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Why ‘Around The Horn’ Lost Its Mojo

“Rather than invest in a regular lineup of freewheeling panelists, a once-popular debate show now has a cattle call of contributors who’ve frittered away most of the show’s original audience.”

Jay Mariotti

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I’ve been writing about sports media since I was 21, when the Detroit News assigned me the beat because the bowling reporter didn’t want it. Meaning, I’ve been commenting on ESPN for ages, initially wondering why a network excavated a hole in obscure Connecticut soil to air racquetball, Irish hurling, tractor pulls and Australian Rules football.

So I don’t want to hear that I’m holding some TV-diva grudge against the place, like Rosie O’Donnell, based on a daily debate program I did there for eight years. In truth, I’m guessing ESPN folks are holding a grudge that I’m still writing about them — in their most turbulent and dysfunctional year to date — without having any idea how to contain me, much less stop me.

Which brings me to my former show, “Around The Horn,’’ and why it has gone into the crapper.

TBT: As Around the Horn turns 15, a look back at the very first show - ESPN  Front Row

From the first inquiry phone call of executive Jim Cohen in 2002 to our peak period at decade’s turn, when we routinely attracted 750,000 daily viewers and approached a million, I was front and center as a regular panelist. I was there when they gathered us for our inaugural meeting at the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan — Woody Paige, Bob Ryan, Tim Cowlishaw and T.J. Simers, along with producer Bill Wolff and host Max Kellerman — and the roof suddenly caught fire during lunch. Was it an omen? Of course, it was. Not two weeks into rehearsals, as I was jetting back and forth from Chicago to World Series games in California on no sleep, ESPN bossman Mark Shapiro decided we weren’t remotely ready to be unleashed upon the world, scrapping heavy-rotation promos that had us debuting in a few days. Simers destroyed the show in print and was booted. Paige didn’t study or prepare, as usual. Kellerman loathed the format of silencing panelists with a mute button when he didn’t like what we said, which was pretty much always. I was speaking in tongues, not sure which city I was in.

What do they say about spinoffs, that most last 13 weeks? As the follow-up to the celebrated “Pardon The Interruption,’’ featuring Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, “Around The Horn’’ looked like it wouldn’t last 13 minutes. At some point, Kellerman and Wolff left for a show at Fox Sports, “I, Max,’’ that muted people with lasers … and lasted about 13 weeks. We held tryouts for a new host, including someone we knew as “Stat Boy.’’

His name was Tony Reali, though he looked more like a Jonas brother. Near the end of each “PTI’’ episode, he corrected the hosts’ factual errors. But he knew his sports. He was blessed with an optimistic attitude and patient equilibrium, rare in the media business. And after he was installed as permanent host, “ATH’’ settled into a steady rhythm, largely because he let panelists talk long enough to make a point and also let us debate issues, with me as the resident smartass who loved to antagonize Paige and strike smart, robust arguments. I’d make fun of his homespun mannerisms. He’d call me “Gibroni,’’ which didn’t bug me nearly as much as it upset Italian-American anti-defamation league members who complained to the Bristol honchos. Between periodic flare-ups and a racy New York Post headline — “Around The Horny’’ — that mocked him about a legal case that eventually was dismissed, Paige was a cartoon character. Yet that natural tension was the driving force of what made the show work. A day wouldn’t pass without a fan asking me, “Do you really hate Woody?’’ No, I didn’t hate Woody. I just didn’t like him that half-hour.     

Are you with me so far, as Don Henley would say?

Around the Horn Photos and Pictures | TV Guide

Every few months, the “ATH’’ producers would bring great news: Our ratings had soared yet again. The quarterly progress continued for years, with important, credible panelists such as Kevin Blackistone and Jackie MacMullan joining a tight lineup. The cheap shots taken by squirrelly media colleagues — I recall critic Richard Deitsch ridiculing our appearance, thinking he might want to look in the mirror — were disappearing into grudging acceptance that the show was a success at 5 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday. And I’d start to ask myself: Gee, if we’re the vital lead-in to “PTI,’’ and our ratings are getting up toward theirs, why aren’t we being paid the sizable sums that the “PTI’’ guys are paid?     

And therein lies the reason “Around The Horn’’ is in the crapper today: In Bristol, the show always was viewed as a junior-varsity warmup game. Eventually, a reliable, flourishing rotation of 4-to-8 voices swelled into a village of seeming dozens from all corners and crannies of ESPN. Ratings plummeted through the years, lucky to be above 220,000 now and dropping into the 100s some days, according to showbuzzdaily.com. In fairness, some decay should be attributed to cord-cutting/fragmentation, along with the ongoing pandemic, factors that have diminished ratings on many ESPN shows. Yet “PTI’’ has managed to keep a healthy chunk of its audience — before the pandemic and to this day. Why did one show maintain and the other free-fall?     

Because ESPN decided long ago that human parts were replaceable on “ATH.’’ If this cut against the sacred rule of daytime television — maintain familiarity, so viewers at home gradually perceive characters as family — the network preferred to reward Wilbon and Kornheiser with the bulk of compensation and pomp for back-to-back shows marketed to advertisers as “Happy Hour,’’ from 5 to 6 p.m., leading into the “SportsCenter’’ franchise. “ATH’’ was one-half of the late-afternoon pie, but the commitment never came close to matching the show’s impact in the peak years. I remember Cohen — who was let go by post-Shapiro management, though “ATH’’ was his brainchild — telling me, “No one in Bristol watches the show.’’     

Oh, so we make lots of money for ESPN but the big bosses don’t care to grasp why we click? I felt like a piece of burger blend. Welcome to TV.

Cote for Around The Horn - DanLeBatardShow

With the Daily Reali as the constant, “ATH’’ became a way station for personalities, many on a fast track to network stardom: Adam Schefter, Bomani Jones, Jemele Hill, Michael Smith among them. Each day brought new faces that might be completely different from yesterday’s faces, and at times, the same panelist on “ATH’’ might appear the same day on another ESPN program — or, in the case of Sarah Spain, her ESPN radio show. The consistency of a panel became less important than negotiating (X) number of “ATH’’ appearances into a personality’s multi-platform contract, many from Dan Le Batard’s stable of sycophants. A small number of panelists swelled to a cattle call of here-today, gone-tomorrow contributors. Hence, the ratings plunge, which forces a show such as “First Take’’ — starring Stephen A. Smith and Kellerman EVERY DAY — to carry the numbers and attention load for a network that needs all such programming to succeed.

Continuity feeds the essence of any debate show. When panelists are familiar with each other, there is a natural willingness to spar for a livelier and better presentation. Lineups that are tossed together on “ATH,’’ like lettuce and croutons at a salad bar, tend to make shows boring and stiff and too convivial, without the energy and purpose of the past. Recently, I saw Mina Kimes and Elle Duncan chuckle through much of a show, without the gravitas of appearances they make elsewhere at ESPN. If a sports team tried to win this way, it would finish in last place, and while “ATH’’ hasn’t tumbled that far — it can’t as long as FS1 has debate debacles that draw minuscule ratings — it certainly has lost its might and its mojo.     

As a show original, I hate seeing it.     

This month, I noticed panelist Pablo Torre — who has appeared on so many ESPN programs I’ve lost track, including his own canceled show — immersed in deep thoughts about China. As I’ve written repeatedly, ESPN should remove itself immediately from political discussions before it again alienates its core, sports-oriented audience, especially now that live games have resumed. The only reason the network would be discussing China, as observed in the infamous Woj Bomb dropped recently by NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, is related to its $24-billion business partnership with the NBA. ESPN obviously wants to help the league rebuild relations with China’s Communist government after losing a possible $400 million in the fallout over Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s pro-Hong Kong tweet. But just as Wojnarowski was wrong to reply “F— you’’ to a Missouri senator with anti-China views, I’m not sure what a traditional “Around The Horn’’ viewer is getting out of China dialogue.     

The 7 Best Shows Of ESPN's Embrace Debate Era | Barrett Sports Media

Unless my old show, out of utter desperation, is trying to be as “woke’’ as other ESPN shows and segments.     

In which case, a zero might drop from its viewership number in no time.

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BSM Writers

Mike Silver Has An NFL Backstage Pass

“When you go through a career transition like that, let alone during a pandemic, you find out a referendum on all your relationships.”

Derek Futterman

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It was the 2010 NFL Draft and standout wide receiver Dez Bryant was eligible to be selected by a professional football team. As a journalist, Mike Silver has always looked to enterprise stories and wanted to be with Bryant when the moment he had been waiting for finally arrived.

Through a preexisting relationship with Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, he got in touch with Bryant and received permission to attend his draft celebration. Before being selected in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys, Bryant revealed to him that then-Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland had asked him during the pre-draft process if his mother was a prostitute.

Once that information was published in Silver’s column, Ireland had to publicly apologize and was subsequently put under investigation by the team’s majority owner Stephen Ross.

“People were like, ‘How did you get that?,’ but I was very proud because really the way I got it was because Deion Sanders respected me enough based on things that had happened decades earlier and the way that I conducted myself that I was able to ultimately get to Dez,” Silver expressed. “That to me is a validation. I’ve nurtured relationships for years and years that have led to zero reporting and thought, ‘It’s okay; it’s just part of the process. It is what it is.’”

From the start, Silver was a believer in journalism and the power the profession had in divulging stories in pursuit of the truth. Born in San Francisco, Calif. and raised in Los Angeles, he would read The Los Angeles Times sports section for a half hour per day, observing the proclivities and vernacular of other writers. As a high school student, he co-authored a sports column in the Palisades Charter High School Tideline with current Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, gaining practical experience in journalism and cultivating professional relationships.

“I was the only Warriors fan in our school because I was born in San Francisco so he used to clown me for being a Warriors and 49ers fan like everyone else in our school – so I ended up having the last laugh,” Silver said. “By old standards, you’d say, ‘You can’t cover Steve Kerr. That’s your friend.’ I think in 2022 if I have to cover Steve Kerr, I’ll just be like, ‘You know what? Everyone knows we’re friends. I’m just going to be up front about it.’”

Silver attended the University of California, Berkeley where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communication and media studies. The school was not known for profound levels of success within its football and basketball programs, according to Silver; however, the student newspaper was a place to gain repetitions in covering sports and having finished work published, printed and distributed.

Towards the end of his time in college, Silver wrote stories that were published in The Los Angeles Times, the newspaper he grew up reading and from which he drew inspiration to become a journalist.

“We would tell the players we covered, ‘Hey, we’re trying to go to the pros too, and we’re not going to get jobs in this industry if we don’t write the truth,’” Silver said. “We were trying to break in as legitimate journalists and we definitely ruffled some feathers along the way.”

Once he graduated from school, Silver began his professional career writing for The Sacramento Union where he covered the San Francisco 49ers. Silver grew up as a football fan and was familiar with the team but always tried to find original, untold angles to differentiate his stories from others. Shortly thereafter, he transitioned to join The Santa Clara Press Democrat as a beat writer and used the time to further develop his writing and reporting skills. Five years later, he was in talks to land his dream job as a writer in Sports Illustrated, a prolific sports magazine focused on producing original content.

Sports Illustrated was released on Wednesdays and operated under the belief of trying to omit any stories that may have been reported in the days prior. The goal was to tell stories that were under the radar and would be impactful and memorable for its readers.

During a typical week, Silver would visit both the home and road teams in their own cities with the hopes of connecting with players and team personnel. After a game, he would go to the locker room, yet he would try to avoid doing one-on-one interviews since the content would likely be published elsewhere before the magazine was released.

Then, his writing process commenced and often went through the night, as Sports Illustrated had a 9 a.m. EST deadline the following morning. By taking the approach of enterprising stories, Silver quickly became one of the most venerated and trusted sportswriters in the country, composing over 70 cover stories for the publication.

With the advent of the internet though, journalism and communication was forever changed allowing for the free flow of information and ideas in a timely manner.

“Now I can arrogantly write to whatever length I want and every precious word of mine could be broadcast to the masses, but [back then] you better have it the exact length because it’s going on a page,” Silver said. “You’re maybe reading over a story 15 times or more to get it just right before the seven layers of editing kick in. You’re also leaving theoretically half of your great stuff on the cutting room table never to surface again or seldom.”

Nurturing a relationship built on trust and professionalism is hardly facile in nature, and it required enduring persistence and resolute determination to achieve for Silver. Through these relationships, he has been able to create both distinctive and original types of content. As innovations in technology engendered shifts in consumption patterns though, he decided to do what he originally perceived as being unthinkable and left Sports Illustrated after nearly 13 years.

“When I went there, I felt like we had 30 of the 35 best sportswriters in America and it was murderer’s row,” Silver said of Sports Illustrated. “I had a great, great experience there the whole time so I never thought I’d leave.”

After meeting with Yahoo Sports Executive Editor Dave Morgan and being given an offer with flexibility in the job and a promise of a lucrative salary, Silver knew it was simply too good to pass up. He opted to still write a column on Sundays to counterprogram Peter King at Sports Illustrated, who authored his own weekly “Monday Morning Quarterback” column.

Additionally, Silver agreed to write two additional branded columns per week in a quest to adapt to the digital age of media.

“I was trying to stay current and connect to an internet generation and keep up with the way that people were consuming their content at that time,” Silver said. “….We just had a spirit at Yahoo that we weren’t owned by anyone, we didn’t have a deal with the league and we were going to report the news in a very unfiltered way.”

An advent of the digital age in media has been the practice of writers appearing on television to present their information en masse, requiring changes in their delivery. Unlike in a written piece, reporting on television requires efficiently making key points and speaking in shorter phrases to allow the viewer to easily follow the discussion. Moreover, writers are sometimes presented with questions that may provoke deeper thought or analysis, and occasionally challenge their lines of reporting.

Silver never thought he would work in television, but as a part of his contract with NFL Media, he was writing columns and serving as an analyst on select NFL Network programming. In working on television on a league-owned entity, it forced him to step out of his comfort zone and pursue mastery of a new skill set.

“I never wanted to do TV voice and be cheesy and look like someone who was trained for the medium so my strategy was more to try to be myself on camera and see how that translated,” Silver articulated. “It seemed to work to some degree – and then obviously I picked up a lot of tricks of the trade and techniques and got better reps. Essentially, I think reporting is reporting [and] information is information.”

Moving into television, a medium with sports coverage that is, at its core, nonlinear due to the potential for breaking news and unexpected occurrences, changed the manner in which the information was presented and/or prioritized on the air. In a column, Silver’s goal was to find original angles and obtain anecdotes and quotes to implement into the storytelling. Now on television, sources were still used largely on the condition of deep background, meaning no individual or group could be attributed to the information in any way.

“With TV, there was an element of, ‘Hey man, I’m just trying to sound smart when I talk about you guys,’ which is code for, ‘I don’t have to use your name when I say this stuff, but when I’m weighing on why you just traded for Trent Richardson, help me understand what’s really going on with the Indianapolis Colts at this moment,’” Silver explained. “That’s just a random example. I liked [television] more than I thought I would.”

Silver’s contract was not renewed at NFL Network in 2021, providing a stark change in his lifestyle and leaving him looking for a job in the midst of trying economic times. Through a relationship he had with sports radio host Colin Cowherd, he was given the opportunity to join his upstart podcast platform The Volume as a host. Cowherd eagerly recruited Silver to the platform following a lunch in which the topic came up naturally in conversation about future endeavors.

“When you go through a career transition like that, let alone during a pandemic, you find out a referendum on all your relationships and I have a lot of them from players, coaches, owners and GMs to media people and friends in other industries, etc.,” he explained. “Colin Cowherd is someone I’ll never, ever, ever forget or stop being grateful to…. We were kind of talking some stuff out and he was like, ‘Why don’t we do a show on my network?,’ and we started talking about what that would be. We left lunch… and about 10 minutes later he called me and said, ‘Okay, here’s what I think,’ and kind of continued it.”

Today, Silver is hosting an interview-based program called Open Mike featuring guests from the world of professional football. Recent guests on the program have included Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones. Prior to joining The Volume, Silver had hosted a podcast with his daughter called Pass It Down, which ultimately ran for over 50 episodes and gave him experience working within the medium.

“I’m sitting there spending an hour with [Las Vegas] Raiders GM Dave Ziegler or [Buffalo Bills] linebacker Von Miller or whoever we have on,” Silver said. “You’re not only getting to know that person; you’re watching the way I connect with that person and usually have a body of work with that person, and there’s a comfort level there too.”

John Marvel was Silver’s direct boss at NFL Media and a friend he kept in touch with for many years. Through various correspondences and the dynamic media landscape, they decided to start their own media venture called Backstage Media. The company has a first-look deal with Meadowlark Media – a company co-founded by John Skipper, who also serves as its chief executive officer. Skipper was formerly the president of ESPN and someone Silver wished he had worked for earlier in his career.

“I did not know John Skipper before I left NFL Network,” he said. “I didn’t particularly have a dream to [ever] work at ESPN. We’ve had conversations over the years – ESPN and I – and it never seemed like the perfect fit for me. Now that I know John Skipper, it’s like ‘I would have worked for that guy any time.’ He’s fantastic, [and] I’m just so pumped to be in business with him.”

The company, which focuses on producing documentaries and other unscripted programming through the intersection of sports, music and entertainment, has various projects in development. The idea was derived out of both of their penchants for storytelling and an attempt to utilize new platforms built for engagement within the modern-day media marketplace.

“We’re hoping that documentaries, docuseries [and] episodic podcasts – mostly unscripted – …will be kind of our wheelhouse,” Silver said. “….There’s about four big things that are [hopefully] close to being announced. One’s football; one’s boxing; one is basketball; and one is kind of a blend of some things. I feel like we have a pretty diverse set of interests.”

Joining The San Francisco Chronicle as a football reporter has been indicative of a full-circle moment for Silver, as he is once again around the San Francisco 49ers and writing columns about the team and other sports around the Bay Area at large. Today, he is working with Scott Ostler and Ann Kllion, and directly with Eric Branch on the outlet’s 49ers coverage. Through it all, he seeks to continue gaining access to places that the ordinary person would only be able to dream about in order to tell compelling and informative stories, no matter how they may be delivered or on what platform(s) to which it may be distributed.

“I’m old school in a lot of my mentality in terms of journalism and storytelling and all of that,” Silver said. “I think those things don’t go away. I think it’s journalism first; relationship first; access first; storytelling first; and you figure out the rest.”

As for the future of the profession which has ostensibly become less defined because of the evolution of social media and communication, relationships and storytelling have truly become the differentiators. Silver aims to continue practicing what has allowed him to gain exclusive scoops in the industry and tell stories that would otherwise, perhaps, fly under the radar, but do so in a way that does not jeopardize his sources.

“I’m going to try to develop relationships and cultivate relationships where people trust me and give me a sense of what’s going on,” he said. “I’m going to try to get into places that you, as the consumer, couldn’t otherwise go and take you there, and I’m going to err on the side of the relationship as opposed to finding out one thing that could cause a splash that day on Twitter.”

Some athletes are hosting podcasts or writing columns to directly communicate with their fans, including Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green on The Volume, intensifying the quest for engagement and attraction. Yet Silver advises journalists looking to break into the industry not to get distracted in meeting certain metrics, instead adhering to best practices and reporting truthful information without ambiguity.

“Just don’t get undone by the noise,” Silver said. “Put your head down; hyperfocus; grind; tell good stories; do journalism and hopefully over the course of time, that will stand out. I’d still like to believe that.”

Covering professional sports, specifically football, generates a large amount of potential storylines on which journalists can report – and today, digital platforms give them the ability to cover them in different ways. While some scoops may requit a large article, others may be able to be told in 280 characters or less, such as a trade rumor or injury. The amount of information Silver and his colleagues uncovered working for a print publication and then had to omit because of space limitations underscores a key journalistic principle of efficient and truthful storytelling. In today’s media landscape, he hopes to be able to do that regardless of its means of dissemination.

“If you went back and just looked at our normal… feature or story off a game [and] the level we reported on a Wednesday and translated that to a Twitter generation, people would lose their minds about how much we found out and how much we reported with on-the-record quotes usually, and they’d be like, ‘He said what!?,” Silver said. “That’s all we knew and that’s [how] we did it…. I don’t think people understand how much the threshold has changed. It’s all good. The most important things hopefully haven’t changed.”

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Video Simulcasts Are Now A Must Have For Sports Radio

All of these shows have done an amazing job of constantly communicating with their audiences to make sure they’re aware of changes coming their way. 

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Video simulcasts of sports talk radio and podcasts have gone up extraordinarily in quality as of late. The craft started as a novelty that very few participated in. ESPN and YES Network dominated the genre with their simulcasts of Mike and Mike in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog respectively. Slowly but surely other sports networks and RSN’s picked up the genre over time and it has now become a major component within sports coverage in the streaming world.

The most popular and prominent shows in the medium right now include The Dan Patrick Show, The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz, The Pat McAfee Show, and The Rich Eisen Show. These four shows in particular have done an excellent job of independently producing and building out their video content to look visually appealing while also engage with the audience through graphics, pictures, stats on screen. In McAfee’s case, his company even entered into a rights agreement with the NFL for highlights.

Finding their shows can be difficult at times. Eisen’s show has moved from television to Peacock and to Roku Channel all within the span of a couple years. When LeBatard’s shipping container first began their live video voyage they didn’t have a consistent schedule. Patrick’s show has also leapt between RSNs, national networks, YouTube and its current home on Peacock. But all of these shows have done an amazing job of constantly communicating with their audiences to make sure they’re aware of changes coming their way. 

The video simulcasts have become so lucrative for these shows that they’ve found sponsors to advertise against what they’re offering and they ensure that they pay attention to the look of the show. Commercials that feel like television play during Patrick and Eisen’s shows. Logos are displayed during LeBatard’s broadcast and NFL Films vignettes that you would find on NFL Network air in the middle of McAfee’s broadcast.

McAfee’s show recently moved into a new studio in Indianapolis specifically built for them by FanDuel and just yesterday LeBatard announced they would be moving into their own state of the art studio in Miami that will help expand their creativity. Patrick’s show doesn’t even have guests call into their show anymore – most join via Zoom. Eisen’s guests are more often than not in studio. All of these shows also upload highlights relatively quickly to YouTube. They’re still audio-first but video is no longer secondary. It is 1A in terms of importance.

As much as these simulcasts feel close to real TV, there are still some hijinks that fans have to get used to that aren’t the same as a regular TV broadcast. During LeBatard’s broadcast, a rolling loop of their own self produced album plays during breaks. While the songs are hilarious in nature, if you’re a weekly viewer of their simulcast it might get tiresome to hear every time there is a break.

A loop of some of the show’s greatest moments and some of the side projects Meadowlark Media produces might be more engaging and help reduce drop off rate. McAfee’s show also struggles with white balancing their cameras almost every telecast. At times in the middle of a conversation during the show, discoloration occurs before changing back to normal skin tones.

Patrick’s show has used the same set of graphics since it began simulcasting on NBC’s linear sports network years ago which could be a turnoff for younger viewers of the internet era who always want change in order to grab their attention. Eisen’s show has awkward interruptions happen in the middle of conversations because commercial breaks are different in length on terrestrial radio vs. streaming.

At the end of the day though, these shows are the epitome of what it means to have grit and guts to achieve your American dream. Although their productions are subsidized and/or licensed by big media platforms and sports books, their social media presence and the actual production of these shows was built on their own. During the first couple of weeks after LeBatard’s show left ESPN, the former columnist could often be heard teasing listeners that they were working on building a video enterprise and how difficult it was.

It’s hard to stand on your own in sports talk media without the backing of superpowers like ESPN, Fox, NBC, CBS and Turner who have been producing live broadcasts for decades. But these shows have found a way to do so in a new world that is tailored towards doing everything on your own. 

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5 Ideas For December Sales Success

How much better will you enjoy Christmas and New Year knowing you have some presentations to make to prospects who want to roll into 2023 with a new idea?

Jeff Caves

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Now is the time to put your foot on the gas for a great start to 2023-not waiting til January. With Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day all falling on weekends, you can’t count on who will be at work the Friday or Monday around those holidays in December.

So, looking forward from here, you only have 15 or so days that you can count on your clients and prospects to be at work before the end of 2022. And, if they are at work, consider their motivation or lack of it before approaching them. But here are five ways to attack December.

Cutting a year-end deal

Make sure you go back from the potential start date of the schedule and allow for production, proposal, and acceptance. That usually means you need a week from when you present a year-end idea to when the schedule starts. So, aim to have all appointments booked by 12/9, so you can sell 2-week packages that begin Monday, 12/19. That will give you a sense of urgency and gives you five solid business days to sell your ass off starting Monday.

5-day sale

Make all your pricing and payment terms expire by Friday, 12/9. You can always extend if need be once they give a partial commitment. You want anybody involved in the decision to sign off and let you cut this deal! The idea here is to create urgency and work ahead.

Beat the bushes

Do you want to wake up on 1/2/23 with an empty pipeline? How much better will you enjoy Christmas and New Year knowing you have some presentations to make to prospects who want to roll into 2023 with a new idea? Don’t try to qualify these prospects over the phone. Do it in January when both of you are fresh but get that commitment NOW. Look for your new client avatar.

Be gracious

From now til the end of the year is also an excellent time to meet with your sales assistant, traffic manager, production person, or anybody who helps you at the station. Sit down with them face to face and see what you can do better to make their job easier. Give them some ideas on how they can help you as well. Mend some fences or make new friends; the reason tis the season. Surprise them with a Cheetos popcorn tin for less than $10. Please do it. You will be surprised by what you hear because this is a popular time of year for layoffs, transfers, and people taking new jobs.

Practice a new pitch

December is also a great time to record yourself doing a webinar and start planning to let your content do the talking. Wouldn’t it be nice if your 10-minute talk on how to make live reads work, how to buy radio, or why your audience buys the most widgets produced some warm leads? Practice and get going!

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