Nothing says you do a great job as a manager better than when you hear it from the people you supervise. Our Sales Manager for the Week, Rich Renko of Krol Communications, was named by one of his salespeople who told Radio Ink âRich is a rock star when we take him to meetingsâ. You don’t hear this from many sellers.
Renko is the Sales Manager for WHMI-FM in Howell, Michigan. And while the station is in the Detroit DMA, WHMI doesn’t really compete in that market. Renko has been on radio for 38 years and in sales management for 25 years.
Radio Ink: How did you get started selling radios and radios?
Richard Renko: The funny thing is, I never intended to gravitate towards salesâ¦ My dad, my uncles, my cousins ââall seemed to work in sales in various industries. My first radio job was at WATT AM in Cadillac, Michigan, where I took a sales job to get my foot in the door. In small market radio, we quickly find out that several hats will be worn and I quickly became a salesman, weekend air personality, production manager and part-time reporterâ¦ Honestly, it was the best experience. that I could have asked to enter the radio industry as it has allowed me to touch virtually every aspect of the operation of a radio station. It also gave me a perspective on the tasks each department was responsible for and what those employees did on a daily basis.
Radio Ink: How did you know you’d be good at selling radio?
Richard Renko: I have always had a passion for radio right from high school where I participated in our high school radio programâ¦ nothing more than daily announcements and various juvenile entertainment LOLâ¦ I felt that if I could carry the passion to any element of the radio industry, I could be successful and that’s how sales became my goal. When did he click? I remember it very wellâ¦ I was in my first year of selling at WATT AM and was informed that a new company was opening a site in our area. I met the owner of Northern Nights Waterbed Co in Traverse City, Mi .. I’m definitely dating myself as this was the time when waterbeds were all the rageâ¦ anyway we have was part of their grand opening campaign and when I showed up at the opening there was no parking space to be found. The look of appreciation on the customer’s face caught me and I never looked back. Being on the air gave me the ability to speak to thousands of listeners at a time, but I found the face-to-face discussions I had with clients to be much more meaningful to me AND having a direct impact on their business means the world owes me.
Radio Ink: Why are you a leading successful salesperson?
Richard Renko: It’s a clichÃ©, but I really think leading by example is one of the most important things I can do for my team. I never ask them something that I wouldn’t do myself. I make more sales calls as a manager than I ever did as an EA. I have great 5x salespeople on my team; Katie Smith, Emily Marone, Lisa Kennedy, Beth Ayers and Char Hagfors who ALL work extremely hard and smart for our clients. In addition, I think it is my responsibility to bring new and innovative ideas to our clients. WHMI is known for its commitment to classic hits and for its focus on news and information for our local communities. However, we have adapted as our industry continues to evolve and now offer a full range of digital assets for our customers to choose from. Additionally, this year we added Play by Play coverage of high school football for the first time in station history and we are on the verge of adding Varsity Boys / Girls high school basketball to our lineup. for the first time. These are just some of the reasons I feel I have been successful in leading sales departments throughout my career working alongside my salespeople and bringing new sales opportunities to our clients.
Radio Ink: Tell us how you spot a good seller
Richard Renko: Every time I interview a potential candidate, I remind them that selling is the toughest job in building, no matter what they are told. Finding good salespeople is not easy as we all know, especially at this time. Their willingness to put in the effort and have thick skin is key. I am looking for motivated, passionate, ethical and compassionate people. New radio salespeople are the biggest challenge, but rewarding because we help shape the person from the start. Teaching the strengths of WHMI / Radio and mentoring them on the âart of sellingâ gives me a great sense of accomplishment.
Radio Ink: How do you keep your team motivated?
Richard Renko: I try not to let the âhighs too highâ and âthe lows get too lowâ. I believe in celebrating WINS because sometimes they are less than the losses. I take my team out whenever we go over a quarterly budget to say ‘Thank you’ for the job they’ve done and even a simple email congratulating them on a new or great sale (copied to senior management) goes together. We know salespeople are motivated by money, but sometimes a recognition rating is more important and meaningful.
Radio Ink: What do you do to always be on the lookout for new sellers?
Richard Renko: In my opinion, radio salespeople can come from any industry and it is essential to keep my eyes peeled whenever I am in a business. I have always believed that a good salesperson could learn our product, no matter which industry it came from. It’s about having a good base …
Radio Ink: How to stay abreast of all the trends, ahead of the competition?
Richard Renko: Staying alert means making sales calls with my staff and staying in touch with our customers. Customers certainly keep me going and are a great source of what the competition presents to them. This allows us to fight against possible direct competitors and allows us to pivot if necessary. Salespeople are also a great source because they are a good listener and constantly bring new trends to the conversation.
Radio Ink: In the past 18 months, what are you most proud of?
Richard Renko: Managing during the pandemic has been a challenge for all of us. Getting my salespeople through 2020 was a monumental task, but we did it and we are well on our way to having a strong 2021. We have adapted in 2020 by approaching our clients as a ‘partner’ and worked in tandem to help them get through this devastating year. for many of our clients. We helped pivot their messages during the height of the pandemic and highlighted areas where they needed help. Recruiting has become a big category for us and continues to drive customer messaging in 2021. Additionally, high school football and soon high school basketball are now broadcast on WHMI 93.5 FM. This has been a huge success for WHMI, our customers and listeners and continues to solidify the station as a hometown radio station in the westernmost county of the Detroit 8 County area. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of this … it’s rare that we build something from scratch and I warmly thank Rod Krol, Kris Krol and Krol Communications for trusting us to put High School on. Sports on WHMI.
Radio Ink: What are your expectations for 2022?
Richard Renko: More of what we accomplished in 2021. The automotive industry will continue to struggle in the first part of 2022 due to inventory constraints and in our region this has a pretty big impact. However, we continue to add new customers to compensate for this temporary hurdle. We plan to add unique digital, promotional and programming opportunities to WHMI by empowering our representatives and clients to reach current and new clients. The pie doesn’t get biggerâ¦ we just have to be more creative and better than the competition to get a little more than our fair share.
Radio Ink: What advice, in this competitive environment, are you giving to other business managers across the country?
Richard Renko: Make calls with your sales teams. Listen to your customers and thank them for the partnerships you currently enjoy. Keep seizing new opportunities to show them creative ways to attract customers. Noteâ¦ ask your top advertisers for âreferralsâ if you are salespeople who don’t already. This is a great source of leads because they are a satisfied customer and most likely know many other business owners outside of their category. Keep your âbigâ salespeople happy by showing appreciation for the work they do.
Contact Rich to congratulate him on being named Radio Ink’s Sales Manager of the Week via email at [emailÂ protected]