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Weathering the Storm – A Sales Perspective

April 1, 2020

In recent weeks, Research Director, Inc. has written blogs on the importance of marketing during an economic downturn. We have also written about companies that advertised during the 1929 Great Depression and how that led to long-term success.

Now, we have interviewed a selection of professionals who oversee sales teams in order to understand how they are handling the present crisis with both their employees and their advertisers.

Jeff Hill – Vice President of Sales, Cumulus Chicago

“I think the two key words are communication and empathy. This is voiced to our salespeople every day. They need to communicate with their clients and not be afraid to have a business conversation, even with those that need to cancel. All of our salespeople need to show empathy to those clients who are suffering, but remember that clients need more than ever a creative solution to today’s environment. We expect the same of our management team, which I am part of, as our salespeople. This is not the time to beat up salespeople over pending business. We need to communicate with them, and show them the same empathy that we expect them to show their clients. I honestly believe that, when times are good, you put the pedal to the metal. When times are tough, you ease off the accelerator.

As far as revenue, we are looking for creative ways to get value out of our inventory, while still helping our clients. Restaurants offer a special opportunity. We are back in the business of trading inventory for restaurant gift cards, and then selling them to our listeners at a discount. Everyone wins. The client gets advertising with no cash outlay, our listeners get a great deal, and the station gets revenue for inventory that might have gone unused.”

Samuel Tatum, Jr. – Director of Sales & Solutions, Radio One Washington, DC

“As a sales leader, it is important that we give our people emotional support and empathy. Help them to understand that we are in this together. There is so much uncertainty and they are looking to management for leadership and guidance. We try to give them understanding and a reassuring voice. Management needs to be open and fully transparent so that your people don’t feel like they are alone in this. Presently we see that cancellations and revisions are slowing down, and that is encouraging. Communication is key in times like this.

For advertisers, the best and worst are revealed during a time in crisis. I truly believe that, when we come out of this, those we help now will remember this in the future. We need to communicate, understand, and come up with unique solutions. We are a company that started with the community and we take this position extremely seriously. We are helping them out in numerous ways. This includes helping rewrite copy to make it more relevant to the current climate. As far as present business, this is typically a strong time for our sports station. That business is down because of the elimination of events. Conversely, on our inspirational station, we have expanded our block programming to local churches that needed new ways to reach their congregation. It is a unique solution to a problem. They are grateful for this … and it is helping to lift our community.”

Julio B. Aponte, Jr. – Chief Operating Officer, Sun Broadcast Group

“As our ad sales team continues to work remotely, we need to be cognizant that people work differently remotely than in the office. We are being flexible with work schedules. Understanding this, and being sensitive to their needs, helps us keep a productive environment; this builds a “win/win” situation. Our staff and their families are our number one priority. I am happy to inform you that we haven’t missed a “step” with our sales team and our sales planning. The traffic and marketing departments are working at full speed. Our sales team continues to handle the needs of our agencies and all their activities.

As important during this time, our sales team must be respectful and sensitive to the needs of the agencies. For all our accounts, this is the time to be a real partner. Our salespeople are empowered to be strong allies for our agencies/advertisers, and to do what is needed to help them out. Sun Broadcast Group is all about helping agencies and their accounts adjust under these circumstances with concrete timely solutions. We are flexible, doing whatever is necessary to get through this period. Our primary responsibilities are to our radio audience and our advertisers. We have to deliver relevant and fresh information, and quality entertainment. All of this needs to be respectful and acknowledge new advertising sensitivities.

This includes speed to market to take care of the needs of our agencies and accounts. We are proud of this relationship and communication. When they are asking for something special, our salespeople have the power to make a decision and deliver it, quickly.

What do you need to see you through this? We need to continue doing the right thing, to be there for our audience, partners, the agencies, and their accounts. This is part of our existing relationship. It will get stronger as we get through this challenging time together. I can tell you that this is truly appreciated by the agencies and advertisers.

As far as business, some verticals have stayed strong, including insurance, recruitment, pharmacies, and food delivery (cereals). Some new categories such as home office supplies and especially those that do delivery are generating new dollars. National civic services are staying active. The home entertainment category can benefit from advertising on the radio, getting our audience to tune in to their programming; a direct benefit to growing their market share. We are hoping that all of our partners/advertisers come back sooner than later. This will be helpful for their business and for the peace of mind for our audience.

Sun Broadcast Group is especially proud of our programs, shows, and personalities that are on the air. Jay Bailey, president of SBG, and I are very pleased with the commitment of our personalities for continuing to produce live and relevant programming. They are a major force in communities at the local, regional, and national level. Their companionship keeps some normalcy in the lives of the Sun radio audience.”

Three different perspectives, but with tremendous similarities.

Please comment below with your thoughts and ideas for helping your team and your advertisers navigate this unusual and unfamiliar time.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner