beesBy Craig Jackman

Something strange is happening at the station these days, and it’s something delightfully unexpected as well. The Sales Reps are actually being nice to the Producers! Could it be it’s because we have some newer Reps with us who haven’t been jaded by greed on their commission cheque yet, and could it be just timing with the more difficult account or Reps just rolling existing creative over? Certainly it could, but whatever it is, I like it, and I see it as a strong tool for us in the coming months.

Lately, Reps have been very understanding of time schedules for bringing clients in to voice spots, and making sure to point out to us when the client is voicing for the first time. As opposed to just throwing the client in the deep end with me and running, Reps are hanging around the back of the studio during sessions, not interrupting or irritating, but sitting and observing. At very worst they are there as a security blanket for the client, who’s used to dealing with them and not with me. The Reps are there as a resource should the client question the script and want to do some last minute re-writes, or they are just there so they know what’s going on and can provide feedback to the client when they debrief after the session. The Reps have been particularly good at providing the client’s feedback to us in turn.

I love being involved in the creative process for the clients from step one. Reps have been wisely investing the time to bring Creative and Production in at the beginning, so that all correspondence with the client is united in going the same direction, and in the same lane on the highway. That also means that the Rep forwards all responses from the client, so we get the feedback at all stages. It’s easy to make any small changes requested when you know what the client is asking for, or know what the client was expecting from the outset.

Checking to make sure Creative has all the information needed is important too. “Is there anything more you need from me?” is the appropriate last question from the Rep to ask in a creative meeting. Communication is critical in that leaving a voice mail or email works a lot better that shouting some request they need while they are running down the stairs and out of the building.

There are a couple of points to remember here. First, teamwork is important in this business to be able to maximize revenue. Second, there comes a point in the process where the Rep is there to serve the client’s interests, not the station. That’s your job.

Everyone from the GM down harps on it, but it’s true. This is a tough competitive business, with too many other stations and agencies trying to steal your new and existing accounts, not to mention TV, newspapers, direct mail, outdoor, transit, and other advertising sources. Owning a radio station is no longer a license to print money, if it ever really was. Not only is there competition for every advertising dollar available, but it is a time of shrinking advertising budgets, with clients demanding proof of ROI (return on investment) on top of it all. Stockholders want to see rising stock prices, which require higher revenues, lower expenses, and thus increased profits, all the while maintaining squeaky clean books and business practices to avoid those nasty Enron-esque lawsuits down the road. Our role in all that is to make new or potential clients happy clients, and then make happy clients returning clients for years to come. Every account, and every sale on that account is important, and we are there to make it happen. Don’t forget, that $500 buy from the small business on the corner is as important to them as the $500,000 buy is to some national account, maybe more important.

There does come a point in the Sales/Creative process where the client is signed on, and the Rep is there to represent the client’s interests. This is the point where conflict can begin to occur should there be a lack of communication. It’s important to maintain focus and finish the process, get client approval, and get the spot to air. At very best we in Creative and Production are collaborators on the team with Sales and everyone else in the building involved with the client. At the very least, we in Creative and Production are a resource to be exploited. Not exploited as in slave labor, or exploited to make another payment on some Sales Weasels shiny new SUV, but exploited in the use of our talents and imaginations to push forward all that stuff I mentioned about revenues and profits.

Show this to your Sales Managers and Sales Reps if you want. Some will ignore it, while some may even be insulted by it. So be it. The wise ones will see what’s been happening to me, and see an easier way to attract bees, and the more bees you have in your hive, the more honey you can make. Not all Sales Reps are Sales Weasels, and I’ve actually met a number of really good ones who truly get it and see the difference that working with us makes. Even something as small and insignificant as the Rep asking the busy Writer or Producer if they can get them a coffee goes a long way. In the old company it was called treating your internal customers the same way as you’d treat your external customers.