Bad Sales, Good Sales


(By Jon Quick) Ponder this checklist of the traits of both good and bad salespeople — it’s must reading for salespeople, sales managers, and GMs. How guilty are you? How proud are you? You may find some answers here to help improve your sales process and keep motivation and energy levels up.

Bad Salesperson

1. Doesn’t listen to the station.
2. Drops off order at 5 o’clock on Friday and gives no real direction for doing a spot that works. Screams at traffic department if it doesn’t get on the air in time. Has the false impression that sales is a 9-to-5 job and everyone else — like the traffic manager, who is many times the “unsung hero” — has to pick up the pieces after he leaves.
3. Is the first to criticize and panic when there is a ratings dip. Then blames programming for not making budget.
4. Doesn’t allow the PD to program the whole station, saying that 12, 14, or 18 minutes of commercials an hour is sales property. (This one is mainly for sales managers and GMs.)
5. Begs the program director to air an awful commercial or infomercial (doesn’t care that it can create as much tuneout as a bad record). Then is first to blame programming when the ratings go down.
6. Tries to sell a client interview combined with a sales package. Then blames programming when the ratings go down.
7. Can’t sell without ratings data.
8. Doesn’t plan for or go to a remote he sold, then wonders why just a few people show up.
9. Ill-prepares a personality to do a live spot for the client.
10. Sneaks client products into the studio and slyly asks talent to give them a plug. (Especially common with food items.)
11. Asks the program director to play a song by the nephew of a client, who has a garage band.
12. Dresses inappropriately.
13. Tells the client his competition is interested in this package, so they’d better buy today. (That’s a good way to get booted out the door.)
14. Panics when a listener or client calls complaining about something on the station. Doesn’t realize that is hardly a “scientific sample.”
15. Complains when the program director asks the client to stay within the confines of the amount of time sold, especially during a live interactive spot with a personality. (And yes, it is sometimes the fault of the personality when it runs over.)
16. Begs the program director to accept something that is obviously bad radio, saying things like, “We’re way down this month. Help me out.” Again, first to complain when the ratings go down.
17. Is late for client appointments.
18. Says things like, “Well, this is the way we always did it.”
19. “The last PD said it was OK.” Hmm, maybe that’s why that PD is gone.
20. Is always looking for his next job.
21. Badmouths a client. Doesn’t realize word travels fast and it’s a small world.
22. Badmouths a fellow worker at the station. Ditto above.
23. Badmouths the client’s competition. Ditto again.
24. Spends client time talking about all of his problems to try to gain sympathy to get the buy. A client has no time for this.
25. Fails to realize the value of the newer platforms of content delivery and doesn’t sell them.
26. Asks for an inordinate number of “bonus spots.”
27. Doesn’t get that station promos are among the most important spots on the station and believes they can easily be pre-empted to add more sold units.
28. Asks clients to write their own copy.
29. Fails to show up at an important client community event.
30. Doesn’t listen to the station.

Good Salesperson

1. Listens to the station.
2. Listens to the client. It’s the only way to find out the client’s mission and goals. Shows understanding and comes up with creative ways to help. It may be that he or she can’t make the sale today, but comes back with a set of proposals that target the client’s total needs.
3. Is actually interested in the brand category of the client. Researches and knows the current state of the business climate for the category and comes prepared to ask the right questions and able to provide some actionable answers.
4. Works with programming to create a compelling message that fits the format.
5. Knows how to sell the “impact factor,” rather than just transactional or 25-54. In other words, knows how to sell, despite the ratings.
6. Truly believes in the product.
7. Makes cold calls, but not just to sell. May bring coffee and doughnuts to the staff, or deliver a birthday or anniversary card.
8. Does personal business with the client.
9. Actually listens to the station — and uses related platforms.
10. Realizes that in many spoken word formats, a 25-54 sell makes no sense.
11. Knows that people are not dead when they reach the age of 55. Knows the value of 35-plus, especially knowing these listeners may have more spendable income.
12. Realizes that with great creative, a client can outsmart the competition without necessarily outspending them. In the long run, the client will be happy and spend more.
13. Places emphasis on proper placement of messages to reach the right audience.
14. Doesn’t dismiss older ideas like the “spec spot.”
15. Takes a station personality on a sales call, and realizes there is some star power in this.
16. Asks station personalities to take some time to stop by a client and thank them for advertising on the station. Adopt the philosophy that “everybody’s in sales these days.” Did I say “star power”?
17. Can just as easily sell over-the-air radio, Web, digital components, apps, and social media related to the brand.
18. Smiles. Doesn’t whine about problems. Is always pleasant, even when going through a tough time.
19. Networks. Is involved in the community not only because they know it might lead to more prospects, but because it’s just important to do.
20. Always makes many of the above platforms part of a client package to maximize reach.
21. Thinks innovatively and creatively. For example, “Let’s have your favorite station personality ‘test drive’ your new model pickup truck, do a video of it, and post it online, both on your website and ours.”
22. Knows that today, “selling radio” is so much more than selling spots.
23. Knows the salable parts of a station and related platforms almost better than the program director, so always has several options to pitch a client.
24. Invites the program director to all sales meetings.
25. Can sell despite the ratings. In other words, they know how to really sell.
26. Uses data such as listening locations as part of their sell. Maybe a station with a high percentage of in-car and at-home listening proves a more “captive audience,” as opposed to the competition — which might have higher ratings but is primarily a background station, such as “at-work.” PPM doesn’t always eliminate this factor.
27. Exceeds goals by vowing to make just one more call every day. It works.
28. Believes in the product or service they are selling — this is essential.
29. Comes to the program director with ideas that fit the personality of the station, and is willing to work together and sometimes compromise to come up with the best possible plan.
30. Listens to the station.

Note to readers: Maybe you can suggest more. E-mail them to us. We’d love to hear your ideas.

Jon Quick has programmed great radio stations for CBS and Emmis, among others. Today he consults many radio brands and owns a public relations and advertising agency. He can be reached at 317.432.0309 or jon[email protected]


  1. John,
    I love this article. Number 2, especially, since I am the Traffic Director. Cannot tell you how many days I don’t get stuck working late because of that. All your points both good and bad are right on point. I see both every week. Made my day to get some acknowledgment and a well written, thoughtful read. Kudos to you for thinking about the Programming side trying to keep a great sellable product on the air to benefit all.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here