Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cold Calls

My sales training lasted about fifteen minutes.  Most of that time Uncle Bobby spent teaching me that I  wasn't selling advertising, or commercial spots, or even the radio station.  I was selling my, our, audience to anyone who wanted to communicate something to them.  Another instance where I learned more from Bob than all of my college professors combined.  But that's a variation of a song I've been whistling all my life.  At least when I went to school it was affordable.  By now I've spent a fortune on several, let's just stick with 'several' shall we, educations.  Maybe someday I'll get some benefit from so much bread cast upon the waters.  I'm waiting.  Patiently.

The station's sales manager didn't have much to say.  He didn't manage any people actually since there were no sales reps other than him.  I found out later that Uncle Bobby actually handled the biggest billing accounts himself so, I suppose, the sales manager saw me as, at best, a nuisance and, at worst, competition.  His input came at the end when he handed me a list of all the accounts that were off-limits.  It was a long list for such a small community.

I took that afternoon driving all around town checking storefronts against his list.  I came up with about a dozen places where I would start trying my hand at selling.  The next afternoon I began calling on those businesses.  At the first place the only person in the shop wasn't the decision maker-- I'd come back later.  Store number two was satisfied with the Yellow Pages being their only ad outlet. I put them down as "undecided".  The next stop was a small rectangular shop crammed with gifts, plants, bric-a-brac, hand-crafted items and so on.  At the far corner of the shop I could see two women talking. I waited at the front register.

A few minutes later one of the two women made her way through the store towards me.  It had been a long, dry period since Denise had given me nasty good-bye sex, but even if I had been getting laid every night in my little trailer the woman walking towards me would have brought me to attention. 

"Is there something I can help you find?" she said.

She had a very welcoming smile and demeanor.
"Actually, I'm looking for the manager..."
"Well, there isn't really one of those... I'm the owner, manager, bookkeeper, janitor... you name it."
As I started to reply she broke into a big grin.
"You're Billy The Kid!"
"Nobody actually calls me that," I said.
"You do!  I listen to you all morning and you call yourself 'Billy The Kid' all the time!" she said.
"It's the station owner's idea.... I never used that name on air before..."
"Old Bob's a cheap S.O.B."

She knew Uncle Bobby.  That figures-- small town and all-- but it made me wary.  I wasn't about to agree that Bob was a cheapskate.
"Why does his naming me Billy The Kid make him, uh, frugal?"
"He had a morning guy a few years ago by that name and already had all those jingle thingies made up.  Plus now he's making you go out and sell advertising too... I assume that's why you're here.  Nah, Bob's a cheap bastard, but I love him just the same," she said.
All of this was throwing me for a loop.  I felt like the biggest no-nothing idiot on planet Earth.

She read the distress on my face I suppose as she quickly asked, "If you're not 'The Kid', what's your real name?"
I told her.
"Well, Wil, it's nice to meet you.  My name's Pamela. Pamela Scoggins."
"It's nice to meet you, Pamela.  I've learned a great deal from you in a short time.  Kinda knocked me sideways," I said.
"Aw, don't be all down, Sweetie!"
Pamela reached out and put her left hand on my right shoulder while grabbing my right forearm with her right hand.
"You're gonna do just fine here.  Hell, half the town's already talkin' about you, darlin'."
She let go of me and I said, "They are?  I mean, who is?"
"Most everybody I talk to.  We all listen to you every morning.  You're the best thing that ever happened to that station in the ten years I've been here.  So cheer up.  You're doin' great."

"Well... in that case Pamela... maybe we should talk about you advertising on that great morning show..."
"Slow down, Slick.  I'm closing up for my lunch hour.  Come back tomorrow afternoon and we can discuss it," Pamela said.
"Tomorrow afternoon it is," I said.
"See you then, Wil."

I decided that there was no reason to make any further cold calls that afternoon.  I drove out to my tin can home and spent some quality time alone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Free Time

I could say that I learned more in the first six months working for Uncle Bobby at his little radio station just east of the Rocky Mountains than I learned in four years of college.  I could say that easily, but the larger truth is that I learned more about business in the first couple weeks at K--- Radio than I've ever learned at any school.

The work side of life was going great.  I was barely making more than minimum wage and I was living in a tin can owned by my boss and all I wanted to do was work-- nothing better than that, right?  My first week or so on the air was kind of rough-- I guess I was a little short on confidence.  I was doing morning drive.  It's called that because it's the time that people are sitting in traffic listening to the radio.  But I was broadcasting to people who would have to travel for hours to find a traffic jam.  More cattle were being driven than cars in my little audience.  I started to loosen up by week two and by the second month I thought I was doing well enough to start thinking about a bigger market.  But I had told the owner that I was in for six months minimum so I settled in and started having fun playing the hits.

The station was outside of town in a white concrete block building with the call letters and frequency painted in red and black on the front.  To call it a station logo would be to set the graphic arts back several centuries.  Inside the building was a tiny reception area, station owner Uncle Bobby's office, another smaller office for the sales manager, the control room, and a production room for cutting spots (recording commercials) that was the size of a walk-in closet.  There was also a record library that doubled as a room for the announcers to sit down and use the phone.  Just that and a unisex bathroom.  There was a coffee pot in the reception area and if you wanted a can of Coke or a pack of crackers the service station across the highway had vending machines. Ah, show business.

So there I was. A castaway on the prairie makin' with the snappy patter, weather, news, and sports between "Time In A Bottle" and "Kung Fu Fighting" five days a week between 6 and 10 AM and Saturdays between 10 and 2.  At some point during those first couple of months it dawned on me-- I wasn't getting laid.  Not even close.

To make celibacy tougher, I had time on my hands.  I'd get off the air at 10 AM and sit in the music library or cut spots until lunch.  I usually went to one of two local diners for lunch, ate alone, and waited to glimpse a woman who might be silly enough to hang out with the local morning guy who went by the on-air name of Billy The Kid.  (That name was Uncle Bobby's idea, not mine by the way.)  Nobody fitting the description ever came through the door.  I dreaded heading out to my dismal trailer in the evening.  Luckily I had to go to bed early to get up for my 6 AM shift.  On Sundays I'd just drive all over the area taking photographs and hiking around.

One afternoon I asked the station owner if there was more work I could do.  I was thinking maybe I could do something for Bobby at another station-- he owned two others in a couple of small towns a couple hours away.  But he suggested something I never even considered-- selling station advertising.  I immediately agreed to give it a try completely out of the lack of anything else to do in the afternoons.  The decision changed my life-- not only because it altered my career path but because the third business I called on as a spot peddler was a gift shop run by Pamela Scoggins.