Employing Sales Champions in Radio

Radio sales success requires great people. Dealing with business owners and marketing budgets is a challenging activity. Because of the uncertainty and significantly-mixed-results advertising can achieve a very strong presence of trust is required in every transaction. Your radio station needs to source and employ people capable of earning the trust of your marketplaces toughest of clients.

The challenge of attracting a top performing salesperson from elsewhere is made even more challenging because of our largely commission based remuneration offering in radio. The problem with this payment system is the lack of certainty it offers a new candidate. For this reason, we tend to only attract candidates who are dealing with a large amount of uncertainty in their current role and are seeking a more certain employment environment. It’s hard to attract a top performer who is earning well in a current role with such an uncertain remuneration offering.

Flip it on its head

Radio commission sales have one significant advantage that we can use to really appeal to sales champions. Unlike virtually all over sales jobs-whereas the actual product or service, being sold has a cost, radio doesn’t. And whereas nearly all other commission systems are based on profits and stipulate minimum margins- radio offers commission from dollar one.

The one thing radio can offer is a commission on the entire actual revenue generated. Great sales champions are driven by their share of the deal- very few commission jobs offer the salesperson such a decent chunk of the revenue generated. We need to be very confident with the certainty our industry can offer a sales champion. We want to attract top salespeople- we want the sales champions in our industry. We need to pitch them a compelling proposition. We don’t want people who worry about what the safety net is, we want people driven by how high they can bounce. We need to better pitch the role:

“If you believe in your ability to sell, you should be looking for a bigger piece of the revenue you generate. In radio sales, you make a commission from dollar one. For every Dollar you sell, up to 10 cents of it could be yours. If you are good at building rapport and trust with people, then you will get rewarded for exactly that. Up to 10 cents in every dollar is them buying you. If you have self-belief and want to truly get paid what you are worth- radio sales offers you the ultimate reward.”

“We’ll give you the product knowledge, and unlike a lot of other sales roles, whereas your target industry is limited, with radio, you can sell to a huge range of industry types. Advertising is salesmanship- if you know sales- you’ll quickly learn advertising. Advertising has to be the most rewarding thing to sell because its success can have such a massive impact on a business. If you are interested in making a difference with your role- selling effective advertising is for you”

Loaded with this stance- we can perhaps be a bit more proactive in hunting better-performing candidates. We need to be attracting driven people, hungry with a desire to influence others, hungry with the desire to improve their wealth. We need to seek the primary breadwinners- the people who are driven by the need to make their families standard-of-living better.

Here’s the harsh reality: Great salespeople never need to apply for a job. Finding great salespeople requires a passive recruiting strategy.

I am sure you’ll follow the standard employment processes. Run an advert- invite resumes from candidates. Field calls from employment agencies all claiming that they have great salespeople on their books. But honestly, this process will seldom attract a genuine sales champion. To find a real sales champion- you need to connect with salespeople- not actively looking for a job.

Let’s look at the three options available to you to source new Account Executives.

Find Quality Passive Sales Candidates on LinkedIn

What are the best techniques for sourcing quality sales candidates? LinkedIn is proving to be an exceptional source of strong passive sales candidates. There are four steps you should follow in order to source quality candidates. As of the writing of this, all four can be accomplished with the free version of LinkedIn.

Step 1: Leverage the Search Capability within LinkedIn to Source a List of Qualified Candidates

Using the advanced search functionality of LinkedIn, you should be able to generate a list of qualified candidates to start screening.

Here are a few filters you can play with that improve search results:

  • Zip code/Location: This one is pretty obvious. filter by the geographic location
  • Job title: For the most part, you are looking for people already in sales. Including “sales” or “account executive” in the “Title” field helps you filter results down to candidates already working in the function.
  • School: As I’ll later highlight, “intelligence” is a strong predictor of sales success. Screening based on the quality of the High School helps you limit results to candidates who would likely score high on the intelligence spectrum.
  • Company: As you hire in your geographic market, you start to identify local companies that have large sales teams with quality training programs. One of your more effective searches will be to look for former employees of companies where you know they have well-trained salespeople.

Step 2: Screen the Search Results Using the Details in the Candidate's LinkedIn Profile

There is a lot you can learn about a candidate simply from their profile. A brief screen helps you to focus your sourcing efforts on the highest-quality people. The top elements to look for in a candidate profiles are:

  • Indicators of sales excellence. These include rankings on their team, consistent quota attainment, awards, and so forth.
  • Longevity at their current/ former employers. This is especially relevant for candidates at companies you know have high-performing sales teams. Even a poorly performing salesperson can survive at a company for a year. A mediocre salesperson might survive for two years. However, when you spot folks that had made it three, four, five, or more years in a high-performing environment, you should see them as high-value candidates.
  • Alignment between the prospect's current buyer context and your buyer context. Are they currently selling to large enterprises or SMBs? Are they selling a commodity or a complex product? Is their sales process more relationship-oriented or transactional? These factors help you assess the learning curve for potential candidates. If these aspects do not match your buyer context, that is not a showstopper. You are, however, looking for some low-hanging fruit.
  • School and major. As I discuss later, “intelligence” and “prior success” are predictors of sales success. The quality of their school, the difficulty of their major, and their academic performance are all correlated with these characteristics.
  • Quality of LinkedIn profiles. To be honest, this may have limited impact on your screening process. However, a weak, photo-less profile may be a red flag. With the growing importance of social marketing, how can a poor social presence be acceptable? On the other hand, a great profile with a professionally taken photo, 500-plus connections, and loads of recommendations from high-level executives makes a really positive impression.

Step 3: Engage with the Pre-screened Candidates Once you find some profiles to pursue, either source or guess the individual's corporate email format and send them a direct email.

Here is an idea of the type of email you could send:

Subject Line: Use two of the things you know about them. E.g. Current Employer/School

Email Body: First Name, Congrats on all your success! I run the sales team over here at (radio station). Recent changes mean we have a vacancy in our sales team. Your background is similar to those of our current top performers. Are there any folks in your network who are in the job market and have a background similar to yours? Kind regards…

I know of businesses who use a similar email structure and it performs really well. Firstly, the point of the subject line is to get the recipient to open the email. In this case, the subject is doubly relevant: Wouldn't you open an email with the employer and school name in the subject?

Second, the email is appropriately brief. At the point of the introduction, you do not need to overwhelm the prospective candidate with all of the great things about your radio station, or your team. In as few words as possible, you want to encourage these candidates, who are likely not in the job market, to wonder if they are missing out on a life-changing opportunity.

Third, the ‘ask’ is not guilt-inducing. You don’t want to go in for the kill. You’re asking for a referral. Obviously, you are interested in them for a role in your team, but you’re not going to ask for it outright. By avoiding the hard ask, your approach is perceived as far less confrontational. The recipient feels less “dirty’ about responding or helping you. Furthermore, it is genuine. Yes, you are hoping they respond, but you equally interested should they have a friend who has similar success and is looking for a job. After sending the email, if you do not hear back, I suggest you follow up four days later with a phone call.

Find Quality Passive Sales Candidates through Your Team:

The “forced referral” is a specific tactic used within the context of sourcing LinkedIn candidates, in which you can leverage the existing network of your team. Here is how the forced referral works: You connect via LinkedIn with all of my salespeople, including any recent hires. Send an email to each of your team and suggest, “I am going to set a 20-minute meeting with you tomorrow. Tonight, I will go through your connections on LinkedIn and look for salespeople in (Region) to whom you have connected that look like they may be a good fit for our team.” The next day, show up to the meeting with the X amount of people they are connected to that fit the criteria mentioned. They then proceed to tell me which prospective candidates are top performers and whether they are comfortable introducing you. This tactic is more work up front, but it is very effective.

Understand the Sales Talent Pool in Your Area

The final tactic I suggest you use to find great salespeople is to develop a deep understanding of the sales teams in your region. How large are the teams? How much do their salespeople make? Are they inside or outside sales agents? What is the sales training like? Did they recently change their compensation plan? As you comb through candidates on LinkedIn, developed a list of all the companies with outbound sales reps in your region. See if you can attract members from these teams to an interview- even the average performers.

Here are some examples of questions you should ask during these interviews:

  1. How much does the company pay their salespeople? How are the compensation plans structured?
  2. What is the buyer context like? Is it transactional or complex? Is it enterprise or SMB? Do they mostly have outbound leads or inbound leads?
  3. How many reps are at the company? What are the different sales roles? How is the sales team structured?
  4. What is the company's sales training like? Do they use a formal sales methodology? Do they invest in outside training or have a full-time staff?
  5. Were there any major changes at the company that could cause top performers to consider leaving? Did the commission plan change? Did the leadership change?
  6. Who are the top salespeople at the company? For example, you may ask if they are the top salesperson. If they say “no,” many salespeople blame the territory. You can ask which territory the best salesperson is in and inquire about that person. The idea is that you find a way to network with that sales champion.

The point here is to think creatively about gathering valuable information to find top talent. World-class sales hiring is the biggest lever of sales success. Finding great salespeople is the most difficult part of the hiring process.