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Sales Rookies Need Sales Mentors

If We Cut From the Top and Don’t Nourish the Bottom, What’s Left?

I once asked my long-time friend Max Schmitz what made him such an amazing salesman. He smiled widely and replied, “I love my job. That’s why I’m successful.”

I pressed him for an explanation of why he loved sales.

“Because if someone will meet with me, I’ve got them. They’re mine as soon as they agree to the appointment.

“Here’s my process: One — I find out what they’re trying to accomplish. Everybody with a business has a goal in mind. Sometimes it’s selling their product. Sometimes it’s brand awareness. Sometimes it’s something you’d never know without asking them.

“Two — I express to them how I can help them meet that goal,” he continued. “Three — I listen to their objections and overcome them one by one. Four — I close the sale.

“This could happen over the course of several conversations, but the process works.”

I asked, “When doesn’t it work, Max?”

He seemed surprised I asked him this, acting as if I should already know the answer. He replied, “It doesn’t work when they won’t take my call. If I can’t get to them, there is no sale.”

I’ve worked with lots of great sales people and I’ve noticed similar characteristics: Optimism; belief in their product to produce results; a keen ability to uncover and meet client needs; and most important, the ability to close the sale by asking for and getting the order through persistence and a sense of entitlement to receiving the reward for the effort and expertise exerted.

So, what’s the point?

Moved on or shoved out

Rookies! It seems we’ve got more of them than ever in the radio industry because of short-sighted budget cuts.

I never imagined that senior account executives would be put out of work because “they make too much money,” but that has been the case at many properties around the United States. That’s what got me thinking about Max. On top of being a sales pro and veteran, he loved to teach younger people the sales trade.

I hate to see rookies fail, which they appear to be doing in record numbers. Again and again, we see them come in four or five months and then exit.

Why? Because many of the Max’s of the world have moved on, or been shoved out of the industry, leaving few mentors. Budgets have also been slashed to bring in sales trainers/consultants on a regular basis.

Let’s face facts. Without great sales people, the future is bleak, even once the economy returns. No matter how good our ratings, the competitive landscape has changed forever and our radio stations must have the missionaries who fight this ridiculous notion that we are “old media.” Ha! For many years to come, radio will continue to deliver mass audiences in cities of all sizes.

Pool resources

Those readers who work in large clusters of stations at least have the advantage of being able to take the few remaining veterans and create mentoring programs that cross over station boundaries.

Consider teaming two rookies with one mentor who helps them figure out the process that matches their personality. Local sales managers may initially balk at this idea because they could reasonably feel as if their job is being usurped. However, what they fail to realize is that mentors can do things with potential sales talent that they can’t because of their boss/employee relationship.

A mentor can afford to develop a closer personal relationship with a rookie. A mentor, who is only handling two account reps, can more closely steer a rookie step by step through a number of deals until they get that terrific feeling of first-time successes.

A mentor also has the freedom to stop being a mentor at any time and move on to someone else who will work harder to be successful. Make no mistake, this dynamic still leaves the local sales manager as the direct supervisor of the account rep; but having a mentor “friend” provides the rookie with someone with whom they can discuss immediate daily issues to help them make calls and close sales.

If you’re a seasoned account executive and you’d like to take on this role of “mentor,” be sure to let your management team know of your interest and willingness to participate. In this day of “she makes too much,” being a mentor to others may be one the reasons that enables you to remain in the role that love.

The author is president of Lapidus Media. Contact him at[email protected].