Just Say No
Last week, I set a goal of contacting at least five station managers or program directors for feedback on my radio feature. No one responded to my calls.
Not that I’m a fan of failure, it’s just that every disappointing moment is also a teachable moment. Even this one.
Free Consulting Advice
Years ago, I worked with a well-known broadcast consultant. He was busy all the time, but he never turned down an opportunity to talk to a high school or college student about broadcast engineering.
“Today’s student is tomorrow’s chief engineer,” he told me, adding, “You never know when one of these kids will be in a position to hire you. At the least, you’ve fired up one more potential broadcaster.”
I’ve never forgotten that lesson. A little pro bono advice today pays dividends tomorrow. Not just dividends for the advisor, but dividends for the industry, by encouraging a potential star.
Did I mention this guy worked all the time?
When I owned an ad agency I saw every sales person who wanted an appointment. (I drew the line at bulk mail solicitations, but if someone took the time to contact me directly, he or she was in.) How much time I spent with a sales person depended upon what they were offering. But they all got in the door.
My business ran on creative ideas, and I never knew where one would come from. If I shut out sales people—and the good ones are creative—I would have turned the idea spigot way down. Besides, sales people have this funny trait.
And many of the people these sales people talked to were my prospects—prospects I didn’t know existed. I never kept statistics, but anecdotally I’d say 25 percent of our business came from referrals from sales people, including ones I had politely turned down.
In our present state of overload, the demands on our time have led to a culture in which no answer now stands for a “no” answer. Maybe a soft no as compared to a hard, get-out-and-stay-out no, but a no nonetheless.
Look, I’m a realist.
The people I contact have no investment in me or my problems. But that’s what I’m asking for. An investment. Their time in return for a future radio feature that might make money for their station—or, it might not. I’m not surprised when I get a no.
But I’m surprised when I get a no answer.
Like sales people, entrepreneurs (and vendors, present and future) talk. And in the small town that is the radio community, their voices carry.
I would never damn somebody for not getting back to me. But I wouldn’t recommend them to a prospective client, employee, or vendor, either. (How could I? I don’t know anything about them or their business.)
Lesson Learned (or Remembered)
Lately, I’ve been lax in getting back to sales people. I’ve probably dropped from 100 percent to something in the high 80s.
So, excuse me while I return some calls (and fire off a few emails) thanking some people I’ve never met for their interest in my company. I’ll also spend a minute explaining why now is not the time for us to do business.
No one likes to say no. It’s an uncomfortable message to deliver.
But for me, the only thing more uncomfortable than telling someone no is not telling them anything at all.