|MENTOR: @Cathy Edwards
Director of Corporate Development
WFWA PBS39, Fort Wayne
MENTEE: @Theresa Soares
Corporate Development Account Executive, ValleyPBS, Fresno, CA
SEASONED – on Mentoring
I have been fortunate in my 35+ year sales career to have had many mentors. Some of them were fleeting - some of them never knew I considered them a mentor. Several were long term mentors and gladly took me under their wing to dispense advise and direction – even when it wasn’t requested. I had developed friendships with each one and valued them as an individual. All of them left an impression in one way or another. I still have mentors for personal and professional reasons. I value, treasure, and pray for them regularly.
When I was asked to be a formal mentor within a supervised and structured program I was a little nervous. In my experience, successful mentorship is usually organic coming from a mutually beneficial relationship. But when considering the positives I had realized over the years of being on the receiving end of a mentorship, and the opportunity to pay forward what others had invested in me I was ALL IN. I care about others and their potential for success. I like sharing with others what I’ve learned over the years. I was going to aid in the design of a cake celebrating success.
SEASONING – on being Mentored
The term mentoring tends to be thrown around loosely. A mentor can be someone who can help provide a broader perspective which can be helpful in situations where big picture advice is needed, or they can be someone who can be highly skilled in a certain area. A mentor helps provide insight into pathways that expand beyond the foundation of a basic skill set. In sales, the mastering of prospecting, needs evaluations, pitching, and negotiations, are a few of the fundamentals that require a lot of practice in order to master. A mentor can provide pointers on improving technique in these areas but can also provide context as to why mastering the basics are so important.
Mentors are enthusiastic about their chosen profession, enough to help share their wisdom with curious mentees seeking self-improvement, it’s worth it to identify early in your career the areas you need to master and surround yourself with experts who can help provide perspective and guidance either narrowly or more broadly. Unlike a boss, which we are guaranteed in every job. Mentors can stick with you throughout the course of your career. Better yet… you get to choose to work with one another.
SEASONED – on Sales
Sales is a particularly tricky profession while at the same time hugely rewarding. There is nothing like the thrill of the process. It’s identifying the prospect; making contact; asking questions and listening; formulating how my product/service can be matched with their wants/desires/needs; putting together the solutions; presenting the “perfect” scenario; to come away with a mutually beneficial agreement. There’s no better feeling for a sales person. No two prospects…no two processes are the same.
The most gratifying sales are those where you didn’t have to sell at all. Through the process you listened then demonstrated your understanding of the situation so that the prospect WANTS what you have. There’s no selling at all. Of course, most of our activity as sales people lands nowhere. Trial and more trial… never failure, but course correction. Maybe the prospect wasn’t right for the product/ service after all; maybe it wasn’t explained clearly enough; or maybe he just “doesn’t get it”. G-r-r-r the frustration of sales.
SEASONING – on Sales
Imagine for a moment, walking in a baseball park and not seeing any display advertisements, driving down a freeway and not seeing any billboards, imagine Times Square without ads, or television without commercials. In the USA, you can sell anything, even oxygen. Yet, no one ever says: “I want to be a sales person when I grow up!" You also never hear people saying they want to grow up to sell ads--you’d have to be weird enough to make them and crazy enough to sell them.
But advertising has always intrigued me. In my house growing up we only had one television, which my older brother monopolized with his fascination of Giants baseball. In passing, I would admire the stories that were told in :15, :30, or even :60 commercials between the programs that played on television. Who made these? Why did they choose the specific music or colors? Although the programming on commercial television did not interest me, the advertising did.
SEASONED – on the experience of Public Television
Twenty-five years of sales and marketing in a variety of radio, television, billboard and even motor oil products did not prepare me for the experience of Corporate Development at a Public Television Station. I thought I knew how to sell…and I did know how to sell. I just didn’t know how to effectively sell Corporate Support for a PBS station. I was working through the sales process and closing business, but it just seemed that something was not right. The process needed a different kind of insight to be more effective; to more clearly represent what the sponsor/underwriter would get from the experience. Corporate Support Performance Initiative (CSPI) was the egg in the batter that made it all come together. The process of understanding how to manage the wants/needs/desires of the prospect in terms that could be beneficial when pared with an audience viewing public television was explained and demonstrated through the CSPI training. It was the icing on the cake in terms of completing the process of understanding and communicating to the prospect the benefit of sponsorship of educational television.
SEASONING – on learning how to represent Public Television
I found my way into advertising by working at a small rural newspaper. Working for a newspaper in 2016 was the equivalent of running into a burning building; the reality was that many people were not reading the print form anymore and that newspapers were dying. Here I was in a sales job, for a company with “a maturing product line," and I had to figure out how to address the challenge of convincing advertisers to trust in a local media brand that had lost its luster; the community had lost interest in subscribing to ‘the paper’.
So how does this experience at a small-time newspaper apply to a corporate support sales position at a PBS station and to the value of the mentoring program? When I was working for the newspaper, I heard generations-old businesses saying, “We won't give money to the newspaper; you don't care about the community." This is key because in many communities the only locally owned and operated media organization is the PBS station or the public radio station. I arrived at PBS treasuring the connection journalism creates in communities through local and long-form storytelling. But while I now had sales experience, I didn’t necessarily know how to translate that to the PBS environment.
In the PBS context, the importance of public media is that it is noncommercial, free of distractions that advertising would create in a content-rich environment. Lots of people gain sales skills that can be leveraged in public media, but they need an understanding of non- commercial environments, which is why the PBS Mentor Program is so valuable.
SEASONED – on the PBS Mentor Program
The PBS Corporate Support Mentor Program did help me pay forward what those mentors over the years taught. The added benefit was that I was not done learning. Now I’m learning from my mentee. I’m learning how I might approach an issue from a different perspective; I’m learning that I don’t always have the right answers; I’m learning new ways to approach challenges within my own organization; I’m learning to be more attentive and focused; I’m learning there is more than one way to decorate the cake.
SEASONING – on the PBS Mentor Program
What has it been like to work at PBS with a mentor? At some companies, the professional guidance consists of training programs built around efficiency, more of an assembly-line mentality —requiring trainees to start performing ASAP. This was different from my opportunity at PBS, where the mentoring program provided me a year-long, concerted effort aimed at ensuring that I didn't lose motivation as I applied sales skills to a non-commercial media environment in my first year.
While PBS provided some parameters in the mentoring relationship, the mentor program allowed customizing the experience to our needs. Because I was in a new position with a different environment, I needed support I could count on. I had consistent communication from someone who provided experience, advice, and guidance. Successful mentoring for me was not about providing all the answers. I didn’t need a mentor to be the perfect result on a search engine page, so much as to be the search engine itself, the mentor handled queries and helped me generate more questions to advance my own thinking. It cultivated my curiosity to live out my own questions. I had a good listener who helped me find the fun in my work, consistently giving me simple sage advice. As a result of the mentoring program, I’m able to see the transformative power of public broadcasting as it helps improve outcomes and enrich lives.
Thanks to the mentoring program, I feel grounded in my training as a sales professional who cares about the community and sees opportunity for advancing Public Television. I can skillfully articulate the value of corporate support by understanding both corporate philanthropy, cause marketing, and sponsorship. I can confidently help strengthen and grow partnerships that yield long-term recurring revenue for our business, while creatively adapting our sponsorship strategy to meet the needs of an ever-changing media landscape.
Among the most precious results of my work, I see the impact of Public Television stations beyond the screen. PBS is engaging families in hands-on activities and workshops that enable parents to be their child’s first teacher and the opportunity to promote among adults the idea of life-long learning.