Radio Blog

This page contains blog articles on a range of topics of interest to professionals in radio sales, including everything from selling technique to the state of the industry. If you have an opinion on any issue regarding radio or would like to share some of your sales techniques with others, you can submit an article for the blog here (max 400 words, please).

Death Of A Salesman Revisited: Lessons For Survival

Flash back 15 years, when the Macarena was brand-new, and cool people actually used the phrase “All that and a bag of chips.” I’m sitting in Mrs. Morrison’s 11th grade English class and reading Arthur Miller’s play Death of A Salesman for the first time. My classmates and I are performing the play from our chairs, each with a different role. I was one of the dorks who always volunteered for a part with lots of lines. That day, I was Linda — wife of Willy Loman, the tragic hero.

Fifteen years later, I no longer have the part of Linda, but that of Willy. And it’s not just a play either; it’s life! I am a salesperson now, surviving my third year in radio advertising sales. If somebody had told me then that selling was my destiny, I would have whacked them with my Death of A Salesman text. After reading about Willy, who would ever want to sell for a living?

For those of you who may not remember the play, Willy Loman is a salesman who spends his life searching for the secret of success, but never finds it. During the last phase of his career, he is fired by a younger man because he can’t even sell himself to keep his job. Willy constantly questions his life choices and romanticizes what it might have been like to be somebody else. Eventually he commits suicide by crashing his car (symbolically his vehicle for selling). His tragic life lessons are the only legacy he leaves to his two sons and ever-loving wife.

My biggest fear in sales would be to end up like Willy: bitter, disenfranchised, penniless and regretful, but three years into this job, I realize that the tragic “Death of Salesman” is not inevitable. In fact, Willy probably would have had a much fuller life if he had just changed a few habits. Although I am still a “radio rookie,” the traits I recognize as lacking in Willy are ones that have helped me successfully survive those first tumultuous years in sales.

1.) Commit or be committed. Even though he worked for the same company for 34 years, Willy Loman never committed to his career. He was always wondering, “What if?” You must commit to your sales career if you want the sales veterans — jaded by the constant, revolving door of newbies — to actually learn your name. You must commit to your sales career if you want your clients to perceive you as a sustaining resource, not just a package peddler. I don’t believe in “accidental salespeople.” Willy spent more time feeling sorry for himself than he did selling, and that ultimately led to his demise. Remember, Fellow Rookie, everything that should have happened did happen.

2.) Check your ego at the door. You’re a salesperson. In most business owners’ minds, that’s one step from a telemarketer, which is one step from a maggot. Until you prove yourself otherwise, that’s their mindset. If you expect to be treated like a beloved advisor, you’ll be disappointed, too, because you must earn respect, and that takes time. Business owners may perceive you as a low life form because they’ve been let down by salespeople (maybe even from your company). The upside is that, if the client’s expectations are already low, it’s easy to exceed them!

3.) Have a plan. When I don’t have an appointment and am just driving around, I start to feel worthless and depressed, just as Willy did. Obviously, the best way to overcome this is to schedule as many appointments as possible. My sales manager has been challenging our sales staff to fill every line in our planners, and I suggest that you try to do the same thing.

4.) Let your heart be light. The business of selling doesn’t have to be a sober affair. I have found that the more I can laugh with a client, the easier it is to make a sale, even if the chuckle is at my own expense. Recently, I met a client for lunch for the initial Client Needs Analysis. Things went really well, and I felt that I had gotten a keen understanding of her needs, budget, and marketing goals. As we shook hands across the table for a final goodbye, my hand brushed my Coke, which spilled all over her dress. Willy Loman would have lamented his stupidity and lain down on the railroad tracks, but I made the best of the situation. I giggled at my clumsiness — and I’m going to take this poor woman a plastic poncho when I do my presentation. And you know what? I’ll probably get the sale.

Kelli Nabors Folio. Reproduced by permission of RadioInk Magazine

Email this article to someone

Radio Blog