Radio Sales Guy Herb Tarlek Lives!
Money for Nothin’
Commercial radio stations make money by selling space on something you can’t see. Luckily, you can hear radio. But, once you have heard something on the radio, it’s gone – forever. And, unless you were recording it there’s no evidence it ever existed.
So, in effect: radio salesmen take money to “broadcast” something you can’t see (“commercials”) out over something else you also can’t see (“airwaves”). Then, at the end of each month the sales department provides advertisers with something they can see: an invoice.
Radio stations can “make” as many commercials as they wish. In this way, they are very much like the U.S. Government which can make as many dollars as it wishes by emailing the U.S. Mint and saying, “Another billion please. We want to bailout Dairy Queen.”
Oddly, radio station sales departments refer to the fleeting commercials which appear for :15, :30, or :60 seconds as “inventory”. Notice you can’t spell “inventory” without using the word “invent” - which is what sales people do with “inventory”.
A Condensed History of Snake Oil and Sales People in America
Early sales people in our country traveled around in covered wagons selling and making big claims about snake oil, worthless elixirs, and other bottles of nasty-tasting liquids which basically had no medicinal value whatsoever. Eventually, these people were either run out of town, tarred and feathered, or dragged away in handcuffs. Today, we call them "Sales Managers".
But, Sales Managers would rather be called “Vice Presidents of Market Clusters” and sales people under them prefer to be called Account Executives – which strike many odd since they usually can’t account for where they’ve been most of the day.
Now, there are two kinds of Account Executives: the kind you always see and the kind you never see. Both are inherently dangerous.
The ones you always see have a knack for sitting at their desks all day long, sipping their Mocha Latte, and taking orders over the phone. They jerk their landline phone to their ear and back into the phone's cradle so often during the day they usually suffer from tennis elbow. These Account Executives have good account lists and have been mining the same advertisers for years. They are very good at saying things like, “Don’t worry babe – I’m gonna’ take care of you.” Then, as soon as they hang up they write the order wrong, submit old copy, and blame the rest of the staff for screwing everything up.
The other type of Account Executive shows up for the morning sales meeting and disappears for the rest of the day. It’s hard to say what they do with their time but if you say the word “breathalyzer” they will scatter into a cube farm faster than a DJ reaching for a day-old donut.
Time is Money - or Just Another Term for a Prison Stint
Sales departments are under a lot of pressure because the station’s income is derived solely from a collection of individuals who – if not employed in Radio – would normally be waiting in a room near the warden’s office to see a parole board. That’s why the highest ethical standards are adhered to. If, by chance, the words “manslaughter” or “embezzlement” appear in their background checks they are immediately disqualified for sales positions - and fast-tracked into management.
Working in the radio station sales department can be a rewarding experience. Especially if you are lucky enough to be the first to call Crime Stoppers with a tip that the new guy to your right looks an awful lot like the criminal showcased on last night’s news. If you’re vigil, you can probably supplement your income by qualifying for cash rewards several times-a-year.
In closing, I hope I haven’t painted a negative picture of the sales department and trust you will remember that the real reward for selling air-time is in knowing you will one day have the experience and credentials to start your own - - Ponzi scheme.