When Walking Away Is The Best Sale You Can Make


(By Rick Fink) As media sales reps, the goal is to sell, right? But sometimes, we should walk away from the sale. Did I say “walk away from the sale”? Absolutely, when it’s the right thing to do, walk away from the sale! If done correctly, you’ll use this to your advantage for years to come.

Nod your head if you have heard these words before: “I tried radio once and…” You finished the words for me, didn’t you? “…it didn’t work.” There can be many different reasons we hear this, like the ad ran on the wrong radio station, it didn’t run long enough, or it didn’t run with enough frequency. Or, simply, the ad sucked like a Hoover!

When radio “didn’t work,” the blame most likely rests on the media rep’s shoulders. After all, we’re considered the experts, right?

As professional media reps, it’s our obligation to create campaigns and ads that will be heard, evoke emotion, be on target demographically and strategically, and actually motivate people to buy the product or service we are trying to help our clients sell.

Whatever the reason, it’s our obligation to fix them, or we will continue to hear from potential clients, “I tried radio once, and it didn’t work.” And if we can’t or aren’t allowed to do it, we need to walk away.

There’s another time we should walk away from business: when that business isn’t ready to advertise. That is, we must make sure the inside of that business is running smoothly. After all, even great advertising can’t fix a bad business.

Here is a story of a new rep who was eager to make his first annual sale. It was a restaurant and bar that wanted to change the culture of its business from a karaoke, beer-and-whiskey bar that served really good food to a family restaurant and bar. The problem was, the interior and exterior of the building appealed more to what the business was, rather than what theowner wanted it to be. She was ready, willing, and able to advertise, and in fact had called to meet with several radio groups to discuss placing schedules.

The rep was excited when the initial fact-finding interview was complete. As we walked outside, I said to him, “What do you think we should recommend?” After he tossed out a few good ideas, I said, “Look around. Do you think moms and dads would come to dine here, let alone bring the family?” It looked more like a biker bar than it did a family restaurant. His jaw dropped when I suggested we recommend that she not advertise at all — until, that is, she’d done some reimaging.

We put a complete proposal together (less a few pages), just like we would have had we been recommending a six-figure annual. The cover page read“Marketing and Advertising Recommendations for [Business], Presented by [Rep].” Page 2 said in big, bold letters: DON’T ADVERTISE!

The following pages explained everything we recommended, from changing the name of the business to exterior and interior improvements. We suggested she use her planned advertising budget and then some to make the improvements. She loved the ideas and very much appreciated our honesty and professionalism.

Here is the real kicker: standing in the wings of the bar was the radio rep from another group, waiting to make her presentation. I would bet money she presented a plan that matched the budget the client suggested and a weak ad, both of which stood little to no chance of working. At the end of that day, who looked like the professional?

Understandably, the rep wasn’t so sure of the idea, since he wanted to sell something. I assured him he would be able to use this story of “doing what is right” well into the future, and it would help him establish immediate credibility. In fact, we have used this true story and others like it hundreds of times to establish that we will always do what is right!

When I first started selling radio, I dreaded hearing the words “I tried radio once, and it didn’t work,” and I still hate hearing it today. But, for the last 20-plus years, I’ve had stories to tell. When you walk away from business, for any reason, you too will have stories to tell!

In the end, when this restaurant and bar was ready to advertise, that rep got the business. It’s simple: do what’s right, and everyone wins — the business, the media rep, our industry. And you’ll have a story to tell forever that will establish your credibility!

Rick Fink is the president of ENS Media U.S.A., a radio sales consulting firm specializing in helping stations increase their local-direct revenues. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Excellent! When you do what’s right… the sales will come. The long-term revenue will come. But only when you have the best interest of the client in mind FIRST. Too many radio groups have forgotten that… or never knew it. Great read, Rick!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here