Regardless of your title, If you work in commercial radio, you’re probably in sales

“We are all in sales” Those are the words of international sales consultant and trainer Pat Bryson, president of Bryson Broadcasting International. Bryson, who is also a contributor to “Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age,” stresses, the importance of understanding sales to secure your job in broadcasting – If you work on the programming side, how much do you know about sales?  Do you know and understand how the money comes in? Here, in an exclusive interview with Valerie Geller, Bryson shares ideas on what you need to know about sales and selling.

VG: What are the specific challenges faced by sales teams that PDs or talk show or even some edgy music hosts are not aware of?

PB: Many talk and entertainment show hosts are polarizing: you love them or you hate them, but you listen. This creates listeners, but it also can create an environment where our clients get calls from listeners threatening to pull their business from those clients if they continue to advertise on those controversial shows. It’s not unusual for the sales staff of News/Talk stations to receive calls like these weekly. Some News/Talk stations skew older. The main buying demos today area Adults 25-54 or Adults 18-49. If the audience of the News/Talk station does better Adults 35-64 or is heavily weighted 55+, this can provide a challenge to meet the CPP’s (cost per points) dictated by the agencies.

VG: Do you encourage hosts and producers to go on sales calls?

PB: Hosts can be helpful on sales calls and provide the “star factor” that can be important in attracting potential clients. The sales person should be mindful of prepping the show host on the political or religious views of the client so the host can steer clear of and potential land mines encountered during the meeting.

VG: How can producers and news help bring money into the station (to help insure their jobs?)

PB: Be on the lookout for new businesses coming into the area or changes to current businesses. Pass leads along to the sales managers who can distribute to their staffs. Many times, producers and news people have access to important community leaders. They can be the liaison for the sales people with these leaders.

VG: How can hosts, news staffs, PDs and producers help the sales team?

PB: Communicate with them. Let the sales team know in advance show topics, live interviews and guests. There may be tie-ins with some of these topics- clients the sales team can sell around the topic or idea.  Both sides of the hall need to work together. The sales team might also hear of topics of interest to the community that they may share with the news teams. The important thing to remember is that every member of the staff is in sales. Also, every member of the staff should be involved in gathering information. If the news staff plans to air controversial stories about current clients, a “heads up” to the sales staff would be appreciated.  Sales cannot, nor should not, dictate story content, but it’s helpful to have advance warning before critical stories break to let the sales team to prepare for the onslaught of calls from irate clients. Programmers should understand that these types of stories can lead to cancellations by these clients.

VG: What are some sales basics that everyone should be aware of?

PB: Sales is a process. It involves:

1.Finding qualified prospects 

2.Understanding the world of that client, their needs and objectives 

3.Crafting campaigns designed to meet those needs and objectives. 

Our job, at the radio station, is to deliver interested consumers into the doors of our clients. If we get a call from a listener who has heard part of a commercial, but not all of it, we should be able to direct that listener to the correct client. If you give your receptionist an updated list of your current advertisers – to help to provide any missing information. Our financial health depends on producing results for our clients.

VG: How can radio monetize digital media? And what is Non-traditional Revenue?

PB: Radio is in a unique position to monetize new media and non-traditional revenue. If we have the staff available we can create relevant content. We can continue our news stories and give more details on line. Content is king with new media.

VG: What are some of the benefits of selling radio?

PB: Radio is usually very integrated into the life of the community. It may be the first place listeners turn to for information on weather, breaking news, community events. Good radio creates a credibility that carries over to clients who advertise on that station. People buy emotionally and justify it with logic. News/Talk stations can create strong emotions in the listener. Just as some clients refuse to support a certain host or program, other clients will want to support that host or program. Sports can be an especially emotional buy.

VG: Can you briefly describe the Pareto Principle and how it applies here?

PB: The Pareto Principle states that “80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients”.  It also can apply to programming in that “80% of your listening comes from 20% of your listeners”. We know these listeners as “P-1” listeners. They are our core audience.

The Pareto Principle also applies to the sales staff. 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your sales staff.  These sales people are usually your “go to” people. They are the ones you talk to when you need a sponsorship or event sold. They get it done.

VG: What else would you like to share with people who work in radio about how to more effectively sell and market their shows and stations?

PB: Whatever format we sell, that station and format is a vehicle to deliver a message from our client to a group of listeners. We should target clients who will most benefit from our listeners. Understand the profile of the station’s listeners. Match that profile to potential clients. Capitalize on the “star factor”. Explain the credibility factor attached to a News/Talk station to your clients.

VG: What would you advise someone looking to get into News/Talk sales?

PB: You must be comfortable with, listen to and believe in the format. Know what was talked about on the air today. Be ready to answer questions about it.

VG: Pat, You are a true believer in sales and specifically, radio sales…

PB: We live in a capitalistic society. Someone identifies a need for a product, manufactures the product, advertises the product, sells the product, makes more product. At every step along the way, jobs are created. This is the way a capitalistic system works. We are the grease on the wheels of this system. We provide the impetus that keeps the economy moving. If our clients stop inviting business into their stores, the wheels of commerce slow. Those of us who represent a radio station are funding an important mechanism in the information dissemination process. Without a free and independent press (read: radio) our way of life is in jeopardy. Ours is an important calling. Be proud of what we do!

About the Author

Valerie Geller, president of Geller Media International Broadcast Consultants, works to help communicators become more powerful in 30 countries, including Australia, for news, talk, information and personality. Through consulting and individual coaching for news and talk talent, Geller finds and develops personalities, leads “Creating Powerful Radio” and “Communicate Powerfully” workshops and seminars for radio and TV broadcasters, internet radio and podcasters. Geller is the recipient of the Conclave’s 2010 Rockwell Lifetime Achievement Award and is the author of four books about radio including her latest from Elsevier’s Focal Press Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age. To contact Valerie Geller for a one-on-one coaching or consulting, appointment, or for information on the “Powerful Radio” seminars and workshops, call +1 212 580-3385

Note: This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on and has been republished with permission.