Salespeople Speak Up


“Selling air” has always been a battle when your biggest competitors have visuals to
show off or data to brag about. Throw in COVID-19, and 2020 may go down as the
toughest year to sell radio yet. We turned to several of our 2020 Radio Wayne finalists
and asked them what their biggest challenges were (outside of COVID-19) and how they
overcame them.

Carlene Swensson works for Cumulus in Dallas.
The biggest challenges I face as a seller are the continued explosive growth of digital media options, the ability for the local businesses to do a lot of their own marketing (some at no cost), and the amount of “fake news” when it comes to the value of radio. I overcome this with the old school belief that “knowledge is power.” I share information with prospects and clients about the importance of being on multiple platforms, including digital. If I am going to be their marketing partner, we will talk about all the options that are viable for them.

There’s another old school adage, “you get what you pay for,” and that is very easy for many of the companies I work with to understand. They have also seen very recently why jumping into social media with what we refer to as a “hot sports opinion” could be very detrimental for their brand, employees, and revenue.

In almost 35 years of selling radio, I have yet to be introduced to a medium that can talk to a potential customer 24 hours a day, at home, in a vehicle, almost anywhere. The business gets to tell their story in a very intimate way. Think about it —you don’t need a power cord, there’s nothing to download, no monthly subscription, and in an instant you can know what’s going on in the world and be comforted by a local voice. Radio is the original mobile medium.

James Barton works for Longport Media in Atlantic City
There is no “outside of COVID” anymore. It has all changed, and probably forever. The biggest issue prior to this was putting together a targeted program within a client’s budget. Now there are so many other variables introduced — points we never had to consider before.

How does someone personally feel about opening up again? Are there safety features? Money is tight, people are still afraid. We have to know what our clients are feeling. Know how they are thinking. The only way to do that is give them what they really need: understanding and compassion about what they are going through. They have to be able to trust you. It’s not business as usual, and anyone that says it is is nuts. Just because they can open doesn’t mean it’s back to normal and we should all have the same expectations.

Jeff Salvano is from Entercom Phoenix
Determining the right questions to ask during a CNA. Companies are always evolving, and advertising tactics are ever-changing as well. I am always researching industry trends prior to meeting with advertisers if I am not familiar with their space. This can pose a challenge if I have to educate myself and speak their language, but I am always up for the task. I often refer to the RAB and pull as much information as I possibly can. Often, I end up soft-closing a deal based on “proposal ideas” I found at the RAB. It’s been a very valuable tool for me.

Remaining motivated while receiving rejection after rejection. Luckily, I am able to overcome rejection by accepting it for what it is: every rejection is one step closer to a sale. More leads, more in the funnel. I don’t take it personally because I know my closing ratio. I overcome this challenge by focusing on the next opportunity. Oddly enough, it feels good sometimes to be told no. One step closer to a yes.

Remaining at the top of the “food chain” on my sales team. It ignites the fire under me. It’s a challenge, but a rewarding one. When you’re at the top, there’s only one way to go: higher. Going the opposite way isn’t an option for me.

I constantly challenge myself to do better, and exceed year over-year, month over month. I often wonder, “How am I going to beat those numbers next year?” But I do. I always figure it out. I have three words on the wall in my garage that I see every day, in a bold black and white font. It reads: “Make It Happen.” It reminds me every day to keep doing what I do best.

Jonathan C. Daniel is from Cox Media Group in Jacksonville
Developing new business. Leveraging quality “valid business reasons,” or VBNs, and encouraging prospects to take a holistic view of their marketing and advertising have been  ffective approaches to overcoming the new business development challenge. It’s also  important to leverage the resources we have at our disposal, like RAB and  Nielsen/Scarborough, because these resources help me craft high-quality VBRs. 

Having a quality VBR is essential to getting a foot into the door because these businesses are being called on by dozens of sales reps daily. I focus my VBRs on providing an answer to “Why should you meet with me now?” For example, “Hi, Mr. Roofer. All of the local meteorologists are projecting higher-than-normal tropics activity this year, and with more  than 500 licensed roofing contractors in Northeast Florida, the competitive landscape is incredibly fierce. I have some ideas on how we can increase your share of roof-replacement and re-roof jobs while reducing your cost-per-estimate-request. Are you available on [day/time] to discuss?” I’ve addressed a common challenge roofers face in that VBR and confirmed I have ideas on how to address that common challenge. 

My VBR was not product-focused in any way, shape, or form. I didn’t even mention my radio stations. I set myself apart as a true customer acquisition specialist rather than a broadcast media salesperson. I keep my focus on their needs, products, and services. 

Encouraging new prospects to take a holistic view of their marketing and advertising helps me establish credibility early, which is paramount to getting new business meetings. One of my prospecting tactics is to find businesses that are actively spending money on Google search engine marketing and targeted display while having little to no presence on broadcast media. By taking a holistic view of marketing and advertising, I’m able to show them the importance of combining “relational media” (radio) with “transactional media” (search engine marketing). 

Search engine marketing reaches consumers at the bottom of the funnel, but reaching consumers at the bottom of the funnel isn’t nearly as effective if a business is neglecting top-of-the-funnel consumers, a.k.a. “relational consumers” or “information seekers.” Digital obviously presents interesting hurdles when selling radio. Be that as it may, my approach isn’t “selling against digital.” My approach is selling radio in conjunction with digital, billboards, direct mail, etc. Radio is an essential piece of the entire advertising puzzle and is a driving force in the overall consumer decision journey. Coaching my prospects and helping them reshape their perceptions on this has been a huge part in my success in developing new, key-level clients. 

Leveraging our resources is one of the best ways I can activate new business. In fact, I was able to uncover nearly $20,000 in available co-op dollars for one of my new local direct HVAC clients that resulted in a quick upsell last month. I use the RAB Co-op Manager at least once a week to find opportunities, and the Dealer Locator feature is especially useful because it shows me a list of businesses by address in my market that carry the specific brands that have available co-op funds. 

I also began subscribing to the CrystalKnows platform four years ago. I pay for this out of my own pocket as a “competitive investment” because it helps me get a leg up on my competitors when prospecting. Plus, my ROI for this tool has been incredibly fruitful. This tool allows me to get granular details on how my prospects think, how they like to be communicated with, whether they work well collaboratively or prefer to be autonomous, etc. This helps me frame my cold call approaches in a way that will better resonate with the prospect. 


  1. Terrestrial Radio
    Is alive again. All the repeat junk on TV is your best selling tool. Make the audience the star IN A NICE WAY. Stop trying to copy the station down the road. Be creative they will listen. Time to look back and then step forward. The Voice Bank .com


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