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Visiting Professor - Day 10 - Mike Tyson, the Philosopher

One of my favorite quotes comes from Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face.” The quote is simple and true. We all have grand plans about how we wish to do something, but nothing goes as planned. WPTV-TV Account Executive, Geoff Solomon quoted Mike Tyson today in response to a question about how he prepares for each sales call or proposal. He has to prepare for the unexpected and ready himself for the buyer to come back with a negative response. It isn’t easy to be a prize fighter and it isn’t easy to sell. Both occupations take knowledge of the opponent and intense training. Solomon believes the art of selling requires training, “People can sell fun. People can sell themselves to other people. That’s innate. But to be able to sell a product to people and people part with their money, that takes training.”

Solomon loves to go on cold calls to cultivate new business. When Solomon walks into a business, it’s like he’s walking into the ring, ready to give it his best shot. He admits he ignores the “no-solicitation” signs and walks right up to the counter asking for the boss. He’s not afraid to take a punch. Cold calls and face-to-face communication is essential to making a sale.

Local Sales Manager, Justin Koenig agrees with Geoff. “You can’t do this job texting and emailing. Face-to-face meetings with clients are imperative.” Koenig is a task master who has specific goals for his account executives. He creates key performance indicators and expects his staff to meet them. His staff is expected to make ten calls everyday to prospective new clients. They are expected to make five cold calls, create three customer needs assessments and two presentations each week. Sales are not guaranteed that’s why you need a plan. You have to fight to get in the ring and when you get in there, you better be prepared for whatever comes next.

Getting into the ring starts with getting into the gym. Koenig is a Gen Xer. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1997. As a student, he was a sales person at the college’s radio station. His experience at the radio station helped him land a job at the ABC affiliate in Gainesville. From there, his career took off. He will bristle when you say television is dying and from what I’ve seen here, television is not dying. If sales are an indication of the vitality of a television station, this place is thriving.

Each election cycle creates more money. Political ads are not going away and the TV corporations are smart enough to create OTT opportunities that create more sales revenue. All I can say is that with the upcoming mid-terms, all the commercial spots will be booked. That’s like saying all the shelves of the store are empty…but wait! We have a few more stores in the back. You can buy stuff off their shelves. Local news will continue to drive the TV station but the OTT is helping morph the format and sale of the news product.

So you want to go into sales and help this evolution? Koenig says that students need to get into the business of their choosing while in school by interning or getting a low paid entry level position while in school. He’s puzzled that young people are not applying for his vacancies. He says has never interviewed anyone under the age of 26. There are no millennial account executives at WPTV-TV The reason, “The millennials don’t know these jobs exist.”

It was just a few days ago when the newly hired creative service employee, Alex Peyerak, said the same thing. Students don’t know these jobs exist. Why? I’m not sure. But now that I know I’m inspired to be on a mission. I need to make students aware of these jobs. They are good paying career jobs. Justin Koenig started out in journalism but when the University of Florida offered a media sales program he decided that was the path he wanted to take. As professors, we need to be open to the real world and possibilities WE don’t know exist. I’m as guilty as anyone else, putting blinders on and looking at the world from my experience, insecure to look beyond. That perspective limits our knowledge of what is out there. I’ve always known about sales but I’ve looked at the job from the floor of the newsroom, my view wasn’t clear. I made assumptions, didn’t listen to my sales friends, and ignored the profession out of pure prejudice. The visit here, as a visiting professor, unveils the inner workings of sales that I was kept from seeing because of the walls put up between news and sales. The walls are coming down.

The industry is changing and it will lead to more jobs. Hypothetically, film and broadcast production students may find themselves working on customer needs assessments, cold calls, and presentations to pitch a short documentary or client based video series for a station like WPTV and it could end up as a web series. They can also use their skills to make higher end commercials, or even short :15 spots that appear before other content. But they’ve got to sell it. Sales is part of the deal and helps define the creative project. The idea that the student produces something and then sells it may be backward thinking. Maybe the student should go out and find out what businesses want, sell their services and create something for them and act as an agent to sell it to a TV station.

According to Solomon and Koenig, it isn’t so easy for someone to learn sales techniques. Koenig says it takes a few years to be competent at the job. The rewards come as commissions and the enjoyment of a good livelihood. Solomon is eager to tell you about the Tesla he recently bought. Millennial students are not known for their patience but if they take their time and learn the ropes a future in sales could be bright.

Every time I meet a student’s parents it is a bit awkward to see their excited anxious faces. They want their child to get a job, a career, and you can tell by the questions they ask that they expect the education you provide will get them a job. I hope. I find myself invested in the success of the best students. I find myself being more demanding each semester because I think about the parents. I know what lies outside our classrooms and it is not a given that our students will find a career. The real world is a mean and nasty place if you aren’t prepared. I want to make sure that they know what to do if they get “hit in the face”.

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