Salem’s Mike Murphy


Salem General Manager Nic Anderson says Mike Murphy is the glue that holds many departments together at his radio station. “He’s a coach, mentor, counselor, idea generator, and connoisseur of dad jokes. I’m blessed to have him on our team.”

Murphy supervises 4 sellers for Salem Media Group, and a full suite of digital marketing services, in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The stations are AM 1280 The Patriot (WWTC) – Conservative Talk, AM 980 The Mission (KKMS) Christian Teach and Talk, Freedom 1570 (KDIZ) – Conservative Talk and The Biz 1440 KYCR – Business + Dave Ramsey.

Here is our interview with Sales Manager of The Week Mike Murphy

Radio Ink: How did you get into radio and radio sales?
Mike Murphy: My dad has been on the air since 1964 and recently retired from the business. He was a definitely an influence, but I can’t tell you exactly how I decided to start this journey. I’m pretty sure it was divine guidance from the Lord even though I didn’t know it at the time! I graduated from Jackson (MN) High School in 1980 and attended Brown Institute in Minneapolis September 1980-June 1981. I graduated with a first class radio and telephone license and the incredible knowledge of how to cue up a record and correctly pronounce ‘temperature’ and ‘news’. My first job was on-air on a small AM station in Iron Mountain Michigan, where I stayed for 7 years doing various on-air shifts, stints in news, as music director and eventually program director. In 1988, I took an on-air nighttime DJ job at KEEZ-FM in Mankato, MN to get back to MN and to finally start doing something with my life in this business. After toiling for 2 years at typical DJ pay, working odd hours, and handling Promotions Director duties, I ‘stormed’ into my bosses office and declared that I had had enough. I needed more pay. She calmed me down and said ‘Why don’t try sales? You meet people well and I think you could succeed at it.’ She gave me a list of 10 accounts that hadn’t advertised in over a year and told me to dress up and go see them. So the next day, that’s what I did. I sold an ad schedule to one of those clients (I’m sure quite by accident!) and the rest is history. That was 1990 and my boss was Jo Guck Bailey. Jo mentored me and taught me just about everything that I know about sales – I wouldn’t be here without her guidance and will be forever grateful to her for it! I worked with Jo for another 9 years, than took a sales job at WCCO in Minneapolis for 11 years before coming here to Salem in beautiful, downtown Eagan MN in 2011.

Radio Ink: How did you know you’d be good at selling radio? When did it click?
Mike Murphy: It was probably my third year as a fulltime sales rep. I enjoyed calling on local businesses and made a lot of in-person visits. It’s a numbers game, so the harder I worked, the more I sold. And, coming from the broadcast side (now to the dark side of sales!), I could write and record client’s spots and used that as an advantage. We did most of our business transactionally, so when I discovered that clients would buy annuals, that was the key! I could lay in long-term business as a good base and grow with add-on sales and new clients.

Radio Ink: Why are you a successful leader of salespeople?
Mike Murphy: When I started on the broadcast side I didn’t have a real clue how business was done in this industry. It was a project to teach me the ‘tricks of the trade’ and I had a lot of help. I remember that. And I remember how good it felt to make that first sale, the get that first commission check, to see the year over year growth that I experienced, to be able to buy a house and support a family on a commission-only income. And I know that all I really had was the DESIRE to do the job. I was taught the rest. And I love to teach people the nuts and bolts of the business! When I see that same drive and desire to succeed in a Media Salesperson, I know that they have the tools necessary to do well in this business!

Radio Ink: Tell us how you spot a great salesperson
Mike Murphy: Can’t say that I’ve always been good at this part of the job, but I’m learning! For me it’s about ‘fire in the belly’. Do they have the drive and desire to succeed? Do they want to learn? We’re talking to a lot of people that have no media sales experience, so I look for ways they excelled in the past. Perhaps they were working in a ‘regular-type’ job, but they went above and beyond to serve their customers or to contribute to their employer. I’ll ask these types of questions in the interview process in an attempt to discover the next great sales person.

Radio Ink: How do you keep your team motivated?
Mike Murphy: I’m blessed to have the team I do right now. They are self-motivated and work hard! I do stay in daily contact with each of them – I want them to know that I know what they’re working on and the challenges they’re facing. We look at the pacing numbers each week and the team is vested in the overall success of the operation. We also offer a $250 bonus over and above commissions to each Media Strategist if we achieve quarterly billing. I recognize them weekly in front of their peers for their successes, plus, we get along and know about each other’s personal lives. As trite as this may read, we truly do have a TEAM that has each other’s back.

Mike and the Salem Minneapolis team.

Radio Ink: What are you doing to always be on the lookout for new sellers?
Mike Murphy: It’s just like sales – always be prospecting. When I get a knock on my door from a good salesperson, I’ll get a card and talk a little about what we do. When I’m approached to buy something from an on-site vendor at a big box store, I’ll ask them if they’ve considered media sales. I use LinkedIn, our state’s job database, and a variety of other sources. The last 2 people I’ve hired have been personal referrals and they’re doing well! Ask the best person on your team if they know someone just like themselves!

Radio Ink: How do you keep yourself sharp, up on all the trends, ahead of the competition?
Mike Murphy: This is a challenge in today’s world. Things are constantly changing especially in the digital realm. You have to be intentional about it. I read as much as I can when I have the time, as I train my team, I’m learning as well. We have many great industry partners at Salem that keep us informed and are always available for training, webinars, or just a phone call for questions. As radio is a frequency and repetition business, so is staying up on the trends. Keep at it!

Radio Ink: Over the past 18 months, what are you most proud of?
Mike Murphy: I’m most proud of the fact that we as a company and our local team weathered the events of the worldwide ‘shutdown’ fairly well. It was a stressful time removing more business from the books than we were adding. But it built our character and taught us resiliency. Plus, we don’t take things for granted as we once did knowing that it could happen again at any time. So we stay humble and thankful for the most part.
Radio Ink: What are your expectations for 2022?
Mike Murphy: We are looking forward to a strong 2022. I have a great team in place and we have all the tools we need to help our local businesses succeed. It should be our best year yet!

Radio Ink: What advice, in this competitive environment, do you have for other sales managers across the country?
Mike Murphy: Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a sales candidate that has no media experience. If they have the drive and desire you can teach them the tactics. How many times have we paid someone WITH experience big dollars and they refused to pick up the phone? Look for those who are hungry for a career they can grow into and build a life around. Yes, it takes your time, but it will pay off on the long run! And – continue to have fun! We get to work with local businesses to help them grow, succeed and keep food on their family’s tables. When we see those clients succeed and we know we had a part in it, that’s true satisfaction.

Congratulate Mike on being chosen Radio Ink Sales Manager of The Week by e-mail at [email protected].
Nominate your Sales Manager HERE.



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