After the staff meeting yesterday, as I walked back to my office with four pieces of pizza and a double portion of cake, two co-workers from upstairs stopped me.
They wondered if they could ask a question, and would I tell the truth if they did.
I say upstairs because at the radio station the people who are on the air are downstairs and the business people are upstairs. It’s not too often we cross paths. They were advertising sales people, from upstairs, two women who scour the region and country looking for businesses who’d like to run ads on my show and others.
I answered that, of course, they could ask a question. And I would tell the truth.
It struck me that the last time I had been in precisely this situation, it may have been the seventh-grade.
“Do you like sales people?” one of them asked.
When people ask you questions, they tell you something about yourself. And I was startled by what this told me. I have worked with these women for something like 10 or 15 years, each in our respective roles, all of us very successfully, and they didn’t know if I liked them, or people like them.
They didn’t know if I respected or appreciated what they did. They wondered if I saw them as colleagues or nuisances.
And that hurt. Not what they said, but the realization that I had by my thoughtlessness raised that question in their minds. By getting so caught up in my own little world, I had neglected to interact with theirs.
So, here is my answer.
I like radio advertising people. I revere them. I am in awe of them. I can’t imagine doing what they do, or how they stand up to the pressures and demands of what they have to do.
I have worked fulltime in radio for about 25 years, at three stations in three very different markets – Rochester and Syracuse, New York, and Salt Lake City, Utah. In each of these settings, there have been dozens of ad sales people. Their personalities and ethics, and the dynamics of the business communities and management structures in which they have had to work, have been all over the board.
My interactions with them have also varied. From free intermingling on a daily basis, to annual handshakes at the Christmas party. Some have been personal mentors and friends, others have been nameless strangers.
Lunches with Salt Lake advertising colleagues explained to me the nature of commerce and commercial interests in that thriving market, and the history and intrigues of its radio industry. Years of conversations and shared efforts with a small handful of Rochester sales people taught me the heart-warming power radio can give you to prosper a sponsor’s business and swell its receipts and payroll.
I have sat with ad sales people and formulated plans to keep a business in business, and how to make a community or neighborhood more visible and vibrant. I have learned compassion and competitiveness in league with coworkers whose job it was to sell advertising time.
There have been thousands of conversations over a generation of time.
But now I am downstairs and they are upstairs, and for seven hours of the day I am alone in a little studio, with two more hours in my office researching or writing, and another hour out alone on a run, and the offices are empty when I come to work and when I go home. And that turns into months and years and while we each do our own thing, play our part in the prosperity of our employment and employer, questions arise.
Do you like sales people?
My entire livelihood depends on sales people. My entire industry depends on sales people. The difference between a podcast that amounts to nothing and a radio show that generates millions of dollars a year is a staff of sales people who monetize some music or babbling, bringing prosperity to sponsors and colleagues.
Do I like sales people? I just about worship the ground they walk on.
And I think I see dimly, from the safety of my little studio, what they have to face and do.
The innumerable cold calls, the prospects who are rude or out of line, the ever-increasing sales goals and the whiplash of corporate demand that is always overhead. The reality of starting the week with nothing in their paycheck and by their own wits and determination earning a draw five days later.
Donuts for one client on the way into the office and drinks with another on the way home, and countless calls and forays in between trying to partner our business with others so that all might prosper.
On rainy days and snowy days and on days when they just don’t feel like going out.
All with a smile, all with positivity, all with the reality that a building full of coworkers is depending on them to pay the bills.
Yes, I like sales people.
I love them. As colleagues, and, increasingly, like a father.
I have seen young and vibrant coworkers age into midlife faster than they should have because of the burdens they bare. I have seen them miss family events and chances for fun because they had work.
And because they had the personal integrity and character to do the job they signed up for with excellence and commitment.
I have watched this over the years with admiration.
Because I recognize that they carry me on their back. Me and my family and our living. The prosperity of my show and the wonderful support of exceptional sponsors is all made possible by the efforts and introductions of our advertising sales staff.
And I am conscious of that, and grateful for that, every single day.
And I’m sorry I have allowed there to be any confusion about that.
Yes, I like sales people. I am their biggest fan.