By Trent Rentsch
“Unreasonable Expectations Department. How may we disappoint you?”
“Well, I’ve already been on hold for 37 minutes…”
“Oh, I’m sorry! We usually make it at least 45. I can play the Muzak a bit longer…”
“No, please! Listen, I have a problem here…”
“You’ve called the right place. We specialize in problems! In fact, our motto is, No issue is too small; we’ll escalate all.”
“Ah, yeah. Anyway, the problem is that I was promised that my new SUV would get 175 miles to the gallon.”
“Oh, that does sound unreasonable.”
“Exactly! I’m only getting 13 and a half!”
“Now, that sounds reasonable.”
“Sir, I’m sorry. Your Sales Rep seems to have slightly exaggerated the mileage potential of your new vehicle.”
“SLIGHTLY exaggerated? Honestly, I don’t believe you understand…”
“On the contrary, sir! We pride ourselves on misunderstanding! Now then, what can we do to you that might instill false confidence again?”
“For starters, you could give me my money back.”
“I’m sure you’d like that, wouldn’t you sir? Might I suggest, other than waiting for hell to freeze over, that you bring your SUV back in for some adjustments.”
“You mean, you can improve mileage?”
“As far as you know.”
“Sigh… okay. When should I bring it in?”
“I would have it here first thing in the morning, say, 2:30 or 3.”
“So you can get to it tomorrow?”
“Ha! Ha!! You are a comedian, sir! I suspect that our people will look at it by Monday… and possibly work on it Wednesday.”
“So it will be ready by mid-week?”
“Let’s put it this way, if you keep your fingers crossed that long, they may stay that way.”
“How do you people stay in business?!”
“Why, our Sales Department is top notch! Thank goodness we aren’t required to deliver on their promises!”
Strip away the car dealership trappings and the fact that no company would be honest enough to have an Unreasonable Expectations Department, and this could be a phone call to nearly any type of business. Over-promise and under-deliver has become cliché. Salespeople have become so desperate, so greedy for a sale that they’ll say or do anything to entice the customer into signing their savings account away. Disappointment has become a way of doing business, to the point that we’re all so jaded that we distrust anyone in a suit bearing tidings of deep discounts.
Believe it or not, I’m not here to condemn Sales folk, but to defend them. True, there has always been a hint of “them vs. us,” especially between programming and sales, in every station I’ve worked at. But just as I don’t want to be thought of as an old, lazy, broken-down DJ, I don’t think that everyone in Sales is a money-hungry, insensitive, cologne-covered weasel. Besides, this lazy, broken-down DJ is old enough to notice that programming is as much to blame for the over-promising as our fellow radio brothers and sisters on the other side of the building.
Example: a Production Director friend of mine was recently involved in a station battle, which began with a simple misunderstanding. It seems that one of the reps at the station had promised a CD of music and commercials for his client’s holiday fashion show. Although the rep hadn’t been told that the station had a burner, he had heard my friend in the break room, bragging to another rep about the CD recorder the engineer had installed two weeks before. My friend had even gone so far as to hand rep number 2 a finished demo on CD. Assuming that his CD was possible, the rep left a note for the overnight DJ, asking him to make the CD and have it ready the next day, as he had PROMISED it to the client (his pickiest, most impatient client, by the way). What he didn’t know was that there were no blank CD-Rs in the production room, and the overnight jock was new to the station and the business, didn’t even know where to start. So, Mr. Overnight leaves a note that says, “Sorry!” on the reps desk. When my friend got to work, he found himself in the GM’s office with a panicky rep. When my friend heard the story, he was… well, you can imagine. What followed was a mess. My friend did get the CD ready on time, but he and the rep are still not speaking, and as word traveled through the station grapevine, there was a whole new volley of “Sales Weasel” and “Lazy Announcer” battle cries. So, who was wrong? The rep for assuming that the job was possible, or my friend for not getting the word out about the do’s and don’ts of the new equipment? The answer is, yes!
Animosity is an ugly thing on many levels. Working together becomes difficult, communication impossible. Yet here we are, on the same team, all trying to make the radio station a success, working together like one big dysfunctional family. Little wonder that a salesperson might make a claim that a client can use the latest Britney song on their commercial without paying royalties. Odds are said salesperson was never told the rules, what with the lack of communication in the building.
Yes, sales is a different animal. So is production. So are morning show talents and Program Directors and news people. Yes, we all have our own unique jobs and personalities, but we also all have the same goal… to put on a radio station. If we all took a little more time to learn about each other’s jobs, to teach each other what’s possible, maybe there would be less over-promising by sales, and more over-delivering to our customers. Now THAT sounds reasonable!