EPISODE 429: Beasley Media Sales Leaders Matt Cowper and Paul Blake on the Number One Thing Customers Need from Sales Professionals

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers LIVE sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on November 2, 2021. It featured Beasley Media Group Sales Leaders Matt Cowper and Paul Blake.]

Find Matt on LinkedIn here. Find Paul on LinkedIn here.

MATT’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS:Be fearless. Don’t worry about failing, there’s beauty in learning and knowledge, and you will be better at what you do if you go through that. The biggest thing is be the number one resource and asset for your client. You’re there to help them, you’re an asset and a resource. Be their number one. When they need to call somebody, pick up the phone, send an email, send a text, make sure it’s to you.

PAUL’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “I have a saying, you have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you talk. Don’t sell anything, ask big, broad, open-ended questions so that your prospect can give you the answers to the test. Don’t ask questions that are yes or no or even directive, let them go limitless. Ask them, if you had a magic wand, what would you celebrate at the end of this year? And you’re going to be able to back into a great client needs analysis. If I can leave that with everybody, don’t try to respond to or even have anything preset into what you’re talking to a client about. Respond to what their needs are, listen twice as much as you talk.


Fred Diamond: Today we’re talking about media sales, we’re talking about radio sales. I’m very excited. We have Matt Cowper, he’s the VP of National Sales at the Beasley Media Group, and Paul Blake, he’s the VP and Director of Sales for the Beasley Media Group in Philadelphia. I’m always excited every time we do a show, I’m even more excited when we do something as it relates to Philadelphia, and I’m also very excited when we do something as it relates to radio and media. I could talk to these guys probably all day.

Matt, Paul, great to see you. Thank you so much. We had Jaime and Deana from your organization on the Women in Sales show about a month ago. We got a lot of interest in that show and we said, “Who else can we talk to on this particular topic?” Let’s get started right away. Matt, you have a national scope, and Paul, you’re focused on the Philly area. How are things going in the sales organization right now, and what are some of your big priorities? Paul, why don’t you go first?

Paul Blake: Fred, thanks for having us and thanks for all you do to help us, the sales professionals, to make us excellent. Appreciate you inviting myself and Matt onto this. As far as how things are going, fairly well, quite frankly. We’re measuring ourselves against 2019 and although not quite up to 2019 actuals just yet, we’ve been doing a lot of things to make us more relevant for our clients. I think that we’ve been doing some really great things for a number of years with our clients, but we’ve been focused on how we build our business in a way such that we be more than just a radio organization, but ultimately a sales and marketing organization for our clients. With that in mind, we’ve built out a full-service digital agency as well.

Where we’ve done events and radio for many, many years, we’ve dabbled in digital for maybe a dozen years. We now have really fully engulfed ourselves in that. We’ve focused on our clients’ objectives and we now have a full arsenal of marketing services and tools that we can really help them build their businesses in a better way. The pandemic has been good because it’s given us the opportunity to launch new tools that maybe we would have slowed down the process, it sped it up for us. I’m really optimistic about the future for us and for media.

Fred Diamond: Matt, Paul just used the word relevant for customers. Talk about that a little bit, talk about what the relevance is of what you bring to the marketplace right now for your customers.

Matt Cowper: When you look at it at a simplistic level, we talk about radio. I don’t like to use the word radio anymore, I really like to use the word audio because of how consumers consume audio. Obviously, radio is the traditional and terrestrial when you’re sitting in your car and you’re changing the dial, you’re listening to your favorite radio station. This has become more transparent and prevalent during the pandemic that people are now listening to radio or audio on their smart home devices, they’re streaming on their phones, listening on their desktops.

There’s so many ways that you’re consuming, whether it’s through a podcast or whatever other audio platform you’re consuming, but people are consuming audio and content in so many different ways. It just continues to explode. This explosion occurred maybe three or four years ago, but it just continues to grow. No matter where you’re traveling to, where you are in the world, you can consume your favorite radio station from anywhere in the world with an app on your smartphone. That’s how we remain relevant, we continue to offer our radio stations on platforms that make sense to consumers’ behaviors and where they’re going.

Fred Diamond: I have a question for you. Again, you have national focus, Matt, so what are the priorities nationally? What are some of the things that you’re looking at right now?

Matt Cowper: It’s interesting, because Beasley owns stations in 15 markets across the country. When you look at those different markets, the rebound has occurred a lot faster in some and it hasn’t in others. It just really depends where you are. However, each and every month is getting better and better. As I sit there and I look at where we are from a national standpoint, I’m really focusing on our 2022 strategies. We’re looking at where our core business is, where our new business is going to be coming from, year over year growth opportunities, what new technology will look like, how we capitalize with our clients all that new technology.

Right now, I’m in this pattern where I’m looking at the performance of how national has been over the last six months, what we’re projecting in the next three to six months and what those new opportunities that I have at my disposal to find those growth opportunities for 2022. I’m all focused about delivering results for our clients, number one, and how we can grow their business in 2022. That’s 100% of my focus right now.

Fred Diamond: Paul, Matt just mentioned that he likes to think of your industry as audio as compared to radio, and I think we even titled this, “What’s Happening in Radio and Media Sales.” Tell us some of the specific things that are happening in the industry, and I’m also curious. There has been a huge shift in your marketplace from just radio advertisements. You mentioned digital, and of course, before the show we talked about how you also offer podcasts and things like that. How has your sales organization been able to effectively respond to the changes in your particular industry, and what are some of the things that you’ve done as a leader to help the sales organization be more successful with this vast array you can now sell? Then Matt, I’d be interested in your thoughts after Paul gives us his answer.

Paul Blake: It’s interesting, because Matt’s focus and my focus, although in the same industry, in the same building, in the same company, are quite different. Matt with a national focus has a national rep for him that he works with and manages, and they’re working on national advertising campaigns. Although that’s true here locally, my focus is more on my general sales management team, our sales team as a whole. With all of these different things coming at us, things that Matt mentioned and you just highlighted, Fred, my priority is my sales team’s focus.

How do I help them through all the muddy waters of all the different things that we can sell? We’re not just a local organization anymore. Radio was local forever and although we focus on in terms of local engagement, that’s probably what we do best on the local level better than any other medium. We also have the ability now, not only country-wide but worldwide, to be able to help with marketing campaigns. If I can distill it down to my biggest priority for our sales team here, it really is helping them focus on what the clients’ goals are, matching them ultimately with the different tools and the custom ideas that we can put together that will fill that need.

We focus on different things like strategic account management. Where are you spending the most time with your key and your target accounts and so forth? Where does the client get the most return on investment? We have a commitment here locally in Philadelphia where we talk about our commitment to our clients coaching ideas and results. From a coaching standpoint, we want our sales team to be the best trained marketers as well as they have the ability to coach our prospects and clients on ways to improve their business. We want to come up with the most customer effective ideas, so that’s coaching ideas.

At the end of the day, we need to be accountable for their results. Our results come as a result of their results. If we help them ring their cash register, they’re a renewed customer every day of the week. I would say if I could help eliminate the white noise for our salespeople, keep them focused on the big rocks, put the little rocks aside, they’ll come in at a later time, focus on the 80-20 rule. That ultimately is what I’m trying to do. Eliminate the distractions, keep them focused, high priorities.

Fred Diamond: One thing we talk a lot about on the Sales Game Changers podcast and our virtual learning sessions is the fact that you need to not just be thinking about your customer, but your customer’s customer, and your customer’s customer’s customer because everybody’s been impacted by the events of the last 18, 19 some odd months. If all you’re thinking about is, “Here’s what we offer you,” you’re going to obviously fail because the customer’s so deep into them.

Paul mentioned some of the things that you all are doing, coaching, etc. What would be some of your advice for sales professionals out there to really get themselves to perform at an elite level from a customer-centric perspective? It really is up to the sales professional, him or herself, to understand the needs of the customer, the customer’s market, the customer’s supply chain, their value chain. What are some of the things that you recommend that they do?

Matt Cowper: I’m going to break this down into four categories. Growth, ideas, pain and ROI. They all work hand in hand. Your number one goal and your number one priority is to drive growth for your clients, nobody spends millions of dollars unless there’s a return on that investment. Every day we wake up and we try to figure out how we’re going to grow Home Depot’s business, how we’re going to grow Verizon’s business. That’s the #1 priority.

The second thing is a lot of our competitors, a lot of people in this business just spell the spots and dots of what we do and it’s very simplistic, but you’ve got to look at things these days from a different angle. Ideas really drive that ship. You’ve got to develop custom, creative, cool, effective ideas that really separate these brands from their competitors. You need to go to these clients and develop and harness these ideas to impact their business. If you go in and just bring the package that, insert client name here, it’s not going to work and I see it all the time. Developing ideas is so important and it’s critical.

Pain. Understanding your client’s pain at the end of the day, meaning, what are they failing at? What are they succeeding at? Because if you can understand what their pain is inside their organization, you’ll be able to go back and create an idea to solve that problem. Understanding the depth of their pain and what they’re feeling in terms of their needs as a company.

The last critical part is ROI. Analytics are huge with any company that you work with, everything is data driven. What’s cool about our business is we’ve gotten a lot more sophisticated in the analytics game that we can literally see in real time the effectiveness of a campaign. When a client comes to you and they’re going to spend whatever they’re going to spend on a specific campaign, it could include radio, digital, whatever, we now have metrics. We’ll be able to show them the return on their investment so they know that the dollars they’re spending with Beasley Media Group are well earned and they’re delivering the results that they’re expecting.

I broke it down into a couple different silos, but I think they’re all very critical to the sales process.

Fred Diamond: Paul, we have a question here that comes in from Nicholas. “How can I get to the point where I’m able to show this value to customers?” Thank you, Nicholas, for the question. That’s an interesting question. A lot of times, we’re struggling to get to the customer to even begin the first conversation and we all want to get to the point where we’re trusted advisors and we’re providing all this value that Matt so clearly spoke about.

Paul, what is your advice for people who are struggling to get to that point? Is it something that you expect your sales professionals to do on the first meeting or is it maybe going to take a year, two years? Maybe down the road where the customer’s been with you for years and now you’re offering more insights? I’m just curious on how you give Nicholas and other people advice who are struggling to get to that point where I have all this value, not just your name inserted on a proposal.

Paul Blake: The question really is about proving my value more likely to a prospect than a client, probably. If they’re a client and they renew with you, you’re probably showing some pretty good value. But at the end of the day, I think about how prospects or clients have the words tattooed to their forehead of, so what? What are you doing for my business? How are you helping me? We talk about building businesses here and at the end of the day, making millionaires.

Now, I don’t mean internally, I mean externally. As a sales and marketing organization, if we can help that business, if it’s Home Depo as Matt was talking about, how do we help their business grow? What are the tools and the assets and the innovation that we can provide that’ll help their business grow? In the end, if they’re growing their business, if that bar goes from one to two to a chain of bars and restaurants, we’re helping make them a millionaire. If you have the selfless approach to sales and turn this around and make everything about the customer, then you will succeed as well. I just think that the personal engagement with that client and helping their business grow is really, ultimately the end of the story. That’s how you provide value.

The hard part is how you provide value early on. They don’t know me, how do I prove myself? Well, there are different techniques that you can do. You can become a resource, you can master the subject of their industry or their particular business, you can help provide different outreach with articles or showing an interest. If you have an interest in somebody’s business, if you go so far as to say, “I would like to work in your business for a day or half a day,” then you’re truly showing that you want to get involved in what makes their business tick and what makes it grow. That’s the ultimate engagement.

There’s sales tips and tricks. Just use common sense, how would you want someone to treat you? One of the things that I use in life and in business is not the golden rule, but the platinum rule. People say the golden rule is treat others the way you want to be treated. My platinum rule, treat others the way they want to be treated because everyone has a different set of circumstances and even at some level, different view on things. Get to learn who the prospect and the customer is, understand their needs, their challenges, their goals, live in their world, become a valuable asset. That’s how I would approach it.

Fred Diamond: We have another question coming in here from Maria, “I’m considering making a career shift into radio sales, why should I move into this industry?” A lot of times on the Sales Game Changers webcast and podcast, we’ve done over 450 shows, we’ve had a lot of people who have sold into public sector, education or healthcare. One of my favorite industries to talk to the sales leaders about is media, radio and audio. Matt, talk a little bit about the industry. You guys have devoted your careers to selling solutions to customers via the means that we spoke about before. Now more and more digital and things like that. Matt, why would someone want to focus their career in sales in this particular marketplace?

Matt Cowper: There’s a lot of different reasons why I love our business. I love the creativity that goes along with our business. The ability to walk into a client sometimes and even if you’re completely prepared, you’re trusted, you’ve asked the right questions, but there’s always that unexpected moment when you’re with a client and then you find this little nugget. Then you get to go back to wherever you are, whether it’s your corporate building or whatever, and you get to take literally a wide array of platforms and assets. It’s almost like putting together a puzzle, and you get to come back and use these assets and these resources to create amazing campaigns and see them come to life. Then, be able to have that wow moment with your client where it’s living and it’s breathing and then all of a sudden they’re like, “This is the most amazing campaign I’ve ever put together.” There’s nothing more satisfying in the world than that.

But to answer her question specifically about what is so great about radio/audio, there isn’t a solution that doesn’t exist within our organization. What I mean by that is if you need digital, we have that. We can do social, we can go OTT, we can do CTV, we can do display, we can do streaming, we have podcasts, we have access to everything. If you want just plain old audio/radio because that does work, we’ve got that. If you want events, we have that too. Our company in Philadelphia does over 2,000 events a year and we tie all of our clients into those different events, depending on what their goals are, so we have that.

We have an e-sports network, we have this team down in Houston, we can tie clients into e-sports. We’ve got hospitality, we’ve got entertainment, engagement, we have so many different things at our disposal to help reach a client’s needs, that is what’s awesome about our business. We’re not a one trick pony, we’ve got so many different solutions to help a client, and it’s literally like putting a puzzle together. You’re coming back and you’re trying to figure out, what’s going to work for this client? You get with your team and you start building that strategy and it’s so much fun. That’s why I love our business and why I think it’s so tremendous and awesome.

Fred Diamond: Paul, a follow-up question. For people just getting into radio, either they’re junior or they’re making a career shift like Maria’s considering doing, what would be two or three things that you would tell them off the bat? We’re talking about great things, we’ve got all these solutions, understanding the needs of the customer, the value, understanding where the customer wants to go, how do we make them millionaires, etc. What would be some specific things, Paul, for people who are brand new?

One reason I’m intrigued by this is we do a lot of work with universities who are now adding sales majors and helping get recent college grads into jobs and stuff. It’s exciting to see what’s going on at the university level, so I’m a little bit more attuned to that than usual. But someone who’s brand new, either maybe they’re coming out of school, getting into radio/audio or maybe someone like Maria who’s a couple years – I don’t want to say how many years Maria’s down the path, but making the shift into radio. What would be two or three pertinent, crisp advice for them to do?

Paul Blake: Great question, Fred. Here’s how I look at sales and first of all, you better be passionate about something. If Matt didn’t come jumping through the screen with his passion, then I’m not sure what does. I look at sales as it’s very simple, it’s just not easy. The sales process, whether it’s marketing, radio, digital or whatever, is very similar. I don’t care whether you’re selling copiers or selling what we do. You better be tenacious, you better have high frequency, persistence and so forth. You can’t sit back and no one’s telling you what to do. You know what you need to do, you need to find a right way to prospect, you need to be creative with your prospecting, you need to find value in what you can provide and valid business reasons. You need to find out what the goals and objectives of the client are, you need to fill the needs, you need to create high value versus what the investment is and you need to show results.

Again, doesn’t matter what you’re selling, that’s the simple part. At the end of the day, sales isn’t for everybody. Because it’s a self-starters type of profession, because at times it can be draining, you’re just driving and driving and sometimes you’re getting the bats but maybe you’re not getting the hits, or what have you. That’s all understandable, but you need to be able to keep yourself level-headed, you need to enjoy the success and you need to minimize the negative as much as possible. For the new ones, for the veterans, whoever’s jumping into our profession, ultimately, you need to be focused and you need to really focus on the client like we talked about earlier. I don’t think there’s any real secret sauce to what we do except for providing great value above and beyond, excellent customer service.

Think about this, Fred, if we’re talking about closing ratios, let’s say we’re closing 25% of the time. That means we’re closing one out of four people. What would happen if we found a great qualified client, and instead of worrying about finding prospects two, three and four and finding one of them to close, how about creating four great ideas for that one client? Therefore, that’s your 25% closing ratio. That goes back to what I said earlier about knowing a client’s business, knowing a prospect’s business so in depth as if you work for them. The moment that you do that, you can ultimately find a way to create value for them and “sell” something.

I don’t like to talk about selling something because here’s what I think the profession of sales is. People say sales is persuading someone to do something, I believe sales is persuading someone to do something that they should be doing. If you can find a way to connect what they need and what you have, you’re going to sell them something that they should be doing.

Fred Diamond: Matt, what are people doing wrong? You work with salespeople across the country and rep organizations. It’s been an interesting 18 months for all the reasons and everyone’s had to deal with challenges, probably a lot of your customers have had impact, now things are coming back which is great for a lot of the companies and industries that you serve. But what do you see people doing wrong time and time again that really gets at your goat?

Matt Cowper: Honestly, I think a lot of people don’t do their homework. They’re not really understanding either what’s happening with a particular client or a category in our industry. Knowledge is everything, knowledge is power. I think a lot of times a lot of people aren’t doing their homework with their clients and truly understanding what’s going on out there. I think that’s one issue.

I think a lot of times in not just our business, I think in many businesses they’re just pitching things to be pitched. What I mean is they may be working for a sales manager that’s got this hot product or commodity or whatever it is that they need to sell, so it’s like go out there and sell that, let’s get that closed. Not really thinking, okay, does this work for my client? Does this make sense for my client? I think that’s a definite issue.

I like to use the word fail to learn, and what I mean by that is I think it’s important for every salesperson, sales manager or whatever position you are, to at some point have failed during the process. Fail in my opinion means you’ve done your homework, you’ve understood your client but at some point, something didn’t happen and there was failure there. You failed, but during that process, you’re going to learn something extremely valuable.

I’ll take a quote from Paul is that a baseball player steps up the bat 10 times, if he gets 3 out of 10 hits, he’s a 300 average hitter, he’s a Hall of Famer. That’s just an example, but I think it’s important to go through the process and fail because you will eventually learn.

Paul Blake: And Matt, two hits. One last hit and my man’s cut from the team. The degree of success is very minimal.

Fred Diamond: Maria says thank you for the answers. We have time for one more question before I ask you for your final action step. The last 18 months have been very disruptive in so many ways, and of course, your industry was definitely affected as every industry was, especially in the entertainment space. There weren’t games for a while and now they’re coming back. How have you both changed as sales leaders over the last 18 months? Take a little introspective look and answer the question briefly. Paul, why don’t you go first? 18 months later, how have you changed as a sales leader?

Paul Blake: One of the things, Fred, to keep it real tight here is I think I shed some of my old-school beliefs to some degree. Everyone being in the office all the time at some point is not so necessary. Heck, I used to wear a tie and suit every single day and you see that’s changed a little bit too. But ultimately, what I think it’s done for me is to help drive further into what the priorities are. Everyone was going in such a scattered way in respect to the pandemic and I think my individualized perception has grown more so as to what the needs are of my employees. Just like I talked about the needs of the client, my key accounts are our employees here, our sales team, our sales managers. I think I continue to focus on what’s different and what’s necessary for each of our individuals, even more so than I did before. The distractions are so much more plentiful today than they were ever before, and with how people have pivoted and changed, things are coming from every angle. Quite frankly, I think we’ve gotten a lot more efficient with the form of virtual communication, but that efficiency has thrown a lot more distraction at us. To sum that up, I think focusing even better on each individual has been probably a priority of mine.

Fred Diamond: Matt, how about you? How have you changed as a sales leader over the last 18 months?

Matt Cowper: I’ve definitely become more adaptable, more nimble, I listen a lot more and by the way, no matter what you’re selling out there, listen. Just keep your mouth shut, listen to your clients, the rewards will be huge. I’m definitely a better listener, and Paul can probably attest to that.

I think I’m a lot more open, and what I mean by that is the world has changed in the last 18 months. Certain areas of our business from a technology standpoint have grown like streaming, online listening where people weren’t in their cars. I’ve been a lot more open to certain platforms and assets, tools and things that we have inside of our company that maybe I probably wouldn’t have showcased or offered a client or talked to a client about. But as things change, as consumer’s behaviors have changed, I’ve changed my view on different things in terms of technology and platforms that I’m now having conversations with my clients about whereas before, I probably wasn’t having those same conversations.

Fred Diamond: I want to thank you both for the great insights. We’ve got some nice comments here. Sheryl says, “Thank you so much for the information.” Neil says, “This was great, Fred, thank you.” Tony also says, “This was worth my time.” Before we wrap up as we typically do, we’d like to ask you for your final action step for people watching today’s webinar, or for people listening as a podcast.

First of all, I want to acknowledge you both for the success that you’ve had in your career in helping tens of thousands of customers. We got some requests that we needed to get you both on the show and we didn’t really talk about Philly too much at all, so I could have talked for hours about Philly radio. I actually did a little internship when I was in high school, I always love talking about Philly radio. We’ll talk maybe offline.

Give us your final action steps briefly, something specific people should do right now when they’re done listening to the show or listening to the podcast. Paul, why don’t you go first? Something nice, brief and concise, and then Matt, you bring us home.

Paul Blake: I’m going to jump off what Matt just said about listening. I have a saying, you have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you talk. What’s that action? The action is don’t sell anything, ask big, broad, open-ended questions so that your prospect can give you the answers to the test. Don’t ask questions that are yes or no or even directive, let them go limitless. Ask them, if you had a magic wand, what would you celebrate at the end of this year? And you’re going to be able to back into a great client needs analysis. If I can leave that with everybody, don’t try to respond to or even have anything preset into what you’re talking to a client about. Respond to what their needs are, listen twice as much as you talk.

Fred Diamond: Matt, bring us home here. What’s your final bit of advice for the people listening to today’s podcast?

Matt Cowper: Be fearless. Don’t worry about failing, there’s beauty in learning and knowledge, and you will be better at what you do if you go through that. The biggest thing is be the number one resource and asset for your client. You’re there to help them, you’re an asset and a resource. Be their number one. When they need to call somebody, pick up the phone, send an email, send a text, make sure it’s you.

Fred Diamond: That’s very powerful. For people who listen to the Sales Game Changers podcast all the time, that is always my one bit of advice, is courage. When people ask me, what is the common factor of great sales leaders and sales professionals? I always say it’s courage, it’s getting past the fears that you have and asking for the deal, letting the customer know that you’re there to help. Right now, like we talked about, going to your customer and bringing them value. It’s hard to get through to customers because they’re all busy with their stuff and what their customers are dealing with. Be fearless, make sure you get the opportunity to give them your sound advice.

Once again, Paul Blake, thank you so much. Matt Cowper, thank you. To all the listeners of the Sales Game Changers podcast, thank you very much.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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