Q It Up: What’s most important when training salespeople?

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95Q It Up: What’s most important when training new salespeople? How do you “try” to win them over to your way of thinking and doing things? Do they spend a day in the studio with you? Do you hand them a “production manual”? Or do you just teach on the fly? Feel free to add any further comments you may have on the subject!

Brian Whitaker [dmrgproduction [at]qwest.net], Saga Communications, Des Moines, Iowa: We’ve developed a “production bible,” with all of our policies and procedures on how to properly get a spot on the air. We review that manual with our veteran salespeople once or twice a year as a refresher. With our “newbies” we have them sit down for an hour or so with traffic and production to go over the manual (all 10 pages) and give them plenty of time to ask questions. It takes a few years, but over time... we have trained a good chunk of the team how to turn orders in correctly. There’s always a few of them that still like to “buck the system” and turn things in incomplete or late. I am fortunate to have a Director of Sales that will sit them down and remind them that our department is wearing multiple hats (producing for 6 stations), and that their “exception” gives us less time to produce spots. When it comes from their boss, they tend to pay attention a little closer! I also try to have an open door policy for them to come in and ask questions if they have them. It makes it hard to get work done sometimes (especially on Fridays when people are trying to get their weekend copy in), but I would rather have that then 20 calls on the weekend about missing spots.

Craig Allen [craig.allen[at]citcomm .com], Citadel Marketing Group, Saginaw, Michigan: We typically don’t talk to the newbies for the first 4-6 weeks. Not that we’re antisocial bastards (which we are from time to time), but they’re usually locked in a conference room watching training videos, or out on the road be mentored by a senior seller. After it appears that they may actually make it through the training/probation period, then Production starts talking to them.

What we try to teach them is uncovery, uncovery, uncovery. Oh yeah, and uncovery. Plus some more uncovery. Don’t give me “Who,” “What,” “Where,” and “When.” Give me “Why?” “Why should I go to your store?” “Why should I buy this from this manufacturer, and not the other one?” “Why is it important to have this item serviced every ___ months?” And the most important question, “Why should I (the listener) give my money to you (the client)?” (Did I mention we place a lot of stress on uncovery?)

It usually takes a good couple months to steer the newbies away from the family-owned, conveniently-located, our-people-make-the-difference cliché-filled crappy copy they want us to run.

The other thing we try to teach them is: TAKE US OUT WITH YOU!! Okay, so you don’t know what questions to ask the customer about his message. WE DO! That’s our job! Take us with you to meet the client. Or bring them here.

Oh, and the last thing I try to teach them is I can usually be bribed for the low, low price of a large pepperoni pizza. :-P

Drake Donovan [drake[at]drake donovan.com], WZPT/WDSY, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Here’s how we do it at CBS Radio-Pittsburgh. When new sellers are hired, our Sales Assistant sets up a day-long orientation for them. They’ll attend the morning meetings with the managers, and then spend the rest of their day visiting with the business office staff, promotions, web, and traffic, spending about 30 minutes with each department. Our Commercial Production Director and I (the imaging guy) usually get them after they’ve met with traffic and continue the description of the process. I introduce myself and tell them that, unless they have a sponsor on a promo I’ve produced, they’ll probably never deal with me again. Then I politely excuse myself to go back to my studio and do more “work.”

Richard Stroobant [bigdick[at] cjay92.com], CJAY 92/VIBE 98.5/Classic Country AM 1060, Calgary, Alberta, Canada: TRAIN NEW SALESPEOPLE? You gotta be kidding me! You can’t train new salespeople. I’ve found the best you can do is not give in to them, or you’re a doormat the rest of their time there. Show them whose boss right from the start. “Look, I don’t know where you came from, but THAT is not the way we do things around HERE,” is my favorite. They learn REAL fast not to mess around with Big Dick, or it’s a size 13 on their... Oh, sorry. I was day dreaming there. What was the question again? Train new salespeople? Right.

You know, the best approach for me is respect. Show them some and they tend to show it back. I will bail them out of a bind the first few times, BUT I will let them know I am going above and beyond for them. WHEN (and you’ll notice I say “when” and not “if”) they go overboard, it’s time to let the sharks (management) at ‘em. I wish we could have them for a day or even half a day in the studio, but the suits want the new blood to “make those cold calls,” and “pull in the new business.” Oh, I’ve been at this waaay too long.

Joey Cummings [joey[at]khjradio .com], 93KHJ, Pago Pago, American Samoa: I always take full advantage of the chance to show news salespeople around the studio. If they are first-timers, then it is really easy to amaze them with the technology and the toys. I play well written ads for them and tell them why they are good. Then I plan poorly written ads for them and explain why I don’t like them and why they will result in poor response for the client. Then I play them some station imaging that is well produced. Then I explain the difference between well-written and well-produced. An ad can be both but the former is preferred.

Our sales team is responsible for writing the initial drafts of their client’s ads. We then polish it as a team. After the inevitable first attempts filled with “for all your ______ needs” and other ad clichés, I send them to Dan O’Day’s Bad Commercial Generator online. They usually try a little harder after seeing that. It’s a process. In regards to deadlines, I just tell them to give me at least 24 hours notice. If I need a big gun to defend myself: “If you want it sooner, you should sit with me while I write and produce it... Oh, and I won’t be able to start on it until about 6:30 this afternoon. I know this is important to you, so you won’t have a problem staying late.” Nyuck nyuck nyuck.

Jim Harvill [JimHarvill[at]clear channel.com], Magic 107.9/KEZA, Fayetteville, Arkansas: With new salespeople, I think it helps to explain policies and procedures—both what they are and why we have them—and to do so in a way that’s relatable to them. (If your copy isn’t in on time, you’ll miss spots and that may mean money out of your pocket.) We try to schedule all new hires for an appointment with Production, Traffic, and all Program Directors. There’s no manual, but I do expect folks to take notes.

Andrew Frame [andrew[at]bafsound works.com], BAFSoundWorks, Lehigh Acres, Florida: We would simply try to help them understand that we weren’t the enemy,  and if they worked with us, they’d make money.

We’d go over the forms to use, show them what we do (push a few Cool Edit regions around on the screen), but not go into a ton of detail, because they were getting hammered with Too Much Information from the Sales Manglers.

When they’d bring us something to do, we’d invite them to walk through the process so they could see how we did our jobs - all of it relating to how they made their paycheck. We reminded them we protected that paycheck by providing many stop-gaps along the way. So a request for information wasn’t an attempt to be a pain, but rather, an attempt to make sure the job was done flawlessly so they could count on getting their commission.

We didn’t use a production manual, or even set deadlines, because those kinds of written rules went out the window with the first “emergency,” and when a dozen reps each have one or two “emergencies” a day, it’s all a moot point. So we did our best to roll with it.

As an independent now, I work with creative and account managers at agencies to develop a level of trust, so when a real “emergency” shows up, they know they don’t have to worry about the job. It will be done, and done right.

Doug Ferber [dferber[at]starmedia group.com]: As a former salesperson, I thought all it took to solidify the relationship between production and sales was a bottle of tequila and a case of Amstel light.

Johnny George [vo[at]johnnygeorge .com]: I have found through years of working with different sales teams there are a few things that must be done to make the Team Work truly work. Here’s the Top Ten:

1. Be sure your Sales Manager respects and supports your style of operating your production department. He/She is your best offensive weapon. Schedule mini-camps within their sales meetings twice a year at least, to bring them the latest and greatest updates from your department.

2. Educate your salespeople as soon as they begin working for your company. Be part of their orientation week. Let them SEE what you actually do. Most don’t even know what a digital editor is. Make it as complicated as you can to allow them to begin honoring you with unspeakable splendor.

3. Have a well-planned and specific Sales/Production Procedures manual prepared and handed out to your salespeople from Day 1. Cover all aspects and expectations clearly. Be sure your manual is also available on-line on the companies intra-net so you can update efficiently when necessary.

4. Your manual should cover time lines, deadlines, talent fees, procedures for specs, who’s responsible for follow-up with completed copy and client approval, etc.

5. Treating your salespeople with respect will certainly help breakdown the “US vs. THEM” mentality since you both need to work together for a common cause. Write or re-write their copy if you feel their script has missed the mark. You’ll be their hero.

6. It is advisable to orient them with your whole Prod. Dept. staff. Who does what? Who is responsible for what? Client session scheduling, etc. And make sure someone is always covering for each other. A salesperson going back to a sales manager saying they can’t find anyone in production just doesn’t make points.

7. Teach them how to sell your finished production to the client when they must get final approval. No more, “So... what do you want us to change?” You must make them want to sell it as the next best thing since sliced bread and make them as confident and proud of your work as you are (client and salesperson).

8. Work WITH your salesperson. If your salesperson is the initial contact with the client, be sure they bring you ALL the information about the client, their product and the client’s personality, plus level of advertising knowledge. Don’t let “The tail wag the dog.” Offer, when time allows, to go with the salesperson to SELL the final spot or for the initial meeting to get the whole taste of what’s being sold.

9. Teach them to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Emotional advertising is ten times more effective than “Best prices, knowledgeable staff and convenient locations.” Hopefully enough said.

10. Make them your friend. Make yourself invaluable to them. Mutual respect can go a long way and make your life and results a lot more effective and pleasurable. Begin your collection of gifts, trade and “Atta-Boy” recognition. They will remember you for your work, dedication and professionalism if you can make them a nice hefty commission check each week.

(Note: Johnny is the former CSD of Susquehanna Indianapolis and currently working on his own sales job toward gainful employment, thanks to the Cumulus buyout.)

Jim Thomas [commercials[at]wclo .com], WCLO/WJVL, Janesville, Wisconsin: “New” Salespeople? Wow! Actually, at WCLO/WJVL we’re in the unique position of having six of our eight AE’s that have reached the 6 year mark with the company. And four that are over ten years. The other two came to us (with no background in radio) in the last 3 years.

We don’t really have a “manual,” though our company has an Account Executive Standards and Objectives policy, and we are currently working on a Commercial Production Standards and Objectives policy.

So, for the seven years I’ve been writing copy and producing spots here, it’s been mostly a “teach on the fly” methodology. In their first week, each new salesperson gets to spend an hour with the front office (traffic & billing), the engineer, each of the two PDs, and finally, the copy/production department.

Most of the paperwork and deadline “daily grind” stuff is taught to them by our Sales Manager, and their individual ‘mentor’ (another one of our AE’s). For the most part, their is minimal friction, and I find the newer AE’s are more open to doing things a new way — coming in with no expectations of “we’ve always done it this way.”

I’ve also found that the best way to get along with AE’s is to cultivate respect. We know in smaller market radio that they have a tough job. All we need to do is show them how tough our end of the same job is, and work out a middle ground. (Hey, it COULD happen!)

Eric Bohlen [eric.bohlen[at]citcomm. com], Citadel Broadcasting, Knoxville, Tennessee: Here at Citadel Broadcasting Knoxville, we started doing something about 5 years ago that’s really become a useful learning tool for new salespeople. We call it “Production School,” and it takes about half a day to run through it. We usually try to group 2-5 new salespeople together (so depending on when they’re hired some could just be starting and others might have been here for a few weeks). “Production School” is taught in 3 different courses: Traffic, Continuity and Production. In the first course, the Traffic Director walks the new salespeople through the process of writing up contracts, checking avails, make goods, cancellations, etc. Then in the second course, the Continuity Director teaches the newbies about filling out a Production Order, deadlines, legal restrictions, the Missing Materials Report, etc. Finally, the Production Director brings all the new salespeople into the production room and shows them how a commercial is produced - from copywriting to producing a spot to making a revision. This final course also includes the importance of gathering good information from the client (including likes & dislikes), how to get a spot approved (and why copy approval is not only more important but actually better than production approval), production music choices (and how copyright comes into play), voices and availability of voices (including talent fees) and how we get and receive spots (email, DG, Fast Channel, SlingSpot, etc.). Afterward, there is a Q&A session.

Charlene Richardson [charlene richardson[at]clearchannel.com] Clear Channel, Los Angeles, California: Points to consider on station policies: Is there a staff copywriter? Are there deadlines in place? Are there rules about music and voices on the spots? Are there rules in place (company policy) that either are IN accord with or actually defy existing union and/or copyright laws? Policy Manual chapter on the workflow of the spot “from sales call to start switch,” when the spot airs.  Teach that the more current policy is not only REALLY “your way of thinking and doing things” but industry STANDARD, the better off for all. Giving time for creativity instead of intramural brawling over procedure!

Brian Wilson [wizman440[at]hotmail. com]: Usually it was blackmail and coercion, involving tried and true collegiate hazing tactics, chloroform and blackmail. Messy, but effective.

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