The Cumulus Sales Recognition Program

Maybe Cox, Saga and other competitors have finally gotten to CEO Lew Dickey as they continue to attract current and former Cumulus sales reps.

Or maybe Dickey is just tired of being seen as a mean manager – tough guy who puts his bare knuckle business strategies ahead of touchy feely things that most employees really appreciate.

Now it has finally happened.

Dickey launched a sales recognition program that one Cumulus insider said “Lew hopes will make his employees love him again. What a joke and I doubt it lasts more than 3 months”.

Nice gets more than mean from salespeople and even when you have a sales force that is fortunate to be working, it’s always wise to use a lot of Dale Carnegie and a lot less of Lew Dickey, John Hogan and Farid Suleman.

I taught the Dale Carnegie Course for eleven years and there is never a day that I don't need it. Hell, we all need to put forth our best human relations skills.

One of Dale Carnegie’s rules is to give the other person a fine reputation to live up to, not to live down. There are many ways to do this not the least of which is how you regard those you work with. For example, most radio groups call their salespeople account executives but late last year Dickey took that title away from them and redubbed them “sales reps”.

Account executives or sales reps – you decide.

Dickey’s company was voted the worst radio group by almost 2,000 people who voted in a Best & Worst Radio Group poll here last year. With the competition stealing your best people away, maybe that’s the reason for this uncharacteristically warm and fuzzy Cumulus recognition program.

And by the way, how’s that hiring Cintas and non-experienced candidates for radio jobs thing working out while you are firing professional salespeople?

Here’s a look at the last ditch Cumulus effort to smooth some feathers even as many current employees tell me they are looking to get out.

Starting in July, Cumulus said it would honor one seller (either a “sales rep” or key account manager known as KAM) each month. To quote Lew, “These individuals will have elevated themselves amongst their peers through exemplary behavior and superior performance”.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Lew and his management team had the same lofty goals for themselves?

Anyway, here’s what the one lucky winner gets:

• Company-wide recognition

• Induction into the Hall of Fame of Excellence

• A plaque

• A $500 Amex gift card

• Invitation to the annual awards dinner in Atlanta (how about hotel and airfare?).

The winner will be chosen by the following standards -- absolutely no politics:

• Percentage of budget achieved

• Number of annuals sold during corresponding month

• New business booked to run during corresponding month – number and dollar amount

• AUR increase

• Number of new Elephant Accounts (the Cumulus big game advertisers) sold during the corresponding month.

Still with me? That plaque will look nice on your desk – at Saga!

• Number of accounts on-the-air

• A/R over 150 days

• Demonstrates determination, initiative, leadership, creativity, exceptional client service and dependability.

There it is.

But wait.

I’ve got a better idea.

• Stop the perceived intimidation.

• Be fair.

• Value your people by treating them like professionals and don’t cut their ability to make a living during a recession.

That last item really sticks in the craw of Cumulus salespeople because last year, the Dickeys took away hard earned accounts from sales professionals and created this KAM category that some argued served to siphon off commission-paying accounts to an anointed KAM worker who made less commission but didn’t do much of anything to earn the original business.

See, that kind of thing kills sales morale.

As does forced weekly meetings in front of Skype cameras with Atlanta. And forcing local reps to call on categories Dickey’s braintrust thinks is the future to new billing.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks so I know that although Lew and his team read me from time to time by his own admission, he’s likely to operate as if he actually thinks this cockamamie employee recognition program will overcome years of being mean and petty.

To do that, Lew would need to fire himself.

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