Q It Up: What procedures does your production department go through when new salespeople come on board? Do you have an orientation meeting? Maybe have them spend a few hours in the studio with you? Do you hand them a “production manual”? Or do you just train as you go? Please add any further comments/advice you may have on the subject! And feel free to comment on procedures at previous jobs.
Jim Yelton, KWWR/KXEO, Mexico, MO: This Q It Up question really hit a sweet spot for me, and I'm going to come at it from a different angle than you are probably expecting. I am the brand new Creative Services Director at my station and have been in the building less than a few weeks. So, the "orientation" process has been a very two-way street as I get used to the demands of a new station and the sales team gets used to my own way of doing things as well as my level of experience, abilities, and creativity.
Luckily, we are all very good at communicating, and station management is instituting more frequent sales meetings. I don't like using a "manual" and feel like it is best to have a very collaborative relationship with the sales team, especially since we are in a smaller market, yet our listening area has a very large footprint. So, it is much easier for me to use one on one time with salespeople to communicate what we can do with audio production that they haven't been used to, and things that they should be pushing to their advantage during sales calls. And the more frequent meetings allow me a chance to hit the entire group with ideas, spec pitches, or even just lay out some knowledge about what works and what doesn't in a radio spot.
It has been a very interesting and invigorating couple of weeks as I get adjusted to this new position. The sales team has been great, and I am continuing to find new ways to introduce them to the wide range of possibilities available with our creative and production capabilities.
Steve Wein, KTRS, St. Louis, MO: I fully believe that any new salesperson coming on board needs to understand how the programming side of the radio station operates. When I started out in 1969, most salespeople once worked on the programming side. They switched to sales when they noticed the nicer cars in the parking lot were driven by salespeople. In switching from the programming to the sales side, they had a fundamental understanding of the internal organization of most radio stations and how radio interacts with the listener. Now, it seems, most who sell radio time used to sell cars, cellphones, or had other job descriptions that have nothing to do with radio.
So, for the past couple of decades, when I meet a new salesperson for the first time, I give them a Production Manual that I've updated through the years as technology has changed. It covers "How To Write a Good Spot", complete with the reasons why good writing is the foundation of effective advertising. I include copy of spots I've written that has won various awards, as well as shit copy that are just words thrown on a page filled with clichés and poor sentence structure.
I also make them fill out traffic orders and production orders, then take them physically to Traffic, then Production so they can understand the process that their paperwork goes through. This also reinforces the reasoning as to why ALL the necessary lines need to be filled out so the job is done properly and what the client expects gets on the air without any problems. And sitting in production as I record, edit, and mix the finished product enlightens them as to the processes we use translating a production order into a finished spot.
I also stress to the new salesperson the meaning of the terminology we use in radio so they understand what is meant by "dubbing a spot", "carting it up" (even though it's all digital!), and so forth.
From my experience, an organized operation is a smooth operation, with the side benefit of less stress and conflict due to mistakes and misinterpretation of what needs to be done.
Andrew Frame, BAFSoundWorks: I have to preface this with, "Back in the day..." of course, now being a self-employed curmudgeon.
Most of the time, we'd not know there was a new rep until we got the first order with an unknown name, or passed someone in the corridor and was off-handedly introduced.
On rare occasion, a new rep would sit with each department for an hour or so (or until everyone got bored, or seriously backed up on work) and make nice conversation.
Even though I was supposed to come up with a "procedure" list, I stopped that foolishness once I realized that nothing I wrote would be stuck to in normal daily operations since every owner/GM tagged every order as an "exception".
That said, many reps, both rookie and experienced, would drop by after a few days and introduce themselves, and we could have a nice chat. I'd ask them of previous experience, and if they had any kind of production style preferences that would support their particular selling style.
Then I'd ask them what the other reps had "warned" them about the grumpy guy in the production room, and try to clarify those comments.
So, I'd have to say "train as you go" was the SOP during my years in the box. The more I'd come out to the pit and talk to the reps, usually the better we'd get along. If I stayed isolated and didn't play nice-nice politics, there seemed to be more complaints and issues.
Dave Stalker, Combined Communications, Bend, OR: In the past year or so, we have had 5 people join our Sales Team. Because we use an electronic Production Order form that runs on a Microsoft Sharepoint server, I give each of them an orientation on what they need to fill out and why. The form is very flexible with many options, so I like them to see what works best. We discuss the goal of completing orders in 4 days... 2 days to write, 2 days to produce, and all the variables that cause that timetable to flex.
I also spend time on explaining what I call "my process": the steps I take with each order. I do this because I've found that if you follow the process step-by-step, you get consistently better results for the salesperson and the client, and fewer revisions for the production department.
The big variable in my 5 new sales reps is the level of experience they had when they arrived. Four of them came from a larger metro organization, so with them it's just a matter of explaining how the process differs from what they were used to -- little things that can be huge for the salesperson, like the fact that I am the main writer of commercial copy. Many salespeople are expected to write their own copy, but have no formal training in how to write effectively, much less write creatively.
The other new hire came directly out of college with zero experience in radio. He got the regular orientation, and the rest is OJT... learning with each new project.
Once they all fill out some Prod Orders, the mechanics are no big deal, and we can focus on the creative process for their clients.
Scott Shafer, iHeartMedia, Waco, TX: Usually the sales rep will go thru a training process that includes an online course, followed by sitting in with each department -- traffic, production, etc. -- to get a feel for what each department does and is responsible for. At that time, the departments can educate them and answer any questions the sales reps have on filling out traffic and production orders. Often times... it's an on-going process.
Michael Shishido, 94.7 KUMU, Honolulu, HI: One of these days I'm going to put together a manual for new AEs so they have the proper perspective on production.
I don't know how many times I've said that. It still hasn't happened.
Our sales managers are good about making newbie AEs talk to all the department heads to get their take on their respective areas. I usually sit down with them for half an hour or so and give them my spiel about how things should be and how they inevitably are. So for me it's a train as you go situation.
A couple of things I do tell them is the same thing I tell anyone new to radio:
1) There's no such thing as a silly question, unless you ask it 5 times. Then we're dealing with another issue.
2) Become a student of the business. You'll be a better AE if you know how all the departments work, and how radio works in general -- from the front desk to the GM's office.
3) For new AEs, if there's anything I tell you that's contradictory with what your sales managers tell you, then listen to your manager.
I haven't brought new AEs into the production flow so they can see how it works. It slows things down, but I like that idea for them to gain an appreciation for what goes into commercial production.
Jay Sawyer, WAGQradio.com: We try to find retired radio salespeople and give them an environment to grow. We also look for people retiring or who are finished with the Real Estate world who still have strong sales skills and a great knowledge of the city and surrounding areas. We looked at a third option of hiring attractive pharma sales ladies who want to make some extra money or work with us full time. It's difficult to say "no" to a young pretty face who has a great product to sell and a very reasonable price/sales point.
Nilo Gomes, Maxi Studio, Produções & Multimidia, São Luis- Brazil: When we receive a new seller in our production department one of the first things we present for them is the guidelines of our company and then a manual of guidelines and recommendations so that it is always supported by our rules, working mechanisms and objectives as a place of business.
Dave Savage, iHeartMedia Creative Studio: Bringing a new AE up to speed is important if you’re going to have a good working relationship. I mean no disrespect to any salesperson, and I don’t mean to imply they act like children (at least in most cases), but it really is like parenting. You need to stay disciplined and consistent if you are going to gain their respect. If the rules and procedures are not followed, there will be consequences. Of course they won’t lose video game privileges, but their client’s spot may not start when it is supposed to.
If they are new to radio, you need to explain the basics like what dubs and tags are. But even if they’ve sold radio before, they need to know your procedures. I find it best to have an outline you can hand them or email to them so they can refer to it after your initial meeting. Once they make their first few local direct sales, they need a little extra hand-holding, not only to help them along but so you can gauge their work ethic and patterns. If they are waiting until the last minute to turn in the prod order, they’re sketchy on details or just flat out lazy, you can nip that right off the bat.
In any work or life situation, communication is key, and the sales/production relationship is no different. The sooner you can start communicating with the new AEs, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
Kat Morgan Gaines, Sound Café, The E.W. Scripps Company, Springfield, MO: Ah, the proper care & feeding of salespeople! If you take the time, it pays off for everyone involved. Our cluster's onboarding process for all new full-timers their first week includes setting appointments with each department head & other key people. These are more personal meetings - quick introductions to you, your role at the station, your goals with the dept., etc. I'll give them a copy of the Production Guide to the Galaxy at this meeting, but we don't go into details yet; it's more for them to read ahead as training prep.
I work closely with our Traffic Director, who's also the manager for our corporate traffic hub and brilliantly organized when it comes to training. Once they've had their first Traffic orientation, we'll schedule their first Production 101 orientation. This is where we go through the manual in depth. EVERYTHING is in the book - all policies, deadlines, resources, illustrated how-to guides, color-coded vCreative cheat sheets, calendars, glossary, FAQs. About the only thing that isn't in there is my recipe for gumbo. (Sorry, family secret.) Two weeks later, we'll review production order questions & tips once they've had time to submit a few.
Depending on their level of progress, we'll schedule refreshers once a month for the next 3 months to cover different areas like copywriting, sitting through a production session, creative training and all the rest. Obviously, the full curriculum's meant more for someone who's brand new to the game. But even AEs with past radio experience go through at least the initial orientation so they can learn our particular procedures here.
[And last but not least…] From Whatshisname: The problem isn’t sales, its management and the evolution of radio sales.
“They” are no longer account executives that give a shit about each and every one of their clients, building relationships and results… but Time Brokers -- selling in increments of 60, 30, 15, 10 and the occasional 30 minute program block.
Because of the change in sales dynamics, they don’t check nor give a shit what runs on the air, but just the fact that something is there and they sold it. We could talk about this for days and the unintended consequences that come with this approach to radio advertising. They might as well be selling shoes.
There are of course a few exceptions, but as far as I’m concerned, the people that read this Magazine along with many others are the reason “most sales folks” have or still have a career.
Thanks to all who responded. Your input is valuable and appreciated. If you have a question you’d like to see posed to the RAP Q It Up panel, email it to