Dealing With Sales - "Last Minute Production"

by Jerry Vigil

It's 4:30 PM, Friday afternoon. You have 4 spots to cut and 25 dubs to do. The phone rings. (You dread calls at this time on Fridays.) Reluctantly you answer, knowing it's not the boss bidding you a good weekend. Maybe it's your wife. No, you don't have a wife. You answer: "Production".

"Hey, (your name), I got this client that wants to start tomorrow morning. He's brand new and could be a very big account for us. It's a simple spot, you can cut it in five minutes!" The salesperson sounds so fresh and full of energy, you wonder if he has just started his day. "Here's what this guy wants..."

Fortunately you were just sitting at your desk, feet propped up, reading the latest issue of Radio And Production and waiting for this call. The salesperson is either one who has been with the station for a long time or "the new one". Being a citizen of the United States, you have a choice: 1) Cut the spot; 2) Say you can't cut the spot, debate it a bit, then cut the spot.

This is just one of many scenarios that probably sounds like a replay of last Friday afternoon, unless you are one of the lucky souls with a sales department that actually follows guidelines and meets deadlines.

Most often, the spot gets cut. Sometimes management is involved in hopes of settling the dispute. In such cases, management usually deals with you and the spot gets cut. If management isn't involved, any resistance to cutting the spot usually ends in an unproductive relationship between the salesperson and yourself.

If you ever find yourself in situations like the one described here you most likely deal with them in one of two ways. It's either a stressful situation that takes more time to resolve than it should, or you know how to deal with it and it gets taken care of with little or no stress and everybody's happy. If your method is the latter, congratulations. You understand the salesperson and your job very well. If not, then read on. The key to dealing with sales in this aspect is to first understand where the salesperson is coming from. Let's look at another scenario. This time you're the salesperson:

It's 4:15 PM, Friday afternoon. You've had zero bites today. You get paid on a commission basis. You're still short of your monthly quota. If you don't make it you're on probation. Not only are you concerned about losing your job, you're concerned about making the mortgage payment next month. You need every dollar you can bring in. The phone rings. You hope it's not your wife, but the client you saw this morning ready to change his mind about buying some time. You answer, "Hello, this is (your name)".

"Hey, (your name), how's it going?" No it's not IBM deciding to buy your station, it's Little Joe of Little Joe's Bar and Grill. "I'm having a football watching party Sunday and I really want to
pack the place. I've got enough to buy 10 spots for the weekend. Here, let me give you some details so you can write up a spot for me."

You know you're not going to turn it down, so you get the information and prepare to make everybody's day at the station. First you call the traffic director who has already started running the logs. You explain that this client could become a "big client" for the station and beg to get the spots hand written on the logs. The traffic director, knowing he's not paid to turn down business, reluctantly takes the order.

Now you call the Continuity Director and tell him about this new client, that could become a "big client" for the station, and beg him to take the copy facts and write up a quick spot. For reasons not unlike the Traffic Director, he takes the facts after griping a bit.

You decide you should probably call the Production Director just to warn him that the spot is coming. You tell him how "big" this client can be for the station and explain the copy is on the way and it will only take five minutes to cut. The Production Director screams, "You want it WHEN???".

After making the calls and filling out the necessary forms, you leave the office wondering why you go through so much resistance for a lousy $50 dollar commission. Then you realize that 50 dollars is at least gas money.

Granted, not all sales people are on the verge of losing their jobs or having their houses foreclosed upon, but most salespeople can relate to this situation. Most salespeople know what it's like to pound the street on a hot summer day getting rejection after rejection. When they finally make a sale, the last thing they want is someone back at the air conditioned studio telling them they didn't meet a deadline.

Unless you have ever sold radio, it is difficult to understand what the salesperson goes through. As for the salesperson, it is rare that he has ever jocked or produced a spot and equally as difficult for him to understand where your grief comes from. Imagine your income based on a flat fee for every spot you cut. Your attitude would most likely be a little different when last minute orders come in. The salesperson's income is based precisely this way. If he were on a straight salary he would be more than happy to adhere to deadlines because it costs him nothing.

Understanding this side of the salesperson is the first step towards dealing with the situations that make your job difficult. The other side of the coin is also true. If salespeople understood the production person's job better, they might then be more aware of the pressures one simple little order can bring to the Production Department, amongst others.

Aside from salespeople who want every dollar they can get from a client, you must also consider management and the owners of your station. They too want you to produce every spot that comes to you. After all, the business of radio is to make money by placing ads on the air.

If you wish to fight this system by demanding that deadlines be met, you are asking the salesperson, the sales manager (who gets a cut), the general manager (who gets a cut), and the owners to lose a "little" money so your job can be made easier. After enough demanding, they will be more likely to lose a "little" Production Director first. Unless you're a top billing, sold out station, deadlines will merely be guidelines. Other methods of dealing with last minute orders must be explored. Let's look at a few.

Many times a production order will be turned in to you with a start date of tomorrow, yet the spot won't actually air until 8 PM that day. On the surface, the order would appear that it would have to be done today, but in fact, you have another full day to do it. The first thing you should do when you get a late order is check with traffic to see when the first spot is logged. You may have more time to do it than you think. Ask the traffic director about the schedule. The client may be buying one spot in mid-day. If traffic has logged it at 10:05 AM, with very little effort they may be able to move it to 2:30 PM, buying you more time and keeping everyone happy. If the schedule is for a few days and there are several avails on the station, you may even be able to get traffic to move one of the spots into another day as a make-good. Check out the schedule first.

Clubs are notorious for waiting until the last minute to call the sales rep with their orders. Keep several up-tempo 60 second beds on cart to use just for these clubs. Go so far as to label each bed as the bed for this club or that club. Then next time that late order arrives, production can go just a little faster. If you're using a 4 or 8 track studio, reserve the first five minutes or so of the multi-track tape for these beds. Next time you need them, they'll be there waiting for a voice track.

Once a salesperson sees that you are willing to work with him, he will become more willing to work with you. If he turns in an order that absolutely pushes your schedule beyond its limits, call him up. Ask if there is any way the first spot can be placed somewhere else in the day to give you the time you need TO PRODUCE A BETTER SPOT FOR THE CLIENT! Let the salesperson know that you can produce a better spot with more time...just a little more time.
Check with traffic regarding the size of the schedule. Is the client buying two spots that air overnight? If programming guidelines at your station permit it, maybe this spot should be done live. Clients many times will love that idea when it's presented to them in a positive manner. With a good announcer, live spots are often times more effective for the client. Continuity doesn't have to fill out a production order and you don't even have to see the script, let alone produce it. The client gets his spot, the sales rep gets his commission and you can go on with that promo you're doing.

With a little effort and a little more understanding, "dealing with sales" can easily become "working with sales". There are very few stations with managers that will turn down business because it didn't meet a deadline. The stations and managers that do are very special and probably number one in their markets. The deadlines are not there to make jobs easier but to give each person involved, the time necessary to do an excellent job. The excellent work is reflected on the air, which adds to the overall sound of the station, which adds to the ratings, which adds to the advertising revenue. When time is given to produce a good spot, the client benefits also. This is part of the vicious circle of; "What comes first, the ratings or the advertisers?" Should you adhere to deadlines and turn down late orders to maintain a high level of quality production, or should you take the business and compromise quality for quantity? This is a decision only the GM can make. Until he decides to go for quality first, you had better be ready to deal with last minute orders. Welcome to production!

Radio And Production will spend a great deal of space exploring the many ways to save time in the studio and create better working relationships between sales and production. We'll even look at how to get sales to work for you!

While that sales rep is stuck in traffic on his way to that next call and you're typing a label for that last dub, the business of radio is in motion. Two people doing their jobs - Sales and Production. They get 'em in...and you get 'em on. ♦