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Grow and Control Your Billing – It’s Back to Basics

January 15, 2015

When most operators look at their business, they come to the conclusion, “It’s nothing that more revenue won’t solve.” True enough, sustained growth of revenue can alleviate many business problems. However, most broadcasters look at their present revenue and come to the conclusion that flat is the new up. It appears that this is even truer in the major markets.

So why is this?

While it is an oversimplification to focus on a single cause, a major contributor to this dilemma is an overreliance on transactional business. When a broadcaster’s inventory is being filled with local agency buys and orders from the national rep, it is easy to ignore local direct business, even more so in major markets because it is often challenging to justify major market rates to a local retailer with limited geographic appeal.

But just because it is difficult does not mean it shouldn’t be a focus of the sales team. If done properly, local direct business can be more rewarding and consistent than transactional revenue. The key is to do it properly.

Focus on the Right Prospects: Know where your radio station’s appeal is. Who are your listeners, and what are their buying characteristics? Most importantly, for smaller retailers, do your listeners reside in their retail trading area? By taking this first step, a sales rep will not waste valuable time calling on inappropriate prospects. Also, don’t be afraid to go outside of the standard radio categories. If a particular industry generally hasn’t used radio in the past, maybe they just need to be exposed to the value of radio advertising.

Know the Prospect Before the First Appointment: Like many businesspeople, time may be the most valuable resource for your prospect. After that first appointment is set, learn as much as you can about the prospect. Do your homework! This is Sales 101, but we are surprised at how often this step is skipped. Learn what drives your prospect’s industry, and what makes their business tick. Not only does this make you better prepared, but it also shows the prospect you are not just another sales rep; you’re ready to build a partnership.

Build an Appropriate Plan: The first plan presented to the prospect is the most important. Done right, it shows that you have thought about real business solutions for this prospect, not just another spot schedule with the mandatory digital element tossed in. Most importantly, this plan, executed properly, will lead to positive results for the client. This, in turn, leads to return business and a predictable revenue stream.

Be More Than a Radio Rep: While your compensation is based on selling your services, it benefits you to become a true consultant and help the client (no longer a prospect) navigate through the world of marketing. Get them to rely on you as an expert, and you become a valued partner rather than just another vendor.

Continually Follow up: The sale only begins when you close the first order. Regular follow-ups are critical. When a campaign is working, you can reinforce that. However, if a campaign is not hitting the mark, then your presence can help minimize the pain. It also gives you a chance to address any issues before they become a problem, and make crucial adjustments.

Ironically, these are the steps that many rookie salespeople took to break into the business. However, as they succeeded, their focus swayed to the more prestigious transactional business. Building a long-term relationship with direct clients by becoming their marketing advisor is the key to a successful base of direct business.

In 2015, direct business can mean the difference between a great year and another year of struggling because the transactional business “just wasn’t there.” It is hard work to grow this portion of the pie, but history has shown that the long-term benefits are tremendous.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner