When you look for a sports media seller to profile, you might as well start with one of the most experienced. Matt Hochman started in media sales in 1987 and has been in the sports format, with WEEI in Boston, since December of 1995. For the math challenged, that’s thirty years in radio and coming up on twenty-two years in the sports format. That’s a lot of time and a lot of knowledge to tap into:
DG: Take me all the way back, how did you end up in radio?
MH: I started in radio in 1987. I graduated from UMass-Amherst and went to New York City for my first job which was going to be a buyer for Macy’s and I was going through their training program. I spent a year there and had my store set on fire by customers three different times, which was quite entertaining. After about a year I realized retail wasn’t something I wanted to do. I was contemplating my next move. I had done some stand-up comedy in New York and thought maybe radio would be something I might like.
DG: What did you know about radio at that point?
MH: Everyone I talked to about radio as a possible career painted this horror show, that it was a tough way to make a living. You are selling an intangible and it is really difficult. My first interview referred me to a gentleman at a talk radio station which was WRKO, right after they had the Celtics, for a number of years, with (Larry) Bird and (Kevin) McHale winning championships. So, I sold talk radio and the station was bought and sold by CBS and then Entercom. Since then, it has been pretty much all sports radio for me with talk shows, Celtics and Red Sox play by play and specialty programming for the Patriots.
DG: If someone asks you what you do, what do you tell them?
MH: Twenty years ago, it didn’t matter what type of format you were in, if you sold radio, you were a radio salesperson. Now, it is so different, with so many companies wanting to get involved in sports and brand their company with sports play by play, and with all the digital assets.
WEEI.com, over the course of a 24-hour period, can deliver over a million impressions on some days. The digital end is so big. I really feel like myself and my colleagues are really sports marketing professionals. There are so many different components to it that it really does need a little more clarification with what we do. Our industry isn’t that simple.
DG: How has selling radio changed since you started in 1987?
MH: It has changed immensely, but I tell you, I would not be in this business right now if I was not involved in sports. I feel so fortunate and I try and instill this to the folks I work with, especially the less experienced people, how fortunate we are to be in this marketplace where sports is so important and relevant. To be able to talk to companies now about a sports platform and have those companies understand the combination of sports radio with play by play and the digital aspect, it is so much more than just marketing, it’s a real relationship and partnership.
DG: Why are you good at what you do?
MH: There are others that have had successful runs and the common denominator for those of us in Boston that have been doing it so long, is the attrition rate is very minimal. When I am trying to do business with someone I am not talking about coming on board for two weeks and then let’s see what happens. Too many people that are involved in radio feel either a pressure, or they are scared, and they make a sale and the sale didn’t have an opportunity to work because there wasn’t enough thought put behind it to have something that was measurable. So many times, I think people in our industry don’t try and find out what the expectations of the client are and when the campaign is over, they aren’t on the same page as far as if the campaign was successful. I try to, minimally, put together a six-month program, and I feel very confident in the assets I have as well as the support people behind me that we are going to execute and deliver the deal.
DG: Why do you think so many people fail at media sales?
MH: I think sometimes we in the industry don’t put enough emphasis to our new people on the creative aspect of what we do. Somebody could know all the statistics about how many people are listening and where the reach is, but the magic is what’s coming out of that speaker. I try to get across to new people that it’s the creative end. I know that the biggest part of my success is because I am creative. I am not an analytical person, at all, but I can write a commercial in my sleep. If I can take a great piece of production, and we have great production people, to a client and say “how do you think this would sound on a Monday morning, fifteen minutes after Tom Brady has done his weekly appearance on WEEI?” Then I hit play and I’m quiet.
I don’t think that we in the industry emphasize that it really is simpler than we think. It’s the creative aspect, it’s the imagination, that’s the magic and I think that’s what we need to encourage people to keep doing more of.
DG: What’s your secret to prospecting and finding new business?
MH: The first thing, you have to know who your audience is. Part of prospecting is being able to share with a prospect, what you had in mind. The days of calling and saying you just want to come in and talk about their business are over. People don’t have time. The internet gives us a big advantage over those that started many years ago. Now, we can learn more about their business and we can have more of a valid reason for calling.
When you go in, these people are busy and are getting bombarded by all kinds of media. You have to get to the point and go in with a purpose. Many times, I have gone into a first call already with a spec commercial based on a conversation I may have had with the individual on the phone and then any reading I did about the company online.
DG: What advice would you give to a new seller about the keys to having success in our industry?
MH: You only get one chance to really prove yourself. I believe people can read through “bs” in a heartbeat. You are judged by clients and prospects more when something goes wrong. It is about how we in our industry respond, whether it be to an incorrect spot running or if a talent says something that isn’t overly complimentary of an industry or about a particular company. How quickly we are able to respond and make the situation better, that is how we get judged. I believe my clients know that I am a member of their team as well as the company that I represent. They know that when something goes wrong, which can happen, they won’t hear me blame anyone, I will be responsible and I will fix it.
The successful people are the ones that display great integrity and if you say you are going to do something, you do it. That’s so easy to say, but so many people don’t do it. People have so many options and they are buying you, the individual. We all have fine products and they can make a number of choices, but they have to feel comfortable with the individual before they start writing out checks.
Also – it’s all about treating people with respect. It doesn’t matter how new someone is to the company or what their job is, everyone needs to be treated with respect, dignity and appreciation. In our business, we need so many people behind the scenes to make things happen. Without all the support that I have had, I wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful. This is not an “I” business, we can’t ever take the other people for granted.
DG: What is the creative idea you are most proud of?
MH: I once invested my own money on my radio station and bought my own advertising campaign for about four months. I did that because what better way to show potential prospects that I believe in what I represent than by putting my money where my mouth was. Now, I gave myself a great rate, but I spent thousands of dollars of my own money and recorded my own messages that were running on WEEI. To this day people still ask me about running those commercials.
What They Say:
“Matt is a rock star. I’m amazed by his continued energy and enthusiasm in this business after 30 years. More importantly, he is a good soul and an all-around good human being that people respect and look up to. He is gracious to everyone in our building. His clients trust him implicitly, 90% of his business is direct, and to date, he has achieved 10 out of 10 of his monthly goals. He is simply, the best of the best. I couldn’t be prouder to work alongside him. – Kelly Sutton, General Sales Manager, Entercom Boston
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.