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The Advantage of Being the Smartest Kid in the Room

January 3, 2013

We all remember them from grade school. The kid who sat in the first row of the class and had all of the answers. Back then, these high achievers were often outcasts and their vast knowledge was looked down upon. 

But what can we learn from this group?

An overused motto is, “knowledge is power.” This is true in all industries, and is incredibly important in our industry.

The value of being the most knowledgeable salesperson in the market is tremendous. Being up-to-date on what is going on in your radio market is the first step. However, it cannot stop there. A good knowledge of our industry’s trends nationally allows you to speak globally. A practical understanding of the competitive media landscape makes you more than just a radio rep. A working knowledge of what advertisers are doing can transform you from a sales rep to a business partner. This transformation can lead to a more open and profitable relationship. Finally, educate yourself on your market and how it is transforming economically.

Like many tasks, the first step is building a plan. Be ready to talk about the local ratings report shortly after it is released. Make yourself the ratings expert. Gain access to web sites and periodicals that talk about competitive media and advertising trends. Absorb this information.

Finally, execute the plan. Take this information and communicate it to your clients and potential clients. Make sure it is conveyed in an effective, objective fashion. Remember, you are proving how smart you are, not what a great sales person you are. Be ready to answer your clients’ questions, but don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I will get back to you on it.” Wrong information can eliminate all of the good will that you are trying to build.

Done right, this will lead to higher sales, sustained over time.

Many programmers know their station, but you are not working in a vacuum. If your goal is to grow your ratings, you need to look beyond your station and understand your environment. While monitoring your competitors is important, that is only the first step. Visit the web sites of your competitors and similar stations in other markets. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Learn what they are doing right, and determine where they are vulnerable.

Just as important, get into the head of your audience – both your existing listeners and your potential audience. What are they thinking about, and what is important to them? Also, how is your market changing? Every year Arbitron updates the population of your market. The first step is to track that change. Is the population shifting (demographically, ethnically, geographically) in a way that will impact your station?

Like the sales plan, this cannot be done on an ad hoc basis. Build a plan to track these things. Then communicate them to your team. Let your promotions team understand what is important to your potential audience. Brief your on-air team so they can be more relevant to your listeners.

While sales people need to show their knowledge to outsiders, a programmer needs to communicate this to his internal team. Showing them how smart you are will build their respect for you and, if executed properly, lead to higher ratings.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner