Battling Complacency with A Tough Love Case Study From Radio

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Feb 28, 2024 by Sean Luce

Are your salespeople getting too complacent in their jobs? Are they showing up late for staff meetings, leaving the station early, not pushing for new clients, dressing sloppily, or simply submitting paperwork late? If the answer is 'yes' - or seems to be sliding into the 'yes' column - you must attack the problem before staff complacency drags down your property's performance.

Curtis Purcell, general sales manager for KOLA-Riverside/San Bernardino, CA, tried something radical. He handed everyone a memo that tackled the challenges of complacency, which was jeopardizing the market position of his station at a time when he was looking to become the No. 1 advertising choice in the market.

With permission, I e-mailed Purcell's memo to some of my client managers, citing it as an example of battling staff complacency. To make a long story short, I have never received so many responses - pro and con - as this e-mail generated. I can tell you that some of you will retype this memo with your name on it and give it to your staff, while others will tell me that this guy is the next coming of Nikita Khrushchev, the former Soviet dictator known for his tirades.

Either way, you might want to know that his staff hasn't missed a sales goal in eight months, and June (when this memo was issued) set an all-time record in local (and total station) billing.


"As this station moves in a new direction, I need your help and dedication. KOLA is a good station and a strong second or third buy in the marketplace right now, but this isn't good enough for me, and I hope it's not good enough for you. Over the coming months, we all will transform KOLA into the NO. 1 choice among local advertisers.We are doing many things right, but some things need to change right away. There will be changes in our sales philosophy, changes in our sales preparation, changes in our sales appearance (remotes, civic events etc.) and, more important, changes in my expectations of you as a member of my sales team.

"Effective immediately, I will adopt the 20/70/10 rule, which simply states that 20 percent (1 or 2) of you will be recognized as superior achievers this year and will be rewarded as such. Seventy percent (4 or 5) of you will do an adequate job with the expectations to move into the top 20 percent, while the bottom 10 percent (1 of you) will be let go. As you're aware, this team can move only as fast as the weakest link. So, the weakest link will be removed.

"Personal appearances must reflect a professional attitude at all times. Be proud of your profession. It is your livelihood and not something to be taken lightly. Dress appropriately.Tardiness and late paperwork will no longer be tolerated.

'I will start handing down monthly fines as follows:

- $1,000 billing penalty if late to a required meeting (sales meeting, projection meeting, monitor meeting, training session etc.).
- $1,000 billing penalty if you are a no-show to a remote.
- $1,000 billing penalty for any paperwork turned in after deadline.(Weekly planners at 9 a.m. Mondays; collection memos; projections etc.) 
- $2,000 billing penalty for any AWOL (absent without leave) occurrence: leaving early on Fridays, not reporting back to the office in the afternoon etc.
- CMPs must be completed on all new business appointments. I will spot check from time to time.

"All presentations will be created to reflect the needs of the client and will be of the presentation format that I decide. (I am to be copied on all written presentations).

"All salespeople will be expected to bring in at least one new direct client each month. Failure to do at least two in a quarter will result in the loss of a regular billing account - no exceptions.

"It is my job to build the best sales team in the market and to meet and exceed our monthly and annual budget each year.We will do this with you or without you. If you want to remain a part of this team, it's your choice right now - don't make it mine later."

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