Paul Jacobs

By Paul Jacobs, GM, Jacobs Media & jacapps

Our usual practice in these “Programming To Win” pieces is to provide advice to PDs about how to program more effectively and generate higher ratings. This time around, it’s my mission to change things up.

We’re going to take a different approach by providing advice on how smart, effective programmers can collaborate with their sales teas to do more than deliver great numbers.

Let’s call it the PD’s Sales Playbook. We suggest you share it with your sales team. It might make your life a little easier and your station a lot more successful. And based on my experience, the sales people who buy in will not only have a greater chance of increasing revenue, they’re also the be ones recognized as future sales managers and even GMs – because they get it.

Here’s the 6-pack of things programming and sales can work on together to the mutual benefit of the brand:

1. Buy into the vision. When Fred was programming WRIF, I was on the sales team. I thought that gave me carte blanche to give him my opinions about the music. That lasted about a week, when he uttered these now-famous words to me:

“Shut up and make goal.”

What he really meant is there is room for just one vision for a radio station and it needs to be the PD’s. Sales people need to understand that vision, and then they need to buy in. For male-targeted stations, this means not complaining about not having enough female listeners, or at CHR stations, whining about all those teens. In order to be successful, salespeople need to buy in all the way and evangelize their station(s).

2. Accept the fact the PD says “no” for a reason. Too often, salespeople bring half-baked or poorly-targeted promotion opportunities to the table – and dump them on the Program Director’s desk. They’re hoping for a quick “yes” or they’re wishing the PD comes up with a better idea and bails them out.

Programmers can – and should – say no to a truly bad idea even as every brand vigorously chases dollars. And it’s incumbent on the sales person to understand why. It’s not because the PD is “Dr. No.” It’s because they don’t want to put something on the air that doesn’t fit and can impact ratings.

Sometimes a “no” comes because there are simply too many promotions on the air and clutter is hurting the station. By understanding what fits and bringing in ideas

that are in sync with the station’s goals, sellers increase the possibility of not only getting a promotion accepted, but also the likelihood of them being effective.

So instead of dumping a promotion idea on the Program Director, take the time to consider the station’s goals and target, and bring in alternative suggestions. You aren’t there just to advocate for the client to get on the buy – you are there to do what’s right for both the station and the client and create win:win situations. Your Program Director will appreciate the fact you understand the station so well and you’ll be in a stronger position to take the concept back to the client.

3. Listen to the station. I was in a sales meeting at a station recently, discussing digital sales. And the topic of mobile apps came up. The sales team was asked about features in their mobile app. Amazingly, not one person on the sales team knew even knew the station even had a mobile app!

Back in the days of individual sales teams, this rarely happened because the sales people usually were well-matched to the station they repped. But in the era of cluster sales, I am finding sellers tend to gravitate to the station they like (and of course, the ones that are easiest to sell). Sellers need to spend a few hours each week listening to each station they rep. Don’t assume this is happening, which is why this is followed by…

4. Interface with your PD. Regularly. The days of programming and sales operating in silos is over. Sales teams need to have the PD at every sales meeting, talking about what’s happening, what’s coming up, and what’s happening competitively. Sellers should value these opportunities, and the smart ones should take the Program Director out to lunch each month to pick their brain. This is where great ideas and mutual understanding are born.

And PDs have favorites on the sales staff – sellers they trust and can rely on. These are the reps that get the breaks, the opportunities, and even the leads. A strong relationship with the station’s programming czar is a true advantage for the rare seller who take the time to interact with the Program Director.

5. Take the PD on important sales calls. The Program Director is not the station’s designated closer. But there are instances where bringing them out to a meet a client is smart and strategic. Too often, media buyers or business owners complain about the programming. This can be for many reasons, including their misplaced egos or as a negotiating tactic. If the client is big enough, bring the PD out to meet them. It’s a sign of respect for the client, and in most cases, nobody can explain the station (and defend it) better than the Program Director.

At the same time, do your prep, making sure the PD (who isn’t always accustomed to these situations) is well-briefed on the client, the mindset, the variables, and even

how to dress for the occasion. Programmers are under incredible time pressures, so pick and choose these spots carefully.

6. The customer isn’t always right. Most clients don’t care a whole lot about your station – they’re focused on extracting as much from you as possible for the lowest possible price. And they don’t care about the damage left in their wake. If they come up with what they think is a great promotion idea, then it might be a great promotion idea…for them. That doesn’t mean it’s worthy of 30 live endorsements a week from air personalities who think it’s a stupid idea.

This is where selling actually begins – getting a client or agency to understand there’s a better way to make the station a more effective marketing vehicle.

The first step is for the seller to take the time to understand the client’s goals. With that in hand, the seller is empowered to begin crafting solutions with the Program Director that can help achieve those goals, while fitting into the station’s strategy. Once the solution is developed, the seller is in much better position to sit down with the client and present the modified concept through the lens of fitting into the client’s goals, while having full support from programming.

And here’s a bonus:

7. Get educated. To many sales people, becoming educated means checking out the radio trades in the morning and perhaps scanning local media like newspapers for leads. With apologies to FMQB, that’s not education. Salespeople need to be committed to getting smarter on multiple fronts because they deal with so many different types of clients.

Each week in every market, there are conventions or other gatherings they could be attending that have nothing to do with radio. This isn’t just about networking, but to get outside of the radio bubble and learn more about other businesses, their problems, and opportunities. Too many sellers don’t read non-radio publications like business magazines or even the Wall Street Journal, INC., or the New York Times. Every day there is timely information about multiple business categories that can generate ideas and solutions for clients.

One of my tricks is Google News keywords. Each day my email box is filled with links to articles about topics that make me smarter while better informing and educating my clients. I share these each week, which makes me a more valued resource to them.

Being a PD is much more complex than at any time in the past. Sharing these suggestions with your sales team will lead to more collaboration and results.

Remember, we’re all in sales.

This article ran previously in our October 8, 2018 issue of eQB.