To say 2020 was an interesting year for Saga’s Christie Mathews would be quite an understatement. As if dealing with the revenue crippling COVID at the stations she leads at the Jonesboro Radio Group wasn’t enough, her world was shattered when she received a cancer diagnosis.
However, Mathews, who started out on the air and switched to sales in 2019, says her radio family across the country have been prayer warriors that have seen her through a difficult time. She says it’s been a challenge to be on the receiving end, because she’s a natural giver. “I learned this year, not to take away someone else’s blessing. I couldn’t be more proud and humbled by the sheer generosity, loyalty and giving hearts, just like the one I received from you today letting me know I was chosen as Sales Manager of the Week.”
Here’s our interview with our Sales Manager of The Week Christie Mathews
Radio Ink: Tell us a little about what’s going on in your life right now.
Christie Matthews: To say it’s been an interesting year would be an understatement, in addition to the COVID Pandemic I received a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma in January and have been in a battle to get into remission since then. I spent almost four months at the University Of Arkansas For Medical Sciences in Little Rock being treated at the Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Center. Researchers and doctors from UAMS are known all over the world for their Multiple Myeloma treatment protocols, so I was blessed to have them in my home state. After intensive treatment to get the Myeloma under control, I underwent a Stem Cell Transplant in May and am now in what’s called the consolidation phase of chemotherapy. I am able to do weekly treatments at a Jonesboro hospital and I’m happy to say I am in remission. I wish I could say it ends there, but with MM there is no “cure” but it is treatable and I am hopeful that as more research is collected that those stats will change and that I will be the one that they can say “ She’s cured”. I have put my hope in God that it comes true.
Radio Ink: Give us the story about how you got into radio, then how you transitioned over into radio sales.
Christie Matthews: I started my radio career in the summer of 1990 purely by accident. I was studying journalism and was home for the summer from college and looking for a part time job. I saw an ad in the newspaper for a news reader at an AM station KFSA and went to the interview. I did a LIVE read of some AP copy and the PD said, “you’d be great on the air as a DJ”. I said “No thanks, I want to be a serious journalist and work in TV.” I laugh about that now. On the way home, I was listening to my favorite station which happened to be KFSA’s sister station KISR. I was singing along and the DJ came on and sounded like he was having so much fun, and I thought… I can do that for the summer. So I turned my car around and went back and said “if the offer still stands, I’d like to try it.” I learned the board by running Cowboys football games, edited those huge Paul Harvey reels, bulk erased carts, and then the day came to be LIVE on the air. My voice, my thoughts, my energy… I was hooked. I started asking everyone in the building what they did, and asked if I could watch, would they teach me everything there was to know. From 1990 to 2016 I was mailing focused in Programming before moving to the Operations Manager role for our six station cluster. After a short sabbatical (78 Days) I returned to radio with a new exciting, albeit frightening role as an Air Personality and an Account Executive. Just like everything else in my life, I strive be the best at it. It’s not always a competition with others, well maybe a little… it’s a competition within myself. If you tell me I can’t do something I’ll say watch me, I’ll do it twice and take pictures. In 2019 an opportunity arose to move into the Sales Manager role at Jonesboro Radio Group. It was an opportunity that I didn’t take lightly. I was on the floor with some incredibly talented AE’s who I felt had more sales experience than I that may be better suited, but I had some real candid conversations with the team and they were all on board that me taking on that role was going to benefit our organization and our clients best, so I went for it.
Radio Ink: How did you know you’d be good at selling radio? When did it click?
Christie Matthews: Plain and simple, I was not about to let anyone see me fail. So I worked hard. I did all the things. My General Manager Trey Stafford was a great encourager. He would remind me on days when things didn’t go as planned that I was “Christie Freaking Matthews” that I could do anything I set my mind too. He was my hype guy in addition to Saga’s Ed Christian and Chris Forgy. I had never felt so supported in my life, but when those three get together magic happens. They believed in me and gave me access to all the training and support I could ever want.
Radio Ink: Why are you a successful leader of salespeople?
Christie Matthews: I would say I’m a successful leader of salespeople because I still walk in the same shoes they do. I still carry a list, see clients, build campaigns, write copy, voice copy. I believe a good sales manager is a working sales manager. I know that I am a different breed coming from the programming side, but I think there is a lot of potential in Air Personalities to fill the role as sellers. Who else knows your product better or can tell you what demos are best reached using our different formats. I would encourage every Sales Manager to look at your Air Talent you may have a hidden gem right under your nose.
Radio Ink: Tell us how you spot a great salesperson-
Christie Matthews: A great sales person is confident, poised, a great researcher and always looking for opportunities and doesn’t wait to make a connection. Chris Forgy always says “ Activity breeds activity” don’t act now…but RIGHT NOW.
Radio Ink: How do you keep your team motivated?
Christie Matthews: This past 18 months our team has been so amazing. In addition to the Covid Pandemic and my diagnosis, I was really concerned about how they would feel with me leading from Teams for a few short months. I wanted to stay as connected as possible and they were especially gracious. I feared they would feel abandoned by their leader but it was just the opposite. We found ways to stay connected and used the technology to make it happen. It also made our team more open to working with one another and sharing ideas, campaign strategies and creative. I love to make a big deal out of every day, the big things and the little things. I think every sales manager will say it’s not a sale till you have a signed contract, and I too have said that, but I also remember being new to sales and getting the wind knocked out of my sails when a SM would say, but did you get a signature? I like to ask my team every afternoon, “ how was your day” and we celebrate a great CNA, we celebrate finally getting to meet a decision maker face to face, I love to see their eyes light up and see that there is hope and possibility in adding them as a client. And of course when you make a sale, you ring the bell. We have a cowbell on the sales floor and you’ve got to ring it! Actually we need a new cow bell, we’ve been ringing it a lot, so we’ve temporarily switched to an air horn! I want them to always feel armed with the best products, the latest research and the right words to give a client who has concerns about using radio. I want them to feel confident and I think that keeps them motivated to do more. I also take them off location sales meetings and always have chocolate at the ready! Mostly I want them to know I see them hustling and I am their biggest fan.
Radio Ink: What are you doing to always be on the lookout for new sellers?
Christie Matthews: Like every business in America recruiting is tough. Trying to find sellers with proven media experience has always been the goal, but it’s just not that easy. As I said before, look inside your four walls, there may be someone that would be a great addition in a hybrid role. I most recently hired one of our Director’s of First Impressions. She was making an incredible impact on our clients and listeners as the first person you meet when you come into our building. She was a full time cosmetologist, she loves people, super friendly and never met a stranger. She was looking for a career change and we met and I did all I could to scare her away, but she was persistent and she is putting in the time to learn our business and is already doing great. She loves radio and that I believe has to be the one thing anyone I interview has to hit me with right out of the gate. Selling radio, being on the radio…. Is not a job. It’s a passion.
Radio Ink: How do you keep yourself sharp, up on all the trends, ahead of the competition?
Christie Matthews: Technology has made in nearly impossible for you to say the words “ I didn’t hear about that” , there is no excuse for not knowing what’s going on in the community you live in or in the world. If you spend half as much time researching radios continued successful listenership and all the new digital opportunities that are available to us to expand our clients brand, instead of watching TikTok videos, it’s amazing how much you will learn. I start everyday by reading the daily’s like Radio Ink, RAB, Local Broadcast Sales. I also make sure our team stays up to date with regular training on new products and old ones too.
Radio Ink: Over the past 18 months, what are you most proud of?
Christie Matthews: I am most proud of the amazing team we have assembled at Jonesboro Radio Group. With six stations in our cluster and 21 employees, we’re all wearing a lot of hats, doing things in different ways to make a common goal happen. We’ve worn masks, we became the most sanitary radio station in the country I believe because of Covid and the way they embraced my diagnosis, just brings me to tears really. They changed their way of life so I could come back to work and get back to living. By going the extra mile to spray microphones and hand -rails and staying six feet apart if they weren’t feeling well or if they had a sick child, they were so cautious and kind to help keep me well when chemo had me really receptive to infection. So they are the heroes, my friends, my warriors! I knew I wanted to work through my illness and I was allowed to do that and it has been so beneficial in my treatment to be with people …my people.
Radio Ink: What are your expectations for 2022?
Christie Matthews: I have high hopes for 2022. I watched my team pivot on so many occasions in the past 18 months. AE’s stepped out of the comfort zone during the height of the pandemic to stay connected with clients, using video messages from them, and from our air staff when everyone was in lock down mode. We made it fun. We sent holiday greetings. When we saw a client with a birthday, we would send a video of several of us singing Happy Birthday. We just couldn’t stop working. That is a topic that we will be discussing at our upcoming budget meeting. We couldn’t just close the doors. We had to find new ways to do business, to keep our clients in business. So we will take what we learned and it will be part of our new way of doing business. Nothing can stop us, we just have to keep moving. Again…. I hear Chris Forgy in my head… ACTIVITY BREEDS ACTIVITY. Keep things in motion. Bring the best campaign, the best message, the best call to action and put it on the right station and you will be successful.
Radio Ink: What advice, in this competitive environment, do you have for other sales managers across the country?
Christie Matthews: Stay focused. Keep your team motivated. Lead by example. Get out from behind your desk and go show your team that you too were/ are a sales person just like them. That you don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. If your one on ones don’t include the words how can I help you be successful this week, you’re doing it wrong. AE’s need your buy in. They need to know you are on their side. Yes, they have to put in the work, but helping them when their stuck is your job. Be willing to talk it through, ask them questions, more often times, they know what to do they just forgot how to say it in a way that would take them to the next level. I always tell my AE’s if you’re in a meeting and you get stuck USE ME. Call me on my cell, put me on speaker and let me help. It works and they feel supported in a very unique way. It’s tough out there. Remember where you came from, be ready to knock the dust off them when days are tough and remind them of their successes. You are only as successful as the team out on the streets, make sure they are the most confident, professional, poised, sellers in your market.
Congratulate Christie on being names Radio Ink’s Sales Manager of the Week at [email protected]
Submit your nomination HERE.