Forums » The Round Table: Brainstorming & Problem-solving

Setting Up Sales

    • 1 posts
    September 11, 2018 9:54 AM PDT

    I'm a new station owner from a programming/ops background. Through a series of fortunate events, I became the owner/operator of a station in a seasonal and very beautiful vacation/arts colony market. I'll outline some of the benefits and challenges of this unique scenario below. I believe in this station, the programming, and the value it has already shown to have for the listeners. My challenge not having a sales background is setting up a sales department, and welcome any advice or thoughts on next steps. I'm reaching the limits of my knowledge, and not afraid to admit that there's gaps in my knowledge about this aspect of the business.

    The station is a full C class, great signal, and the only commercial station in the county. It's never been locally programmed - it was a simulcast of a larger market station for two decades. The signal covers about 12,000 year round, and the population surges in summers. We have a lot of great, unique local businesses but there's never been radio advertising sold to them. We share the dial with a block programmed "community" station that is atypically strong. It was the first "local" station and people love it and support it passionately. However, the listeners have also welcomed our full time music format. I can support with texts and call logs the fact that we get out far beyond our Radio Locator map and have a solid listener base.

    The challenges include the seasonality of the market, and the fact that most locals have never been sold radio. Some do buy underwriting on the community station, and there's a reasonably healthy weekly newspaper. It's also a very "moneyed" county given that 80 percent of the property tax revenue here is second homes.

    I'm not sure if my rates are right (I adapted them from a comparable sized market) and I'm struggling to find a sales manager or reps. I'm a seasonal resident myself, so I can't be there full time doing the "politicking" required. Our unemployment rate is extremely low, which is great, but doesn't help me find capable people. I've got a clear picture of what I need to make, and I'm realistic about it. I want to make a living and preserve the service, because people do value it and it's a great community. I believe it can be sustainable. But I can't get from A to B right now. Where do I start? Are there consultants that will take a look at my market and stations and help me put together something I can at least give advertisers? What's the next step?

    This post was edited by Matthew Butler at September 11, 2018 10:06 AM PDT
    • 2 posts
    September 12, 2018 9:05 AM PDT

    Matthew Butler,

    I may have some ideas for you but would first ask a couple of questions.  If you care to discuss, please e mail me or mssg me via RSC and we can look for solutions. 

    Kosta P.


  • September 14, 2018 6:16 AM PDT

    Start with developing a media kit that you can give to prospective advertisers.  The media kit should have photos of you, your station and definitely your logo should be on EVERYTHING.  The media kit should consist of station info, format, demographics and your rate sheet.  I would be happy to share our media kits with you to help get you started.

    If you don't have car magnets with your station's logo, get some.  They are inexpensive and they work to increase your visibility.

    Be sure to keep your station's Facebook page current and engaging.  Invite everyone to "like" you on Facebook.  Sharing community events, etc. will help you get more visibility.

    If you haven't already, join your local chamber of commerce! They are a good resource for identifying your first round of target advertisers. If it is a small chamber, there may be part-time employees who have great people skills.  You could find one person who needs to pick up a second gig.  A part-time 'people' person, even if they don't have a strong sales background, will help you get started making advertiser contacts. 

    Offer a trade with the chamber, giving them free event promotion in exchange for a booth and your logo on their marketing materials.

    Your local newspaper might have part-time sales people who would welcome the opportunity to jump ship and sell radio.  They already know the business community and they know how to sell.  Print is different from air, but it's a short learning curve.  Our top sales person came to us from our local newspaper.

    Have several pricing tiers available for each product you will offer.  For example, if you offer a "Sales Improvement Plan", have an aggressive package with lots of :30 spots, then have a middle package with less spots and a small package for those who just want to dip their toes into the radio market.  Be sure to offer free spots that run off-peak (buy 2 day spots and get 1 overnight spot).  Value-added products are more attractive to advertisers.

    Buy a 6' table, a tent canopy and participate in all local chamber events.  The more visible you are in the community, especially during peak season, the more value you project to advertisers.  Give away frisbees or t-shirts with your logo on them.  (Trade with a local screen printer for the t-shirts).  Potential advertisers want to see you engaging with their prospective customers.

    Negotiate a trade with a great local restaurant.  They give you meal vouchers to give away to listeners and you run the equivalent $ in ads for them.  Other restaurants hear their competitors on the air and they'll want in.  The restaurant involved in the trade may get a new customer, but will almost always get cash in addition to the face value of their voucher.  People tend to add an appetizer and/or dessert if their meal is free.

    We also trade with local golf courses, spas and theatres to get prizes to give away.  It's a win-win for advertisers and the radio station.

    Our top advertisers in terms of dollars spent are Plumbing/HVAC contractors, realtors, and a retirement home.  Restaurants don't spend big bucks, but they do offer consistent revenue.

    Good luck!

    Terri B


    • 28 posts
    September 14, 2018 7:38 AM PDT

    Matthew - 

    I was in Ely last year putting together a show for America Outdoors Radio.  The advice from Terri B about partnering with your Chamber is good advice because you have a great Chamber of Commerce!  BTW...If you are looking for weekend programming let me know.  You've got a whole bunch of resorts and guides in your region and I'm sure some of them would be interested in sponsoring one or more outdoors radio shows!  Also wishing you the best - 


    John Kruse



    • 71 posts
    September 14, 2018 7:49 AM PDT

    Hi Matthew,

    I went from on air and programming in to sales and was terrified. Luckily I had a good teacher.

    The thing that stuck in my head was to go out and make friends. Then work for your friend's continued success. You did that by asking business owners about their business, making notes and figuring paths that would lead them to at minimum sustaining if not improving their situation. I always asked them how much they could afford to spend on a monthly basis. I'd bring them a customized plan for that dollar amount based on what I had learned about their business. The important thing to remember is you have to visit them at least 5 to 8 times so they establish a relationship and level of trust they need to say yes to you.

    As for rates, you can look at a similar market but that's not that accurate. Grab the paper and monitor that community station. Have someone get the rate card from the paper and the Underwriting Rates. Then you will know exactly what the businesses spend. Keep a log of that spending as it will reveal trends. Your trick is to offer comparable reach and value as your competitors. In short, your rates are dependent on providing the same value as the other media for the same dollars. I have found cheaper is interpreted as 'less' and too expensive as offering less results for more dollars. If you can be perceived as an equal among your competitors, you have a level playing field and then can build on that rate by outshining competitors on results in time.

    Do not dismiss the power of the client's voice on the commercial. Some do.  The truth is a client has a really hard time cancelling themselves. In their brain, it is a sign of failure.

    As for potential salespeople, I'll share this reality: you can never afford the best but if you offer a living wage the right personality can do well. Try for a people person as mentioned and by all means let the salespeople at the paper know you're looking. A good person might be a nurse or teacher. Both occupations require a certain level of strength in dealing with people and good communication skills. Both tend to be compassionate, a really nice quality a business owner spots and appreciates. They tend to be honest and demonstrate candor.

    Finally, consider sales meetings, brainstorming ideas and weekly planner just as you would an aircheck session with your jocks. Only good comes out of this. An annual calendar of promotions with a sales start date and end date assures you never miss dollars.

    Have patience. Sales never happen as quickly as you want. Sales is a war. You never get to a cease fire. You merely prepare to win battles day by day. And you will win some.

    Feel free to get in touch. I'll be happy to share anything I can. 

    Bill Turner

    • 12 posts
    September 14, 2018 12:21 PM PDT

    I suggest a consultant, you really have your hands full with everything you are already doing. I've gone through the offerings of Sales Manager Now ( and their offerings are excellent. Without a Sales Department, you don't have revenue, so it's critical to do it right. I've worked in small market sales for over ten years and it's easy to burn through a bunch of new salespeople, which is really bad for the station's reputation in the community. Business owners don't like talking to three different reps in six months! Having sales management keeps your salespeople on task!

    As far as hiring goes, if you're lucky enough to find someone with more than two years selling advertising (in any media), hire them. If they made it two years selling, they know how to close sales. If not, choose people with great relationship skills, that's what keeps your clients coming back. Make sure you are hiring diverse people that represent your community, so they can relate to their potential clients. In small markets, a person who has lived there, have/had kids in school, is involved in the community is a good possibility. They already have ties in the community, which in a small place, helps a lot.

    Offer some kind of support/training in the creative arena. I create campaigns and copy for my clients, without my creative ideas, I wouldn't have very many clients. Creative campaigns sell clients on your station. If you have a creative department, great, make sure the salespeople connect with them!

    Successful salespeople can be an unruly, competitive bunch, this is why management is so important. Specific territories, deadlines, and goals need to be enforced by management. Compensation is important, this is a primary motivator for many salespeople, so make sure your compensation structure rewards your achievers!