Lee Sucherman is retiring after 36 years as a local TV sales account exec in New Orleans. He shares how he got his start, what strategies worked for him consistently over the year, and what advice he has for others in the field.
The local TV broadcasting business in the U.S. generates billions of dollars in revenue every year, and the majority of those billions comes from account executives in the country’s 210 markets.
They are the foot soldiers of big broadcasting, with their feet on the streets, pounding the pavements, knocking on doors, making calls, hoping to sit eye to eye with local business owners to find them TV/digital advertising solutions in the local markets where they do business, and to convince them that advertising on their TV station and digital properties is affordable and effective.
Lee Sucherman has been such a foot soldier for 36 years in New Orleans as a local TV sales account executive and is retiring.
Sucherman spent his sales career at two New Orleans stations, WDSU (NBC) and WWL (CBS).
Sucherman shares how he got his start, what strategies worked for him consistently over the years and what advice he has for other local TV sales account execs.
Sucherman’s first job as a media salesman in New Orleans was at a small AM station. He says although he wasn’t initially attracted to the idea of selling radio, he was encouraged by friends in the business to give it a try.
“You have a great personality for it,” they told him.
So with no experience, he applies for an opening at a little AM station with a country music format, and gets the job.
He shows up the first day, and the boss tells him that the station was bought out by a Christian group which meant no advertising and for Sucherman, no job.
Welcome to media sales!
Sucherman’s next job was at an FM station in New Orleans, where the sales team taught him how to put together a schedule with the right frequency, and hope it works, Sucherman says. “The only feedback you got was if a client called and said nothing is working. It was trial by fire, like literally thrown into the trenches and just see what you can do.”
In 1985, Sucherman made the switch to TV, starting as an account executive at WDSU.
He was handed an account list of six leads and Sucherman says, “the phone book, you know, the Yellow Pages. Your lead list is the Yellow Pages. I wasn’t given anything. I had to earn it for myself.”
Sucherman says his first sale was a small restaurant. Since the restaurant had no commercial to air, Sucherman went there and took some snapshots of the place.
“That was my first venture out to handle the complete process of selling them, coming up with a spot, writing a script, doing the production and getting it on the air.”
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, Sucherman says, you booked time with the production department to get your commercial made.
“You needed five, six people to edit a commercial,” he says. “The guys on the tape deck, the Chyron person, a couple of directors, an audio guy. So it gave me a great appreciation. Those early days were really kind of Advertising 101 on so many different levels.”
Sucherman says initially, he wasn’t making much money, but that’s not how he measured his success.
“I measured my growth based on the success that I shared with my clients,” he says. “That is where it starts.”
Below, Ferncrest Manor Living Center: “This is one in a series of spots for a client I have had exclusively for about the past 20 years or so,” Sucherman says.
Back then, Sucherman says he was just selling television. Now, local TV sales execs have digital, social platforms, OTT and apps to sell.
“It is more confusing because the clients now are somewhat intimidated by all the choices.”
But it’s the job of an account exec, he says, to be well versed in all aspects of that media, because it’s here to stay.
Since Sucherman announced his retirement, he’s been “flabbergasted by the feedback I have received from people who say I have mentored them over the years and given them advice.”
His advice is generally don’t be a salesman, “be a partner, be an adviser, be a consultant, don’t oversell anything. I offer ideas and opportunities and proposals that I think make sense for their business. And just be yourself and make sure that what you are offering to the client is best for the client.”
Great advice that served Sucherman well for 36 years in local TV sales.
Restore The Coast: “Working through a local PR firm,” Sucherman says, “this campaign was created to address a very frightening fact about coastal erosion down here. This was created with a consortium of nonprofits to deliver the message introduced in the Super Bowl two years ago on WWL-TV. The spot received national attention.”
Louisiana Made, Louisiana Proud: Sucherman says, “When I arrived at WWL in 2014, I was thrilled to finally be able to offer this iconic campaign to my new WWL-TV clients.
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