all the free food we bring to the station? Doesn’t that count toward anything?”
Despite the fact that squirrels can be toxic, I still hear these excuses from sellers and managers.
“Yes, but sometimes, squirrels turn into larger accounts.” OK, that could be true — but the key word is sometimes. Most of the time, in my experience, squirrels remain squirrels.
“But they’re a legacy account. And they’re loyal. They’ve been running $150 a month with me for years.” And that’s still all the money they can afford to spend? Hmm … it looks like a rate problem with the salesperson on the account.
“Hey, squirrels make up the majority of our billing!” Could be a management problem?
My advice: quit hoarding squirrels. Let some of them go (in somebody else’s yard?). Instead of chasing squirrels, become a big game hunter. Concentrate on big ideas for bigger businesses that can actually afford to run real schedules, clients that will actually buy you long-term instead of week-to-week. Come on, accounts with bigger budgets need your help just as much or more than the squirrels do. You’ll learn to love big accounts even more than you used to love your little squirrely ones.
Check your account lists to make sure you don’t have a squirrel infestation at your station. I talk to frustrated managers who can’t understand why their people seem so busy and logs seem full while at the same time billing stays low. I know sales managers that now post pics of squirrels with the universal NO sign across them on their desks.
You’ll be surprised at how much easier and more lucrative your job becomes when you clear the squirrels out of your attic. Bigger accounts pay more, they actually tend to take up less of your time, and they don’t chew up your lawn furniture.
(Did you know that German broadcasters can’t even say the word “squirrel”? Check out this YouTube video.)
Paul Weyland helps broadcast companies sell more long-term local direct business. To contact Paul for advice, books and articles, bookings or just to say hello, visit www.paulweyland.com or call Paul at 512.236.1222.