New Technology Benefits Sales Too
     

One in a series of articles wrapping up themes and sessions of the recent NAB Show.

The DBC tablet gets put to use by Delmarva General Sales Manager Ruth Gilbert and Account Manager Todd Waldbuesser. The computer of choice for Delmarva now is the Lenovo: Thinkpad Twist-12.5 HD Multitouch-Intel Core i5-3317u, a change from the initial spec of a Lenovo Yoga Ultra Book, according to General Manager Mike Reath, who adds that the ‘Twist has a larger hard drive and better touch screen interface.’
Credit: Courtesy Delmarva Broadcasting Company
When it’s time to focus on rolling out expensive new technology in a typical radio station, it’s usually the on-air studios, the production department and the IT crew that get all the attention.

But a fairly modest investment in technology can pay big rewards if it’s applied down the hall in the sales department, say experts who spoke on that topic at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

At Delmarva Broadcasting Company (DBC) in Wilmington, Del., General Manager Mike Reath says his stations, including flagships WDEL(AM) and WSTW(FM), are in the midst of a huge change in the technology available to their sales staffs.

“Historically, all of the things that we’ve had to sell in radio have been done on paper,” Reath said.

It’s not just the usual pile of coverage maps and testimonials and rate cards that are printed out and bound together to leave with clients. Reath says DBC’s salespeople have become accustomed to generating ad copy on paper, showing layouts of banner ads on paper and even presenting mockups of mobile websites on paper.

ULTRABOOKS FOR SALES

To replace all that paper, DBC has invested in the creation of custom software that will put a wealth of tools right at the fingertips of its sales people, who’ve all been outfitted with Lenovo Yoga “ultrabook” computers, which are a flip-over hybrid of a tablet and a small laptop.

“We looked hard at going with iPads, but they don’t work with Arbitron or our traffic and billing software,” Reath says. “We also looked at the Samsung Galaxy Tab, but it has a weird version of Android that doesn’t work well with PowerPoint.”

DBC’s sales force now sells much more than just airtime on the company’s radio signals. Reath says a typical buy can include everything from streaming ads to texting campaigns to custom-built mobile websites, and even to a DBC service that provides online reputation management for clients.

Until now, it has been hard for sales representatives to explain everything in the DBC portfolio, but Reath says the new software will allow those reps to build entire campaigns on the computer, right in front of the client.

While the software wasn’t finished in time for the NAB Show, Reath was able to show off many of the features he’d specified. In addition to convenient on-screen display of sales materials, ratings comparisons and customer data, the software includes access to an audio library of successful campaigns to play for clients.

It then allows DBC’s 10 Wilmington-based sales reps to craft mock ad schedules and create pricing for clients — and to immediately provide a polished PDF to leave with the client as well.

Even in unfinished form, Reath says the software is showing its value. A recent client visit, he says, came right on the heels of another sales call from a competing cluster.

The client “had a schedule coming to them from the competitor that was free, and we were asking them for a $60,000 buy.”

After walking the client through all of DBC’s offerings with the help of the software, Reath says they got the buy — and a big compliment from the client, who told them, “I didn’t think radio could do all this. You’ve come a long way.”

Reath says DBC developed the software for its own internal use, but he’s open to the possibility of working with other independent broadcasters to modify the package for their use as well.

NO CHEESY SPEAKERS

Broadcasters at the session also heard from Dave Casper, senior vice president for internet services at the Radio Advertising Bureau.

He presented an overview of the existing technology choices available for sales managers hoping to better outfit their troops in the field. Those resources include RAB’s own mobile website, www.rab.com/mobile, which includes access to decades of RAB’s own research, Gold Digger prospecting reports and, for inspiration, more than two decades of Radio Mercury Award finalists in MP3 format.

But Casper also says that, especially for sales veterans who’ve become accustomed to selling in lower-tech ways, the value of a shiny new iPad may be limited.

“If the technology prevents them from feeling comfortable when they’re making their presentation, that’s going to be reflected in the presentation and it’s going to affect their closing ratio,” he said.

If new technology is the right choice for a sales force, though, Casper offered some tips from his own experience, including the importance of a top-quality set of external speakers for account executives who’ll be playing demo spots in clients’ offices.

“This is radio,” he said. “It’s got to sound great.”

Scott Fybush is a longtime contributor.


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