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Winning and Losing

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Do you love to win or do you hate to lose?

I remember being asked this question in an interview once when I was younger. I thought the right answer was to say that I loved to win, so I said it emphatically, “Nobody loves to win more than I do!” After the interviewer wiped the spit off his face, he followed it up with, “but DO you hate to lose?” Again, I was thinking I shouldn’t even address losing so I blabbed on that I just loved to win so much and I never really thought about losses, or something along those lines.

The truth was, I was in my 20’s at the time, and I didn’t really know what I loved or what I hated. I just did what I was supposed to do and took everything as it came.

I like winning. There’s no doubt about that. I not only like to win, but I like to celebrate wins. As a Market Manager for Townsquare Media and for Cumulus I had a bell that I would put up for sellers to ring when a sale was made. What we do is very hard. So, when we’re able to overcome all of the obstacles and make a sale – ring that bell, baby! Celebrate it with everyone in earshot.

But, as I’ve grown in my career, the actual answer to the question, has become much clearer for me – I hate to lose. I despise losing. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking of recent proposals that were turned down and getting more and more angry about them every second. “You can’t take it personally,” they say. Hogwash, I take it personally. It was my idea, presentation and product and you didn’t want it. To me, that’s personal, and secretly, I walk away wishing for a small amount of harm to happen to you.

We work too hard to lose. Losing hurts. I remember hearing a college basketball coach talk once about how when his team won a game, he would enjoy it for minutes, but if they lost, it stayed with him for days. Yes, coach, I know what you mean.

So, the question becomes, if you are like me and you hate to lose – how do you make sure it happens less? Three things come to mind:

  • Be prepared. If you are headed out to meet with a client for the first time, take time to do a little research. Read about the company, their competition or even their industry. Look at their website and where they show up on Google for their category (you’ll discuss their digital strategy with them, too, won’t you?). If nothing else, this shows that you cared enough to try and learn about their business before meeting with them.
  • Pitch the client based on what you learned in the first meeting. If you asked the right questions, you have all the answers you need for the presentation. If you really asked the right questions, you have everything you need to write good copy. If they mentioned a certain show or host, have a spec spot made using one of those voices or pitch a feature inside that show. Relate everything back to what they told you. Here is the problem, and here is the solution.
  • Sell it like you mean it! Your enthusiasm, your body language and your tone will make all the difference in the world. You are asking a businessperson to spend money and invest in you, so don’t make them wonder if this is something you truly believe in or not. When pitching business, be more Jon Gruden and less Bill Belichick.

Unfortunately, we all know that no matter how good we are at what we do, the awful truth is that we are still going to lose plenty. So, we also need a plan for what to do when we do lose.

I remember reading “Man’s Search for Meaning,” a book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as a concentration camp inmate during World War II. My favorite quote from the book was: “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

It’s not about what happens to you, it’s about how you respond to what happens.

I still hate to lose and get angry when I do. The difference now is that I use it as a motivator. In fact, losing may be my second biggest motivator after money. I hate the feeling of losing, so I am willing to do more beforehand, to try and avoid it coming back.

Take that extra energy and turn it in to a positive. Get back out and close the next one – preferably to the competitor of the business that turned you down. Now that would be something to ring the bell about.

BSM Writers

Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.

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USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.

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One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74

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This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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