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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 4 years ago

Radio days

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AJ Lurie says people who sell radio advertising inevitably go through dry spells. Here's how they stay motivated.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

Here's the thing about radio advertising sales: Even the best salespeople hit a rough patch that could last as long as three months.

Just ask AJ Lurie, the winner of the sales manager of the year award for Beasley Broadcast Group. Headquartered in Naples, the company owns 44 radio stations in 11 markets.

Lurie, 31, is director of sales for six radio stations in the Fort Myers and Naples area. Lurie was selected to win the sales manager award based on performance against budget, performance against the market and cash flow for the year. He oversees a staff of 12 people.

Lurie says it takes about three months from the time someone makes a sale until a radio spot airs. He likes to cite a statistic that 80% of sales are made on the fifth to 12th contact.

To help manage the sales process, Beasley uses a software system called Efficio. It tells sales people how well they're pacing against their goals and reminds them to make follow-up calls.

However, Lurie says he doesn't use the software to track his employees' every move. “We don't use it as a babysitting tool,” he says.

And it's not about being pushy. “You've got to make friends,” Lurie says. One secret: “A lot of the gatekeepers listen to our station,” he says.

Lurie is blunt when counseling new employees: “You don't make money in your first year.”

Inevitably, salespeople will hit a rough patch, which is why part of the compensation for sales at Beasley is team-based. “It's a roller coaster,” Lurie says. “When someone's down, we want to bring them up.”

Another way to encourage people is to create goals, no matter how small. For example, one goal might be to make three new appointments every day. “Small wins lead to big wins,” Lurie says. “You have to have goals. Everybody loves winning.”

Of course, incentives always help salespeople stay motivated to win. Beasley often does that by using trades it does with customers. “Very rarely do we give out cash,” Lurie says.

For example, it might exchange advertising airtime with a resort for vouchers for hotel stays, which it then hands out as a reward to a salesperson. Lurie says employees would rather get a stay at a resort in Orlando worth $1,500 than $100 in cash. “People love that stuff,” he says. “It helps us out a lot.”

One of the challenges of media is selling new services such as website advertising. But Lurie tells his salespeople it's another opportunity to grow the business. “Pitch new things,” he says. “That's how you get out of your comfort zone.”

Each salesperson has about 20 to 25 clients, on average. If that seems low, Lurie says that's because 70% of the contracts renew month-to-month and salespeople closely monitor the results of customers' advertising and tweak the strategy to make sure it works. Besides, since the recession it's unusual for customers to sign up for an annual contract anymore.

“Advertising is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Lurie. “You're not going to get results overnight.”

Sales Tips
Make friends with the gatekeepers. “Crack the ice,” says Lurie. For example, a photo on a desk might spark a friendly conversation or some humor might bring a smile that can get you to the decision maker.

Don't be pushy. Use your own experience as a guide: “I'd much rather buy something than be sold,” Lurie says.

Deal with rejection. “You have to have thick skin,” says Lurie, who cites statistics showing that it takes at least eight contacts with a person to make a sale. “You have to get back on that horse.”

Work hard. “I'm the first in and the last to leave every day,” Lurie says.

Keep learning. Looking back, Lurie says he would have taken more digital-media courses in college. “Learn more and get out of your comfort zone,” he says. “Pitch new things.”

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