By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Oh! You’re on-air? Not in sales? As Cher’s character hollered in Moonstruck, “SNAP OUT OF IT!”
Now more than ever – with 2013 budgets in umpteenth re-draft – tough decisions are being made, in meetings you’re not invited to. Possibly in meetings your boss is not invited to. So, as local talent, are you merely what bean-counters call an “expense?” Or when they read your name on The List of Endangered Employees, does it spell “revenue?”
Local DJ? That’s dang-near an oxymoron now. Talk show? That’s something from a syndicator, right? Not if you are responsible for what the sales department calls “local direct retail.” Translation: do-re-mi that’s not stepped-on by an agency; ads that tell shopkeepers’ stories, and bring cars into their parking lots.
You may already be delivering endorsement spots. If so, this tip: Don’t name-drop the retailer and/or staff, and refer to them as “MY FRIENDS AT…” This sounds more insincere than you may realize; and it squanders valuable airtime you should instead allocate to explaining how your advertiser can make your listener’s life easier. Results will trump shout-outs when it’s time for the advertiser to weigh tough choices.
In a recent piece, I listed more tips for killer endorsement spots. ICYMI…
But effective personalized reads alone no longer spell job security for local talent. It would be prudent to step-up your involvement in sales. Here are two baby steps:
1. Offer to write copy. You got your on-air job because you’re good with words, right? That could make you handy to have around if yours is one of many stations where the creative department fell victim to a recent bloodbath. Too often, account reps are writing spot copy, and too much of it sounds like…well, spot copy. You’re a story-teller. Every time I do a sales meeting at a client station, I offer myself as the cure for writer’s block: “If you’re ever stumped, call me, and we’ll write the spot together!” If you’re talent, you should make that same offer internally. We’re radio people; we think aloud, The buddy system rocks.
2. If you’re not already accompanying reps on calls, offer to. When you do, one of two things will happen:
• Your being there might impress the prospect. In some cases, your presence may be all it takes for the rep to close, and for you to observe what you can translate into knockout copy.
• Or the prospect won’t be impressed. Maybe he/she never heard you, or heard of you. So brace yourself for that sobering, useful perspective. Your work is your life and theirs is theirs. And they’re real busy. I go on lots of sales calls, and learn a lot meeting retailers. They walk the thin line between struggle and success. They’re dogged entrepreneurs working long hours on Main Street USA. They have an uncanny feel for the street, and a hunger for what they call “ideas.”
Some of the best ideas are simple tactics. Example: Sell the weekday 11:00 am on-hour ID to restaurants:
“IT’S ELEVEN O’CLOCK AND PAPACITA’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT IS OPEN FOR LUNCH! NOT-JUST-ANOTHER-BURGER. PAPACITA’S, ON SOUTH BROADWAY.”
If you yourself eat there, which you should, whisper that “NOBODY NEEDS TO KNOW IF YOU SUCCUMB TO THE FRIED ICE CREAM DESSERT.”
Maybe you yourself could carry a couple of accounts, “commission-only.” Grab a cuppa cawfee with your sales manager. Or a take her out for a burrito. She too is hungry…for ideas.
Whether you’re selling or merely assisting, permit me another movie reference? Don’t bank on The Jerry Maguire sales system. Retailers tend not to sob, “You had me at ‘Hello.’”
• DON’T expect to close ‘em on the first call. It’s an interview, a fact-finding mission. You’re there to go-to-school-on their business; to ascertain their pain and pleasure points. Observe like crazy.
• On the second call? The Six Most-Powerful Words You Can Utter are: “Based on what you told me…” (on the previous call), as you play two spec spots. Two, so, rather than asking “yes or no,” you’re asking “Which of these approaches tells your story better?” Offer to tweak further.
Being talent, you have a perspective that reps lack. You craft content. I’m a news/talk consultant, and am convinced that most sales people at news/talk stations don’t realize all the things they have to sell. How could they?
• They’re probably selling the whole cluster (the WORST way to monetize a news/talk station). The combo sell is low-hanging fruit, and requires less product knowledge than zeroing-in-on specific opportunities among the news/talk station’s repertoire. It’s info-overload.
• News/talk is SO Sales-friendly, because there’s so much “stuff,” that sponsors can “own.” If you’re on-air on that station, you have a passion for and understanding of that repertoire.
Recommendation to GMs/DOS/GSMs: Lure retailers to a sit-down lunch event, with three assurances:
1. They’ll see-and-hear strategies and tactics – “ideas” — that are getting results elsewhere.
2. They’ll be in-and-out the door, and fed, in one hour.
3. “NO advertising orders will be offered or accepted.” Strictly an informational presentation.
• What we call spec spots, but should position as “success stories from elsewhere.” Member stations can peruse a couple thousand of ‘em at rab.com. And smart station groups post spec spots on company intranets. Maybe you can buddy system amigos in other markets. I’ve seen retailers actually LOOK AT the smartphone or iPad when the rep hits “play” saying “Here’s a commercial that brought-in lots of new customers for a [same type of retailer] in [name of a different state].
• Know radio’s story, still compelling, despite new media shiny objects getting so much business press. Even if you’re not a RAB member, you’re welcome to help yourself to great presentation tools at rab.com/whyRadio/.
• Make the case for adding radio to other advertising the prospect already does. The recently released study: “Where Radio Fits: Radio’s Strengths in the Media Landscape” is on Arbitron’s client web site, and elsewhere. Google it. Good stuff.
Trade the room and buffet lunch. Want to pack the place? I speak from experience: Put a picture of an iPad or iPhone on the invitation you mail, explaining that one attendee will win one. Even hard-workin’ shopkeepers in logo’d golf shirts will take an hour off and let you feed ‘em.
If you are on-air talent, it’s your ideas that can keep local retailers – and you – on your station’s air. If you’re a station or sales manager, your local talent may be your most under-utilized resource.
See/hear/read more from consultant Holland Cooke at www.HollandCooke.com; and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke.