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What do Fedex and your sales have in common?

The organization of any reasonably complex process, from a remote broadcast at a car lot to the delivery of 20 million packages a day around the world relies on a combination of two things: a system or process that can be relied upon to cover the basics of the process in most situations, and enough competent, empowered and resourced individuals to alter the system as needed to cope with the unexpected.

Unfortunately, the simplicity of that explanation belies the extreme difficulty required to achieve those two basic requirements. Setting up reliable, robust, flexible organizational systems that work automatically is fiendishly difficult. Finding enough competent, empowered individuals and managing to provide them with everything they need to do their jobs properly is perhaps even harder.

When we realize this, it becomes clear in fact how few things are organized, managed and run extremely efficiently and well. The examples in our lives of things not working quite right far outnumber the processes that go completely without a hitch. Indeed, this is where the mythical doublethink about 'customer service' in advertising comes from; companies realize that most people get reasonably frustrated most of the time with the products and services of the majority of companies, large and small. So, all companies constantly jostle to position themselves as having 'superior' customer service. Simultaneously, the more they talk about it, the less we believe any of them because our real-life experiences are so different.

There are of course, notable exceptions. I remember clearly being in Hong Kong at the opening of that city's brand new International Airport. To put this example into perspective you should know that that airport remains to this day the single largest civil engineering project in the history of the planet. An entire mountain was demolished and the rock used to build an island in the middle of the sea, on which the airport was built, connected to the mainland by one of the world's largest suspension bridges, one of the longest undersea train tunnels, miles of highway and on and on. Plus, it was all done in under seven years. However, on opening day they ran into a few snafus.

Or, to put it bluntly, practically nothing worked - the information displays didn't come on, the escalators had no power, deliveries didn't arrive, there was little food, no water, flights were delayed, with two exceptions. A tiny MacDonald's was the only food outlet working. they had their own power, their own supplies, their own systems - and they were feverishly cranking out fries for lines of hungry people a mile long. And the FedEx planes were landing and taking off - unloading and loading with a calmness that seemed almost surreal.

It should be noted that within three days the entire place was working like a charm and that airport is possibly the nicest and most efficient place to get on or off a plane in the world. But on that opening day, the power of reliable, practised, fool-proof systems was clear.

The point of all this is to make clear what our expectations are. We build icons out of corporations and efficiently suited business people, but the reality is usually completely different. What do you think happened during this recent financial bank crisis. All these brokers and bankers who were supposed to be in charge of all our money; what happened?

Are these people particularly incompetent? Are they the exception to the rule? Of course not. Competence is rare. Efficiency is rare. Reliability is rare. Taking responsibility without being forced is rare, even at the highest levels. Having empathy is rare. Finding people who will simply do everything they said they would, exactly as they said it, is, unfortunately, rare.

Talking about efficiency and service and reliability and understanding is, however, all too common.

I am convinced that most of the really good salespeople I have ever met have achieved much simply by being competent, reliable, efficient and trustworthy. They have been successful because they truly do care about the outcome and they realize that they have a direct influence over whether something works or not.

Plus, they have systems; systems for prospecting, systems for cold-calling and presenting, regular servicing methods. They track their own performance and productivity and work constantly on improving the areas they are least good at. (Of course, if you use Connect Premium, you can have your own system too...)

By creating these simple advantages, such people stand out above the crowd. Clients come to recognize their abilities immediately, and actually enjoy doing business with them. They provide a welcome contrast to almost all other businesses the client comes into contact with. Clients will buy advertising from you for many reasons - not all of them directly related to the promotional power of your station. Displaying your efficiency, reliability and understanding is a benefit you can be fairly sure your competition will be lacking.

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