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  • Writer's pictureAlec Drake

The Hot Dog And The Button

Updated: Feb 19

How Ideas Turn Into Action

Ideas and perception can be two sides of the same coin. Here are two stories that teach us essential sales lessons about economics, the power of ideas, the prism of perception, and the nature of picking a direction in good and bad times.

The Hot Dog Vendor

Once, a man lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs. He was hard of hearing, and his eyesight was poor, so he did not listen to the radio or watch television. However, he did sell great hot dogs. He had put up signs by the road telling people how good they were. He would stand by his cart and call out, "Buy a hot dog," and people bought one. Demand for his hot dogs kept building, so he increased his meat and bun orders; he bought a bigger stove and brought his son home from college to help him out with the growing business.

Then something changed. His son said, "Father, I have been paying attention to the markets and the business news. If money stays tight, we are bound to have a downturn. We may even have a significant recession. You had better prepare to sell fewer hot dogs." The father thought about his son's words, "well, my son has gone to college, and he knows about business."

The father cut the size of his meat and bun orders. He took down his advertising signs on the road and only worked the stand three days a week selling hot dogs, and sales did fall off. "You're right, my son," said the father; "we are certainly headed for recession."

Perception is Reality.

The Hot Dog story illustrates what many sales departments might already be experiencing on the streets—commonly known as the self-fulfilling prophecy, the stinking thinking that takes on a life of its own if not counter-balanced.

As managers, everything you do at the station must focus on the positive side, not the negative perceptions. Put your best foot forward to be cheerful, enthusiastic, and optimistic with everyone. Positivity is contagious and can lift the room, a meeting, and one-on-one interactions. Marry your approach with practical strategies to support your team as times get rough.

A Case Study:

How to Survive the Economic Downturn

What could I do as a radio station GM in the middle of an economic depression in east Texas caused by an oil business bust cycle? Prospects would say to my sales team, "why should I advertise? No one has any money to come into my store." The sales team was depressed and frustrated. We had to change market perceptions, turn around the station's revenue path, and find a way to show support for the community.

Say it, Then Believe it.

The action idea came from the premise that a positive mental attitude always benefits sales. We ordered metal buttons (low cost, two colors) with our station logo that said, "East Texas, You're Something Special." I passed them out to the sales team and asked them to wear buttons on every sales call. They each carried a bag of buttons and passed them all over town to listeners. We ran recorded vignettes on the station promoting everything that made Tyler, Texas, a special place to live, work and raise a family. We did fundraisers and remote events to help those who had lost their jobs. We found a way to be part of a solution and help folks see there was a light ahead.

Ideas Turn Into Action

The station buttons became a visible and tangible statement for everyone to get behind and support the idea that things would be OK. Folks around town would ask my sellers, "what does that button mean that you are wearing?" The questions led to positive conversations about what our station was doing, how they could get involved to support the community, and in some cases, new business on the station!

The local economy did turn around over the next six months; as oil prices increased, everyone felt more optimistic about the future, and we all became stronger as a community. That year, we all learned a valuable lesson in the radio station about taking action steps, running to the sound of the battle, and finding ways to shed light in the darkness.

Thank you for reading this article, and please pass it along to your colleagues.
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About The Author:

Alec Drake openly shares revenue management strategies and sales improvement ideas in the "Sales Success Library" at He is a regular contributor to Radio Ink Magazine, where he leverages four decades of experience to write about sales and management. Alec is the founder of The Radio Invigoration Project (T.R.I.P.), a support initiative for local radio sales and promotion staff.

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