TV station sales managers are facing dramatically different job challenges than they did 10 years ago. To meet them, they are looking for salespeople who, in addition to knowing the TV marketplace, can also sell other media — mobile, online and, in some cases, even newspapers. And they also need to put a greater emphasis on drilling down into their markets to find advertisers who have never been on TV before because they couldn’t afford it or simply because they were never asked.
The broadcast sales managers that I’ve been talking to are facing dramatically different challenges than they did 10 years ago. They must not only scramble for new business and ward off competition from the Web and local cable, but also figure out how to sell other media — mobile, online and, in some cases, even newspapers.
Such challenges are affecting whom they’re hiring and what they’re asking account executives to do. And maybe it’s just the way salespeople think, but I find a great deal of enthusiasm for meeting the challenges, even though the work load is heavy.
Kevin Hayes, general sales manager of KFOX El Paso, Tex., is expanding his staff in preparation for next year’s elections.
In the last two months, he’s hired three people straight out of college. Not only are they Internet savvy and less expensive, he says, “but they have no bad habits, and they’re eager to learn — not to diminish the importance of the older folks who have the knowledge and the contacts.”
John Friedmann, sales manager of WSB Atlanta, says he is looking for people proficient in selling Web advertising. He figures they can learn the TV side after they come on board.
Like many of his peers, Greg Bilte, general sales manager of KTVU San Francisco, is scouting for someone to handle new business development.
Having conceded that much of the traditional business is gone for good, stations are putting a greater emphasis on drilling down into their markets to find advertisers who have never been on TV before because they couldn’t afford it or simply because they were never asked.
Generating new business is absolutely crucial, says Amie Chapman, general sales manager of KRXI-KAME Reno, Nev. “The transactional business is scarce. It used to be you could depend on it.”
Once as much of 45 percent of a station’s revenue, national spot has dwindled to just to 28 percent, she says.
“There’s been a cosmic shift,” she says. “People who were just order-takers are not the survivors now. You have to dig up new business. My team is doing double the new business [revenue] they did even a year ago.”
The new industry dynamics have created a “state of more,” as I like to call it.
“The work is harder, but we’re giving people more things to sell. They have more tools in their tool belt,” notes Greg Bilte, referring to TV, online and mobile sales.
Account executives must be knowledgeable about many more forms of advertising opportunities and spend more time researching the needs of new clients. But there’s a big payoff.
“We can take care of a client with everything they could possibly need for this market,” says Leesa Wilcher, general sales manager and director of revenue at WJHL Johnson City, Tenn. Her team has the added task — and opportunity — of selling ads for a local newspaper, which is also owned by Media General.
Sure, computers and mobile devices make tasks more efficient, but sales people are doing much more backend work. In addition to the cable competition, they’re dealing with agencies that demand a much faster turnaround.
Bottom line, account execs are working longer hours today than 10 years ago, but “the new business these guys do blows away anything I did when I was on a sales team,” says Mike Krejci, general sales manager of WSPA Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.
He adds that his sales force puts a lot of pressure on themselves. “But I would have loved to have the ‘door openers’ they have” with so many different media opportunities.
“My account executives know it’s tough out there,” Chapman says. But the sales adrenaline at her two stations is high. “We’re just on fire.”