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EPISODE 142: How Entercom Sales Leader Ivy Savoy-Smith Convinced a Top Prospect to Drop its No-Urban Dictate
IVY’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Remember that your work ethic and your reputation are everything. You take that with you wherever you are, wherever you go in life, in business. Business is ever-changing, it’s evolving – you’ve got to be able to change with it. You’ve got to embrace it, you’ve got to learn from change and you’ve got to grow from change.
She’s been there for 17 years and has also worked at CBS Radio.
Find Ivy on LinkedIn!
We’re actually broadcasting today’s podcast a couple feet away from the studios of all the stations that we just talked about, so it’s very cool if you enjoy radio like I do. Ivy, I’m thrilled to have you on the Sales Game Changers podcast, I’m excited to get your insights. Why don’t you tell us a little more about you that we need to know?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: Thank you, Fred, I’m excited to be here as well. As you said, I’ve been selling radio now for 24 years, 17 of them actually here at Entercom DC and prior to Entercom acquiring CBS Radio, CBS Radio. I think I’ve held about every job possible at a radio station besides the programming and engineering arm, I started off as a part time assistant answering phones at the front desk.
I’ve helped business office with calling clients about payments, working on the street team with promotions, I was in the traffic department helping file logs so I think I’ve done just about everything as a sales assistant. I’ll tell you, all of those jobs were the best experience because I learned a lot about each department and it made me appreciate what each and every one does at a radio station, and it also helped gear me towards the sales department.
Fred Diamond: I’m excited to hear what you sell today. Obviously we mentioned four radio properties and an online property, I think when people think about radio they think of air time but you’ve probably had to evolve since then with all the competition. Why don’t you tell us what you sell today and tell us a little more about what excites you about that?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: You’re right, we actually have 5 stations. We actually also have El Zol Deportes, 1580 AM which is our Spanish sports radio station as well. Yes, we do sell more than radio. Obviously radio is the #1 reach medium so we want to continue with radio but you have to evolve and the digital platform, we also have radio dot com which is huge, which is able to target our listeners all across the country, geo-target with formats and with just about everything.
You have to evolve, our social media with Twitter and Facebook and all of our stations have accounts with social medias and our personalities are very engaged and involved as well. Yes, we’ve had to evolve and we have evolved, that’s what I love about radio because it is so exciting and no two days are the same.
Fred Diamond: Again, you have a couple different properties. Who do you sell to? Are they marketing directors, salespeople, who are your customers that actually buy radio time from you guys?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: Everyone’s a customer. Obviously we work with agencies that have large accounts and we also work with direct clients, mom and pops, direct business owners who are trying to get their products in front of people, who are trying to touch as many people as they can. That’s our job, to go out and to try to help people, to try to help you move the needle. What is the end goal and how can we help you? With all of our diverse properties that we have here in DC, we can definitely help just about everyone.
Fred Diamond: You mentioned that you started here answering the phones and then you eventually moved into sales. How did you first get into sales as a career? Did someone notice something about you or did you just say, “I think I can do that”? Tell us a little bit about how you made that transition into sales.
Ivy Savoy-Smith: It’s funny, I actually started in Atlanta answering the phones at a radio station that’s now non-existent, but yes, that’s exactly what happened. I was a part-time and just wanted to get my foot in the door, was fresh out of college, majored in broadcast journalism but definitely didn’t think I would go the sales route. Always thought I would probably be more of an executive producer, I always thought that I would produce and be in the background. Working at that radio station and like I said, doing every job, I gravitated more towards the sales department when I was there helping the salespeople put together proposals. It was interesting to me, and the sales manager at that time did take a little interest in me and said, “Have you ever considered sales?” When I moved back here to DC, that’s when I said I’m going into sales, so that’s exactly how it started.
Fred Diamond: What were some of the lessons that you learned when you first made that transition that have stuck with you today?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: Some of the lessons that I learned from that was just to keep at it. Sales is tough, by no means is it easy but it’s a very rewarding career, but you have to stick at it. You have to have a strategy and a plan, you have to execute the plan and then the reward comes and that’s what I learned. I worked with some very successful salespeople, and looking at the successful salespeople and looking at the not so successful salespeople sometimes in a sales organization, I watched the ones who did well, who closed the deals, how they closed them, how they interacted with their clients and that’s who I wanted to tag along with, were those people. That’s what I would say, being around people who are doing what you want to do but are doing it well, that’s what I learned. Gravitate towards those people, go towards those people.
Fred Diamond: We have people listening to the podcast all over the world and they sell things from software to a whole bunch of different things, technology, hospitality. What makes a great sales professional in the radio space? Again, you mentioned persistence before but what are some things, either skills or personality or intellect, that they need to have that you’ve seen over your years to be successful selling radio space?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: Listening, you’ve got to be a great listener. I think listening to a client, a prospect’s needs, sometimes the salespeople, we so want to sell our product or our service that we get so caught up into selling it that we’re not listening. When you listen, the client 9 times out of 10 will answer the questions that you haven’t even asked yet. Being a great listener is something that I’ve learned that when you’re able to do that, it goes a long way with the client. They appreciate it more to be able to now regurgitate what they just said and put it in a meaningful proposal that’s going to help them sell their widgets or whatever it is. That’s the first step, is listening really well.
Fred Diamond: That’s interesting, we’ve had a number of our Sales Game Changers talk about listening and it’s interesting that you would say that running radio stations and selling radio space. Give a tip to the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe, what are some things that you’ve done to become a better listener as a sales leader?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: Some of the things that I’ve done with being a better sales listener is really thinking about the customer, the client, the client’s needs and not my need. I think when you take yourself out of the equation and you truly look at the client’s needs and listen for their needs, then that’s the answer is answering the client’s question and listening for their needs and not worrying about your need. Then it’s going to all come together anyway, once you have their need and once you listen and you’ve found it and you can now think about how you’re going to help solve their issue, there you go.
You’ve helped solve their problem by listening as opposed to thinking about how you’re going to sell something. I think that’s the difference in listening versus going in with a mindset of, “I’m going to sell this $100 thousand dollar deal today” as opposed to listening to the client. You never know what you’re going to sell today, but if you listen intently, if you pay attention to what they’re saying then you will have a homework assignment, you will come back and you will have a close.
Fred Diamond: And you will become a more trusted partner, you’re looking after their business. Ivy, what are you an expert in? Tell us a little more about your specific area of brilliance.
Ivy Savoy-Smith: That’s funny because I just said that I’m an expert in people and listening, but my area of brilliance would be the non-traditional side of radio more of the event space. We do a very good job here at Entercom DC of selling non-traditional radio, putting people right in front of their clients with our events, we do great events like Fan Fest for Sisters Only, Verano Zol, that reach thousands of people. For clients to be able to touch, to see and to engage with their listener is something that when you’re there and you see it come to life, it is so rewarding. The personalities are there and they’re able to see the personalities that they listen to everyday on the radio that are like their best friends that they learn to trust.
When they see them at an event, at an appearance then we’re engaging, we’re activating and that experience for clients and for our staff and our team I would say is probably one of the highlights of my career and what I’ve done really well at in radio, and what I’ve enjoyed. I think again that sets radio apart from a lot of other industries where we’re able to do all those different types of things that we customize and we bring stuff to life.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great answer. We spend so much time in our cars or whatever listening to the radio, I know I feel affinity towards DJs that I listen to when I was in high school. I grew up in Philadelphia listening to one of your properties, WYSP, and some of the DJs that were there. I still fondly think about and I can definitely see how your customers would get benefit from that. You’ve been here for 17 years and you’re the VP of sales for Entercom DC. You must have had some great mentors along the way, why don’t you tell us about an impactful sales career mentor and how they impacted your career?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: I’ve had some great mentors. Sam Rogers was my market manager here some years ago, he’s still with our company in charge of national sales and he was definitely an impactful mentor for me. He hired me, brought me in and really taught me a lot about how to manage, how to lead and to gain trust and that your word is your bond, and if you said it, you do it. I learned a ton under Sam.
My current market manager senior VP, Phil Zachary, is brilliant at telling a story and explaining something in layman’s terms and I truly appreciate that because I’m a storyteller so I learn something every time he tells a different story. I’ve had two very great mentors, actually more than that. We don’t have enough time, but those are two that have really changed how I view things as a sales manager.
Fred Diamond: You’ve had a lot of challenges in sales, what are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: Recruitment continues to be a tough thing in our industry and probably in a lot of industries, especially with the younger generations. The instant results, the instant success is always something that we’re constantly dealing with because sales is hard work and it isn’t always instant, it takes time, it is a process. Like I said, you have to have a plan and execute the plan, so you’ve got to understand that the reward is coming if you put in the work and you do what you need to do. Sometimes that’s hard with recruiting new people because they’re so used to instantaneous success, so that is tough, that continues to be tough for our industry.
Fred Diamond: What are some things you might do to get someone who has some talent to come be on your sales team if they’re young and looking for a career in sales?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: We have a great sales training program, we have great sales leaders here who we train and we take them under our wing. It’s about a 12 week program as far as the sales training is in house before we actually start to go out. We make sure that they understand that there is a process and there are people here that will support them. We have brand ambassadors, so to speak, our sales managers in every one of our stations, that is their core responsibility so that person knows that they have someone that they can rely on, that they can go out with to prospect on sales calls, that will help them.
We just don’t tell you what to do, we show you how to do it. That’s my thing, I always tell people, “I’m not going to tell you to do something I haven’t done, won’t do or can’t do.” I tell all of my sales management team the same thing, we try to make sure that any new people that are coming in, and even seasoned people know that we support them and that we are here to help you be successful. If you aren’t successful, we aren’t successful so you’re our main guys on the front line.
Fred Diamond: Take us back to the #1 specific sale success or win from your career that you’re most proud of.
Ivy Savoy-Smith: I was thinking about one that’s near and dear to my heart. I’m probably most successful of this restaurant – I won’t say the name, but it’s a restaurant chain that years ago wouldn’t buy any urban stations. They had a no urban dictate and it ticked me off because I ate there [laughs], I always ate there with my family and tons of minorities are there. I couldn’t believe it and I worked with this buyer, I was really good friends with the buyer and we would get on other business that she had out of the agency but we would not get this business. She basically told me, “No urban dictate.”
I said that’s a problem, so what I did was I went to this restaurant and I took pictures of everyone sitting there eating, all the patrons and I did my research at the time, it was with WPGC urban station. I took my pictures, I put it all on this nice proposal to her, I showed her all the research that we had from Nielsen that showed how well our listeners did with. You get restaurants multiple times a month, they’re buying habits, how much they spend, I got all the research and everything together, took the pictures, more importantly and sent that to her with a clock that said, “It’s time to buy WPGC.”
I will tell you, Fred, when I got that buy schedule from her, it was not a huge schedule by any means. It wasn’t my largest buy, she wasn’t my largest client but it was my proudest moment. This was in 2002 and I still remember it like it was yesterday because it was my proudest moment to overcome that and for them to see the value of the radio station and our listeners. It was more about not the money but proving the point and the win. It’s still near and dear to my heart with that and now that restaurant, they’re on so many urbans now. To hear them now, you would never know this, this was 2002, 17 years ago but now they’re everywhere. I love that, that’s near and dear to my heart.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great story, I’m actually getting chills listening to that.
Ivy Savoy-Smith: [Laughs] I still get them.
Fred Diamond: That’s fantastic because you had a couple challenges there. One is the restaurant says, “No, we don’t believe that those are the customers that we’re trying to attract” but they did some other things with you and you had a passion about not showing them wrong but proving that they can get value out of this additional property that you had. You did the extra work, you took the pictures. Curiously, when you sell radio is that one of the goals? To get in small and then grow, or do you just go in there with, “Here’s a million dollar package”?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: No, that goes back to that listening, you don’t be presumptuous. Sometimes in sales that is an issue that a lot of salespeople fall into because they have a budget, “My budget is X amount a month, I’ve got to get to that budget and these clients are going to help me get to this budget.” You predetermine what you want them to do and that’s not how this works, you’ve got to go in and listen to the client. Yes, you have a budget, yes, we have a goal but at the end of the day you have to listen to the client and the client’s needs and what their budget is. It’s not about your need, it’s about their need and if you fulfill their need, it will help you get to your need. You’re going to win, but you just have to do it the right way, not your way sometimes.
Fred Diamond: I’m just curious, back to the restaurant one more time. Did you ever talk to the buyer after that about the challenge, if you will? Not to prove them wrong or anything but to say, “See? We can help you grow your business and the mandate or dictate that you had is probably something that is artificial”?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: Yes. I will say at that time, the buyer didn’t have an issue with buying the radio station, the buyer did get the value of the radio station because she bought other products with me through her agency. It was the client, it was the corporation who had the no urban dictate that of course, they’re her boss so she had to follow their lead. Yes, when I supplied her all that information and the proposal and sent it to her for her to send to them, she was like, “This is what I needed.” Then she presented our information, I would have loved to have presented it but she presented our information and then we got on the buy.
Fred Diamond: The Sales Game Changers podcast is not a political podcast, we have sales professionals listening around the globe but I just need to follow up. Is that a challenge, the no urban dictate that some of the clients have that you’ve come across in your career that you’ve had to figure out strategies to overcome?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: Absolutely, that continues. Obviously it isn’t as bad as it was in 2002 or in years prior, but it continues to be an education opportunity. I look at it as an educational opportunity when I go in, I love to sometimes surprise businesses and clients on the buying power of the WPGC listener, of the urban listener with showing them all of the qualitative research and again, this research is coming from Nielsen, it’s not our research. This is a company’s research that’s showing everything so it isn’t biased. I welcome that, I wish it weren’t so but yes, when I’m able to prove a point I do enjoy proving the point.
It also happens on the Latino side as well, we have our El Zol 107.9 station as well and we get that a lot more with El Zol at this time then we do with WPGC. WPGC with the urban has gotten better, like I said, over the years but with El Zol now there’s definitely the same type of stigma and disconnect, probably more so because of the language barrier. We deal with that on a daily basis and we do the best we can with our research and with our information and again, with the results.
The results of the clients who are on the air with us and those case studies and being able to show other clients. These clients on El Zol, I have Giant Food, I have Goya, we have State Farm, we have reputable major name companies and brands who are advertising on this radio station and get results. They wouldn’t be spending thousands of dollars if they didn’t get results, so the Latino consumer is just as valuable. They have dollars, they have money to spend as well so it’s an education process but it’s one that is a challenge that we take on every day and our team is ready and geared up for it.
Fred Diamond: Actually, I really liked that story where you talked about how you went the extra step. Again, for people listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast, there’s a lot of agencies that buy radio space and TV space and print advertising for that matter as well. You have to sell to them, they then have to sell to the customer. You proved it with data, you proved it with information, good for you, that’s why you’ve had a great career and that’s why you’re the VP of sales for Entercom DC. Ivy, before we take a short break I’m going to ask you one last question. Again, you moved into sales, you started out your career answering the phones for a radio station in Atlanta, then you moved to DC and you mentioned you’ve held every job in the radio station except on the program side but you made that change. We’ve talked about some of the challenges that you face on a daily basis. Did you ever question being in sales? Do you ever think to yourself, “Ivy, it’s too hard, it’s really just not for me”?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: Absolutely. I thought about it a couple times but I also knew that sales was for me. I was offered opportunities as a media buyer, I was offered an opportunity actually to get in pharmaceutical sales which at the time was a little more stable than radio sales because they actually gave you a salary and a car allowance. One of my friends was in pharmaceutical sales, so she was always trying to get me to come over on her side, but I knew radio sales was for me. It was a little tough but I knew if I kept at the plan, if I worked really hard, I knew that it would eventually pay off and it did. You’ve got to have a little bit of patience, you have to stick with this, you’ve got to execute and the results, the reward is there for you.
Fred Diamond: I’m going to ask this question again before we take a short break. What is it about you specifically that has made you successful selling radio? Again, you talked about being a good listener, you talked about persistence but dig a little deeper there. How have you achieved this level of success to become the VP of Sales for Entercom DC representing all these great stations?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: I think it’s also a level of confidence that comes with it, that people trust and like to be around other confident people. I think when you convey that confidence that you know your business, you know what you’re talking about and you trusted someone else and you give people that trusts and that lack of respect, I think that it comes across to people. People do business with who they trust, so I’ve always been a person who would tell you how it is or like it is regardless, unfortunately, if some liked it or not, it was the truth. I was always respectful, but if something wasn’t going to work I wouldn’t just take someone’s money, I wouldn’t just do it and always knew in the long run that doesn’t pay off.
I’m here to build relationships, I’m here to build long relationships and the biggest compliment in sales is a referral to me. To be able to get a referral from a client speaks volumes because that just shows how much they trust you to then refer you to one of their friends for business. When I started getting referrals I was like, “Now you’re onto something, Ivy, deep doing what you’re doing.” It’s just being fair and honest and doing what you say you’re going to do, executing when you say you are and if something goes wrong, be upfront about it. Be proactive, don’t wait, don’t react, be proactive. I think that has helped me in my career go a lot further than even I thought I would at this time.
Fred Diamond: What’s the most important thing you want to get across to the selling professionals listening to today’s podcast to help them take their career to the next level?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: I would tell them stick to it, you’ve got to stick to your plan, you’ve got to have a strategy, set goals. You’ve got to set goals in life for anything that you want to do in a timeline, and also knowing what your time is worth. A lot of people don’t realize what is your time worth, I do that with my salespeople, especially with newer ones that come in. I would ask them, “How much do you want to make this year? You want to make a hundred thousand, whatever number that is? Now let’s back into that number, let’s talk about 40 hours a week, on average a 50 hour work week – none of us work 40 hours, unfortunately – and now let’s talk about what your time is worth.”
Doing that assignment with them is eye opening on what you need to do, how you need to prepare, how you need to strategize, what clients you need to prospect, what verticals, what are we doing? That’s what I like to convey to the junior selling professionals is to make sure that they really have a strategy or plan and knowing what their time is worth.
Fred Diamond: What are some things you do to sharpen your saw and stay fresh?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: I love to read, I’m an avid reader, I always have been. I read the trades magazines, anything I pick up and I read to know what’s going on. I’m also a huge networker, I love to network and go to events, I talk to peers in similar positions, in situations such as myself for best practices with issues, challenges so I try to stay on the forefront. Again, surround myself with people also in the same area that I’m in so that I have someone to talk to about challenges and different things.
Fred Diamond: What’s a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: A major initiative for me right now is my sales leadership team, to make sure that they’re doing well because if they do well, I do well. I look at it definitely that way, that they are the most important part of my job. Of course, it’s important for us to hit our budget and to grow our revenue in sales, we are in sales and that’s the #1 thing, that’s what we have to do but if I don’t have the right team that believe in what we’re doing and believe in me as their sales leader, then we’re not going to do that. I’ve got to make sure that we’re executing on all cylinders and that they are in it to win it. At the end of the day, they are my main initiative..
Fred Diamond: Ivy, sales is hard, there’s a lot of challenges. We’ve talked about them throughout today’s podcast, people don’t return your phone calls or your emails, why have you continued? You just mentioned your sales leadership team, but what is it about sales as a career that has kept you going?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: “Sales is hard” never really scared me, because nothing in life worth having is easy, I heard that a lot growing up so I was always fine with stuff being hard as long as the reward was there. As long as I knew there was a reward and there was a rainbow, I’m good. I’m good with the rain, I knew the rainbow was coming. Sales for me as a career is just rewarding because it’s different. As I said, no two days are the same. I had the flexibility, at a time when I needed flexibility with sales I could make my own schedule with going out to see clients, I could set again what I wanted to make each year. I would say, “This year my goal is X. Next year my goal is X.” What other business can you do that? Most other businesses, they give you your salary. At best, you’re working on getting a raise each year, that 3%, 4% or whatever it may be. My raise could be 30% this year, 40% this year in sales, it’s whatever I make it because I’m out here doing the work to get the sales done.
That’s why I gravitated towards sales, I love the flexibility of it, I love the creativity of it, I love people so I love talking to different people every single day and finding out their needs and how we can help them. That’s the rewarding part, when people truly appreciate what you do. I’m taking their money, and they’re thanking me and they appreciate you, that’s an awesome feeling at the end of the day when you have those clients that are like, “This was a great campaign and this worked and my sales were up 25% and I had 600 new leads.”
That’s the best phone call, best email ever as a salesperson to get that back. Most people would probably say the sale is the best part and of course the sale is awesome to get a sale, but that feeling of “It worked” and how happy they are that it worked and how appreciative they are to you, you’ve got it right, you did all these things, that is also an awesome feeling.
Fred Diamond: That’s pretty powerful, especially with what you sell you can definitely see the results. If you’re a customer who’s advertising on the radio, if it’s either for a one-time thing or for a longer type of thing. Just curiously, when people buy radio space these days is it for a specific action type of a thing where, “We’re doing a big event this weekend” or, “We have a sale” as compared to branding or awareness? Do people use radio for awareness?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: Yes, absolutely people use radio for awareness. On my 106.7 The Fan, I have a ton of clients with entitlements and features and ownerships and own the day. Branding is huge deal with our clients and that does well, but also driving people to direct response, to an event, to a sale does well. Again, radio is so versatile, we do so much in the space that we can help clients. We can change something immediately as well, so that’s also the great thing about radio is you can be on the air today talking about a sale and what if the sale you ran out of items today? What if the sale was going until this weekend on Saturday but you ran out of items on Thursday? Awesome, now I can change the script on that spot today to say, “We’re sold out.” Radio can do that, most other mediums cannot that quickly but we can do that quickly.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you give us one final thought to inspire the tens of thousands of Sales Game Changers listening to today’s podcast?
Ivy Savoy-Smith: I would say remember your work ethic and your reputation are everything. You take that with you wherever you are, wherever you go in life, in business. I say work hard but work smart and the reward is there, business is ever-changing, it’s evolving, you’ve got to be able to change with it, change is inevitable. You’ve got to embrace it, you’ve got to learn from change and you’ve got to grow from change. Just remember, change is here, it’s inevitable and you have to evolve and change with it.