Nothing says you are doing a great job as a manager better than when you hear it from the people you supervise. Our Sales Manager of the week, Krol Communications’ Rich Renko, was nominated by one of his salespeople who told Radio Ink “Rich is a rock star when we bring him with us on meetings.” You don’t hear that from many sellers.
Renko is the Sales Manager for WHMI-FM in Howell, Michigan. And while the station is in the Detroit DMA WHMI doesn’t really compete in that market. Renko has been in radio for 38 years and in sales management for 25 years.
Radio Ink: How did you got into radio and radio sales?
Richard Renko: The funny thing is I never intended to gravitate to Sales…My father, uncles, cousins all seemed to be in Sales in various industries. My first job in Radio was at WATT AM in Cadillac, Michigan where I took a job as a seller to get my foot in the door. In small market radio we quickly find out that multiple hats will be worn and I soon became Salesperson, weekend air personality, production person and part-time news person… Honestly, it was the best experience I could have ever asked for entering the Radio industry as it allowed me to touch virtually every aspect of how a radio station worked. It also gave me perspective on the jobs each department was responsible for and what those employees did on a daily basis.
Radio Ink: How did you know you’d be good at selling radio?
Richard Renko: I always had a passion for Radio as far back as High School where I participated in our High School Radio program…nothing more than daily announcements and various juvenile entertainment LOL… I felt if I could take the passion to any element within the Radio industry I could be successful and it just so happened Sales became my focus. When did it click? I distinctly remember this… I was in my first year of sales at WATT AM, and received information that a new company was opening a location in our area. I met with the owner of Northern Nights Waterbed Co out of Traverse City, Mi.. I’m certainly dating myself as this was the era when Waterbeds were the rage… anyway, we became part of their grand opening campaign and when I showed to the opening, there wasn’t a parking space to be found. The look of appreciation on the client’s face hooked me and I’ve never looked back. Being on-air gave me the ability to talk to thousands of listeners at once, but I found the face to face discussions I had/have with clients was far more meaningful to me AND to have a direct impact on their business means the world to me.
Radio Ink: Why are you a successful leader of salespeople?
Richard Renko: It’s a cliché, but I truly feel leading by example is one of the most important things I can do for my team. I never ask of them something I wouldn’t do myself. I make more sales calls as a manager than I ever did as an AE. I have 5x terrific sellers on my team; Katie Smith, Emily Marone, Lisa Kennedy, Beth Ayers and Char Hagfors ALL of which work extremely hard and smart for our clients. Additionally, I feel it’s my responsibility to bring new and innovative ideas to the table for our clients. WHMI in known for our commitment to Classic Hits plus a heavy focus on News & Information for our local communities. However, we’ve adapted as our industry continues to change and now offer a full suite of digital assets which our clients can choose from. Additionally, we added High School Football Play by Play coverage this year for the first time in the station’s history and are about to add Varsity Boys/Girls High School Basketball to our lineup for the first time. These are some of the reasons I feel I’ve had success leading Sales departments throughout my career by working side by side with my sellers and bringing new opportunities to sell to our clients.
Radio Ink: Tell us how you spot a great salesperson
Richard Renko: Anytime I interview a potential hire I remind them that Sales is the toughest job in the building no matter what anyone tells them. Finding great salespeople is not easy as we all know especially at this time. Their willingness to put in the effort and having a thick skin is key. I look for people with drive, passion, ethics and compassion. New sellers to Radio is the bigger challenge, but rewarding as we get to help mold the person from the beginning. Teaching the strengths of WHMI/Radio along with mentoring them on the “Art of Sales” gives me a great sense of accomplishment.
Radio Ink: How do you keep your team motivated?
Richard Renko: I try not to let the “highs get too high” and “lows get too low”. I believe in celebrating the WINS as they are fewer than the losses at times. I take my team out anytime we exceed a quarterly budget to say “Thank You” for the job they did and even a simple email congratulating them on a new or great sale (cc’d to upper management) goes along way. We know Sellers are motivated by money, but sometimes a note of recognition is more important and meaningful.
Radio Ink: What are you doing to always be on the lookout for new sellers?
Richard Renko: Radio Sellers can come from any industry in my opinion and keeping my eyes open whenever I’m in businesses is key. I’ve always believed a good Seller can be taught our product no matter what industry they’re coming from. It’s about having a good foundation…
Radio Ink: How do you keep yourself sharp, up on all the trends, ahead of the competition?
Richard Renko: Keeping myself sharp comes with making sales calls with my staff and staying in touch with our clients. Clients certainly keep me on my toes and are a terrific source for what the competition is presenting to them. This allows us to combat any direct competitors and allows us to pivot if need be. Salespeople also are a terrific source as they have their ear to the ground and consistently bring new trends to the conversation.
Radio Ink: Over the past 18 months, what are you most proud of?
Richard Renko: Managing through the Pandemic has been a challenge for all of us. Getting my salespeople through 2020 was a monumental task, but we did it and are on track to have a solid 2021. We adapted in 2020 by approaching our clients as a “partner” and worked in tandem to help them through what was a devastating year for many of our clients. We helped pivot their messaging during the height of the pandemic and highlighted the areas they needed help. Recruitment became a big category for us and continues to drive client messaging in 2021. Additionally, High School Football and soon High School Basketball is now being heard on WHMI 93.5 FM. This has been a huge success for WHMI, our clients and our listeners and continues to solidify the station as a Hometown Radio station in the furthest Western county in the 8 county Detroit area. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of this…rarely do we get to build something from the ground up and I give great thanks to Rod Krol, Kris Krol and Krol Communications for trusting us to put High School Sports on WHMI.
Radio Ink: What are your expectations for 2022?
Richard Renko: More of what we’ve accomplished in 2021. The auto sector will continue to struggle the first part of 2022 due to inventory constraints and in our area that’s quite impactful. However, we continue to add new clients to offset this temporary hurdle. We plan to add unique digital, promotional and programming opportunities to WHMI giving our reps and clients avenues to reach current and new customers. The pie isn’t getting any bigger…we just need to be more creative and better than the competition to get slightly more than our fair share.
Radio Ink: What advice, in this competitive environment, do you have for other sales managers across the country?
Richard Renko: Make calls with your sales teams. Listen to your clients and thank them for the partnerships you currently enjoy. Continue to take new opportunities to them to show creative ways to attract customers. As a note….ask your best advertisers for “referrals” if you’re sellers are not already doing so. This is a great lead source since they’re a happy customer and most likely knows many other business owners outside of their category. Keep your “great” sellers happy by showing appreciation for the job they do.
Reach out to Rich to congratulate him on being named Radio Ink’s Sales Manager of the Week by e-mail at [email protected]
Make your nomination HERE.