Filling Radio’s Sales Pipeline


(By Deborah Parenti) We hear it all the time: finding great people, especially potential sellers, is difficult if not impossible in today’s hotly competitive media environment. To some degree, that’s true. But those who have been around long enough know sales recruitment has always been challenging. The difference between then and now is that with time, the challenges have changed. We don’t worry so much about Yellow Page or equipment sales (think IBM or NCR). Today it’s digital, digital, digital. 

I asked some former and current sales managers and managers about some of the objections they deal with today and what might be possible strategies to overcome them. 

Not Your Father’s Medium! 

First on the list is a concern among prospects about the perception that traditional radio is outdated and that digital platforms are overtaking its ability to attract an audience. It’s important to underscore how radio has adapted to the digital age by incorporating streaming, podcasts, and social media platforms. And that radio has become an even more powerful medium with a dedicated audience, and by blending traditional and digital strategies.

Finally, explain how radio provides an unmatched personal and emotional connection with listeners. Not to mention its ability to serve communities in times of disaster when other media becomes unavailable or is wiped out.

Limited Opportunity! 

Frequently heard is that there are limited opportunities for career advancement and growth within the radio sales field. The truth is, a career in sales often leads to higher-level sales positions, transition to management roles, or the opportunity within the station to explore related fields such as digital advertising, marketing, or media management.

Radio Is Not Sexy! 

Some prospects may believe that radio sales lacks the prestige associated with other sales or marketing roles in a more “glamorous” digital media world. Here’s where we shift the focus to the value and impact of radio advertising. Explain how radio plays a vital role in reaching diverse audiences and supporting local businesses. Illustrate how successful radio sales professionals play a critical role in shaping advertising strategies that drive business growth.

Show Me The Money!  

Many candidates express concern about the unpredictability of income in commission-based sales roles, leading to financial instability. And that’s a real and valid problem. Tomorrow’s promise of the potential for high earnings through commissions, bonuses, and performance-based incentives doesn’t pay today’s rent. Nor does sharing success stories of radio sales professionals who have built stable and lucrative careers. 

Developing a great sales rep calls for an investment of time, training, and, yes, money. We all know sales can be stressful. Add financial insecurity to it, and indeed your “investment” may walk out the door in frustration before they make it. A great CEO once told me, “I never regretted paying too much, but I have regretted not being willing to pay enough.”

When addressing these objections, it’s important to listen actively to the prospects’ concerns, empathize with their perspective, and then provide well-reasoned responses. Highlighting the strengths and advantages of a career in radio sales, while addressing their specific concerns, can help you overcome objections and effectively guide prospects toward considering this career path.

Of course, first, we have to find the prospects.

The Michigan Association of Broadcasters has produced a brilliant campaign called “Be There!” designed to attract new blood to broadcasting. It spotlights all facets of the broadcast industry, including sales, marketing, and management. If you’re not familiar with it, I encourage you to go to the MAB website for more information. You’ll love what you see.  

I would also suggest that all broadcast associations find out how they can get involved with similar campaigns (if they have not started one already). Like the massive efforts to keep AM alive on the automotive dashboard, radio needs to band together with a concerted effort to ensure there is a generation of broadcasters to carry the AM and FM torch forward for years to come.

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. Reach Deborah at [email protected]. Read her Radio Ink digital archives here or read her latest column with a digital or print subscription here.


  1. When recruiting potential AEs, we should stress the ability Radio sellers have to make a difference in their local community. We hear about younger job seekers wanting a career that makes a genuine difference, and that’s an inherent attribute of radio sales. Think about it. We meet with local business owners to learn about them, their goals, and marketing challenges in our local market. Then, we brainstorm internally and come back with ideas designed to address the challenges. As the relationship grows, we watch the results of our recommendations grow that business. It’s hard to think of many careers that have the opportunity to make that kind of a difference in the local community.


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