How To Hurdle 2024’s Top Sales Challenges With Matt Sunshine

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    Earlier this month, The Center For Sales Strategy released its annual Media Sales Report. The report, which surveys sales managers and salespeople, found the top sales challenges faced by radio stations have shifted significantly since 2022 – including the rise of new business development as the top challenge faced by the industry.

    Radio Ink sat down with the Center For Sales Strategy CEO Matt Sunshine to go in-depth into some of the more interesting nuances of the report.

    Radio Ink: There were two interesting facts to start the report: the majority of sales managers reported they feel that less than 40% of their staff are superstars. On the flip side, less than half of salespeople said they are given feedback. Is there a connection?

    Matt Sunshine: So people always want to ask if that’s a correlation or is that causation? I think people need to be given feedback. They need to be given feedback on what is expected of them. They need to be given feedback on their talents. They need to be given feedback on what they’re doing right. I think for the most part, managers, and leaders across the board are really good at pointing out what could be done better and where we’re trying to go, right?

    That’s different than feedback. Feedback is explaining to somebody what talents they have and why or how those superpowers can be used and what we’re going to expect because you’re talented in this area. Feedback and coaching should go hand in hand. That type of feedback plus coaching is what will help lead to better performance. 

    Why don’t people have more superstars? Well, maybe it’s because they’re not giving people the feedback and coaching that they need. I think people are also just hanging on to people who aren’t superstars because they don’t have a talent bank filled with superstars. Their salespeople are perfectly average, and their feeling is that perfectly average is better than nobody.

    I think that’s the truth talking. Maybe not everyone wants to hear that, but I think that’s what goes on in reality. The good news is that there is a solution for all of this and it starts with that feedback and coaching.

    Radio Ink: Another interesting difference, this one more of a contradiction, was that 94% of salespeople feel supported, but at the same time, a quarter wouldn’t recommend their company as a great place to work. Where does the issue lie? How does that get solved?

    Matt Sunshine: I think it’s a culture issue. When salespeople responded they feel supported, that refers to a good relationship with a boss. They think their manager cares and has their back, but there’s a sense of, “I don’t know about this place. I don’t know if I would recommend this place to others.” A good portion of people are saying that, not everybody, but a good portion.

    That’s why we’re seeing so many of the companies that we work with starting to invest in culture and engagement. There are a lot of broadcasters that are looking from the outside going, “Oh, you know what? I know that’s important, but it’s just not something that we can afford to do or prioritize right now. But the truth is, if you have a place where the culture’s amazing and everyone is engaged and they feel supported, you know what you’ll do? You’ll recruit superstars.

    Radio Ink: Another note on superstars – hybrid scheduling is still a major issue post-COVID. It probably isn’t surprising that your study found most salespeople prefer virtual and more managers prefer in-person. So where do the superstars sit?

    Matt Sunshine: So, the data you saw will show that nobody wants to be in the office 100% of the time and nobody wants to be out of the office 100% of the time. The vast majority of the people want some sort of hybrid. The definition of hybrid is really the rub, right? More here? More there?

    Now, top-performing salespeople have always known that the number one priority is seeing prospects and clients face-to-face as often as possible. The majority of media companies that we work with will always say they want people in the office unless they’re seeing clients. It’s the fear that the workday becomes 10 to three instead of eight to five, and everyone can understand that.

    What we’re seeing is that sales leadership needs to be specific on what they expect. It’s vagueness that is causing the confusion or irritation. When managers tell salespeople, “We don’t want to say what days you have to be in, but we want to see you more in the office,” that means something different to every single person.

    Set a boundary. Give that definition. If managers expect sellers to be in the office three days a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday – they just need to say, “Hey, the rule is here. We need to do it this way.”

    Radio Ink: One of the top sales challenges on the management side is how only 6% of managers think their company’s current marketing strategy “rocks.” 56% in total went on to say that they believe their company’s website gets in the way of sales by making it more difficult for prospects to either understand what they do or what they’re selling. How do you combat that on a local level?

    Matt Sunshine: So for the most part, broadcasters have websites that are designed to be interesting and entertaining to attract and keep more listeners. The marketing that salespeople and sales managers are talking about is the marketing that helps them to get more advertisers. 

    What you typically see on most radio stations’ websites is a little “advertise with us” button at the very bottom right or the bottom left somewhere. If you click that, you go to a page that has no information but has a form to fill in or contact info for the sales manager. And maybe that’s the current sales manager, or maybe that’s the previous sales manager.

    It’s interesting that we’re in the business of helping people do marketing to increase lead generation, except we don’t do marketing to help us increase lead generation for ourselves.

    One of the things that I’ve said for years is that the local radio station should be the expert in marketing to their ideal customer. The way you show that you’re the expert in marketing is by writing articles, producing podcasts, and putting up checklists, then making all that easily available.

    Radio Ink: Would you recommend having that content on its own site or can that be left to LinkedIn or another social? 

    Matt Sunshine: I think that you should do that on LinkedIn. But your radio station would be wise to invest in a B2B website for your clients and your prospects to check out. Whether it helps you with lead generation or helps you pull a prospect through the sales process, all of those would be good sources to have on your side.

    Radio Ink: About how common are those B2B-specific sites for radio stations right now?

    Matt Sunshine: They’re not. Very few radio stations are doing that at a high level. The ones that are, are getting great results.

    Radio Ink: Near the end of the outlook, it reveals more than seventy percent of salespeople believe their company is well-equipped to compete in the years ahead, which is great. But to the reverse 28% disagreed. And that was a 115% increase in pessimism compared to 2022. What do you find is driving this huge uptick in negativity? 

    Matt Sunshine: I think what’s driving it is the general economy. I don’t think it’s specific to their work, company, or the medium. 

    You’re talking about salespeople and sales leaders who sell advertising to local businesses for the most part. The ones that are pessimistic are saying things like, “Mortgage rates are high. Mortgage brokers are a big category for us and they’re not spending as much as they used to.” Or, “Home sales are not where they were a year ago, so furniture stores aren’t advertising.” The ones that are pessimistic are really responding to what’s going on in the economy. Or to mention what we discussed earlier, the culture in their workplace isn’t that good.

    The positive ones are thinking, “Okay, my company has a plan. They’ve articulated a plan to us. I feel confident that while it might be tough going, we have a strategy to get there.”

    Keep in mind that the vast majority are positive about it. Three out of four are very optimistic about the future. That’s pretty solid.

    To tackle other top sales challenges, the Center for Sales Strategy is again partnering with Radio Ink for the 3rd annual Radio Masters Sales Summit on September 10 and 11, 2024. Registration is open here. Subscribe to Radio Ink‘s free daily headlines and be among the first to know lineup announcements.

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