Do You Still Need a Sales Department?

(By Alec Drake) Established ideas for the radio sales department and their compensation plans require a review after the Covid pandemic, expanded remote work options, and related technological changes.

Since the sales department’s role and organizational model are crucial to revenue growth, managers should consider a combined structure for marketing and sales. Attracting new sales talent is also determined by your defined roles that need to be updated. How do compensation and organization work together if sales and marketing are to be combined?

The Compensation Puzzle
The fundamentals of market size, cost of living, competitive pay, and experience level still apply in compensation formulas. Comprehensive health insurance, HSAs, and short-term savings programs are more immediate priorities to emphasize over vested retirement plans that seem more distant. Vacations, holidays, and paid time off should align with the increased focus on the work-life balance.

New Benefit Ideas

• Company-paid premium LinkedIn accounts to support networking, personal brand development, and nurturing of individual sales careers.

• A learning fund for approved online courses that enhance skill sets or build strategic knowledge to aid recruitment, retention, and expanded skill sets.

• A client retention bonus for long-term contracts, paid to teams at the end of each year for annuals that meet your preferred customer criteria.

The Organizational Model-Three Teams

The compensation plan is customized for each person’s daily role, contribution to the revenues generated, and experience level. Let’s look at the blend of sales efforts, segmented customer service, and asset management. Everyone on the three marketing teams is on a plan that includes salary, commission, and a bonus structure.

Transactional Support Team: Radio companies recognize the importance of scale through aggregation to better compete nationally and locally. The trend of less human interaction in commoditized sales, more robust technology platforms, and shifting evaluation metrics establish the need for this team. The transactional team focuses on matching its efforts to the speed of this business as it manages and monitors transactions to coordinate support for campaign activations.

Content / Creative Team: Adopting a longer-term view of the sales cycle means a new emphasis on warming up the sale. Your creative team develops and distributes compelling content for prospect engagement and curates previous “sales” collateral to build stronger value perceptions for station assets. This innovative group supports promotional opportunities beyond purchased campaigns to drive audience engagement and market attention.

Revenue Development Team: Teams of two paired individuals coordinate a 360-degree solution set for prospects. As assets expand, learning curves are steeper, and “salespeople” stretched to the limit become less effective. A two-person team approach builds collaboration and gives more depth to the customer relationship with better use of advertising resources and incremental revenue opportunities for sales. An added benefit is coverage of account responsibilities during vacations, illness, or turnover to reduce lost sales momentum.


Sales departments suffered more than most during the early years of the pandemic, when commission-only sellers were stopped cold in their income tracks. How radio sales organizations function in the future requires changes to retention strategies, attracting new talent, and updating the organization and compensation plans. Companies must be proactive in building a marketing team approach over a traditional sales team structure to enhance revenue potential.

Alec Drake is the President of Drake Media Group and a revenue management advisor to media sales. You can reach him at [email protected] and find more helpful articles in his “Sales Success Library” at

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