Meet One of Radio’s Best Sales Managers

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As part of our series spotlighting Radio Wayne finalists, we turn to the Sales Manager category today. Michael Tedesco fell in love with radio listening to the Real Don Steele on KHJ-AM in Southern California. Today he’s helping make WAWZ-FM in New Jersey a financial powerhouse as the radio station’s sales manager. Next week at the Radio Show in Dallas, Michael’s name will be called out as one of our 2019 Radio Wayne finalists. Here’s our extended interview with one of radio’s best sales managers.

Radio Ink: How long have you worked in radio and why did you choose radio as a career?
Michael Tedesco: I’ve been paid to work in radio for 25 years. I actually started in radio about a decade prior. As a child I grew up in Southern California listening to 93 KHJ and the Real Don Steele. My dad worked in aerospace and got tired of replacing the batteries in my transistor radio so he hooked solar panels up to it. I was definitely the only kid on the block with one of those! Don and radio were larger than life. Something I dreamed of doing but thought it was too big for me. In my teens and early 20s I listened to KROQ in Los Angeles, “The Rock of the 80’s,” with hosts Freddy Snakeskin, Richard Blade, and Jed The Fish. I would call in all the time trying to win tickets to all the hot concerts. One time I got Jed on the phone and convinced him to invite me and my friends down to the station. Once I got in that was it, I wasn’t leaving. Since I was just hanging around, Jed would give me KROQ stickers and t-shirts to hand out at the local clubs. I wasn’t 21 yet but it didn’t matter because I had KROQ swag! I was having the time of my life but never dreamed I’d work in radio. Several years later I relocated to Seattle, WA. There, I attended National Broadcasting School and learned how to use carts and edit tape with Exacto knives. I also volunteered for a local Oldies station, 570 KVI doing promotions but still could not imagine working in radio. A few years later through various life circumstances I found myself open to other (job) opportunities. My wife and I were out to dinner when I ran into an old acquaintance from college. She was doing traffic at a Seattle station that was looking for two new Account Executives and encouraged me to apply. By then, I had nothing to lose so I went for it. I was offered the position under the terms that I would receive $1,000 base for three months and after that had to have enough clients/billing on the air to keep my job. For me that wasn’t quite enough to make ends meet so I countered with $1,500 for two months and if I didn’t have enough by then they could let me go. They agreed. From there I figured it was just a mathematical equation. The more calls I made, a certain percent would agree to meet and then a percentage would convert. I couldn’t dial fast enough! After two months I had enough clients on to keep my job and I’ve been working in radio since.

Radio Ink: Why did you get into sales and then sales management?
Michael Tedesco: I got into sales because that was the first opportunity I had to work in radio. Like many others I pictured myself as an on-air personality. Later, I did have my own show for almost eight years but always continued to sell. It just came kind of naturally. After four years of sales I took on promotions and marketing but continued to sell. Then I became responsible for the station’s website and started promoting our own concerts, but continued to sell. In addition to those responsibilities, I secured a weekend on-air shift and launched our Community Relations department, but continued to sell. While doing all these I was developing my leadership skills. I’m a visionary and really good at optimization. I learned how to build winning teams with passion and excellence. When I took the next step and moved from working in a local market to a network, my job became more specialized with the focus in one area…sales. I loved investing in people and building high-performing teams so I was named to director.

Radio Ink: What is the key to successfully managing salespeople today?
Michael Tedesco: You have to build trust. Your team must trust you and you have to trust them. They need to know I’ve got their back and want them to succeed. They must see me as someone who is willing to roll up my sleeves and help them to achieve their goals; both personally and professionally. I’m a coach and a teacher not a manager. When you have a foundation of trust you can then believe the best in each other, want the best for each other, and expect the best from each other.

Radio Ink: Why has radio not been able to increase its overall share of the advertising pie in recent years?
Michael Tedesco: I believe it’s because our competition has been doing a better job of selling themselves than we have; especially digital. Radio is viewed as an old platform and digital is the bright, shiny new thing. Digital boasts that it’s targeted, personal, and trackable. Things radio used to hang its hat on. Digital is perceived as current, modern, and relevant. Radio not so much. We have to get better at sharing our story. That we reach 90% of Americans every single week. Radio is personal and targetable. And, there’s exciting new research out there to support radio. At this year’s New Jersey Broadcasters Association I attended a session by Charlie Sislen of Research Director, Inc. He has data to support radio delivers $8 for every $1 spent; $16 for millennials. Nobody else is even close. That’s a story we need to share!

Radio Ink: What is your biggest challenge as a sales manager?
Michael Tedesco: Getting new business. There’s so many people calling on businesses now trying to get their attention that it’s more difficult than ever to get in front of people. We are working on a number of solutions to overcome this.

Radio Ink: What is the best way to find successful salespeople?
Michael Tedesco: Successful salespeople are easy to find because they stand out. The majority are average at best. As a Sales Manager you must create (build) a high-performing team. I certainly don’t sell the same way I did 25 years ago, and the game is constantly changing. I put the challenge upon myself to make sure my salespeople are successful. If I start with an individual who has a positive attitude and is motivated for success, I can provide the rest. It is my responsibility to provide the right tools and coaching and remove the obstacles that stand in the way of success.

Radio Ink: Give us one success story about your team that you are most proud of over the past year.
Michael Tedesco: I’ve been in my current position for only about a year and a half. When I came in my team was a bit battered and bruised. They were treated like the ugly step-child and did not have a deep connection with the station. The previous Sales Manager was carrying a list that contained the choicest accounts. I decided I would not carry a list, and thus distributed those accounts among the team. I then invested many of those first months just building them up and helping them feel valued. They responded by becoming more engaged and blew through the annual revenue goal in less than eleven months.

Congratulate Michael on being one of Radio Ink’s 2019 Radio Wayne finalists at mtedesco@star991.com

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