National reps

National reps

Remember how I went to Chicago, New York and the West Coast in 1973 making agency calls? I’d been pretty successful seeing those agencies and companies. I kept up that pace for four years, traveling each week to a major advertising center touting the Brownfield Network and the Missourinet. Business was good. (we were cash-rich, purchasing certificates of deposit). And in 1977 I moved Jeff Smith from doing news broadcasts to helping me make national calls. Still it was furious. Not only did we need to cover Chicago, New York and the West Coast, we had business in Iowa, Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Atlanta and along the Eastern corridor. There was no telling how much business was out there we were missing because we weren’t making the calls or even getting to the markets.

In late 1976 and early ’77 I began hunting for help–a national sales representative firm. What’s that? These are companies that “sell” advertising on radio stations to agencies in major advertising centers. Unlike today where there is widespread group ownership, in those days each radio station was locally owned for the most part. (No group could own more than seven AMs, seven FMs,). Obviously these stations couldn’t afford to have salesmen in each market, so they hired a representative firm to make these “out-of-market” calls. These firms got 15-percent, typically, of each order. I thought it was time we considered such a firm. I believed they’d not only get more business for us, they’d give us credibility in the market because they had us as a client. I interviewed the three largest: John Blair and Company; Eastman, and Katz. In the Spring of 1977, I went with Katz. It was selected because it had a significant farm presence, led by a guy named Glenn Kummerow.

For me it was a hoot! I was surrounded by the best of national advertising. John Roberts in Chicago, Ken Swetz in New York and on and on. I liked these guys. I still traveled to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, etc,, but these guys arranged my calls. When I arrived in a city I’d spend the morning of my first day in front of their salesmen–and women–talking about what we were doing. Then we’d hit the streets. I remember the Detroit guy getting me a big order for GMC, something I’d been missing.

A funny thing happened though. For the most part I was making calls on the exact same people I’d made calls to for years in the past. Katz didn’t bring very many that were new. It took me a year or more to discover they were learning from ME! They didn’t have a clue about the regional radio business. Even the ag accounts were those I’d been seeing since 1973; many of them new to Katz. While I very much liked the men and women of these firms, I discovered that my own ingenuity and previous sales efforts were superior to what they were about. So, we resigned them in 1980.

And, I began hiring some bright men and women to work for us exclusively. My job began to be more of a trainer and teacher. It’s a sales system we still use today.