Some people can be sniffy about selling, but if you are determined and hard-working a career in media sales can be satisfying - and very rewarding, says Nick Walker
Two weeks ago, Charlotte Smith made pounds 15,700 for her company, the publishing house EMAP. Not bad for a week's work. Nor for a 21-year- old only three weeks into her first job since graduating with a 2:2 in social policy. "I had to work very hard and be very organised. The phone would ring 20 or 30 times a day and I always had to be cheerful. But it's been worth it. Working in sales was a natural progression for me. I spent seven years working in retail. My father was a salesman, so maybe it's in my blood." And the rewards! Salesperson of the Week, a pounds 25 Marks & Spencer voucher and a silver trophy to perch on her desk.

It's all too easy to deride media sales as a typically Nineties career, sucking up to job-hungry and debt-ridden graduates to work on a commission- only basis. But most media wouldn't exist without advertising. Depending on your point of view, advertising is either the media's concession to consumerism, or a mark of its determination to avert the shackles of state control.

"A lot of people are sniffy about media sales," says Gisela Schwalm, manager of the graduate division at Media Appointments, a recruitment agency that specialises in media sales. "But there is no room for that kind of attitude for those who really want to do it."

And many people do. Media sales covers television, radio, cinema, newspaper, magazine, poster, directory and transport advertising. The vast bulk of the 8,000-10,000 sales staff in media start on classifieds or "sections" for one of the daily papers or major publishing houses. Most print media have their own in-house sales teams, but in some media, particularly radio and television, agencies, or "sales houses" are employed to sell time. Airtime on ITV, for example, is sold by three houses - Laser, TSMS and Carlton.

Working on a commission-only basis is relatively rare, and tends to be restricted to the bottom end of the publishing market. A good first job with a major publishing house can offer a basic salary of between pounds 15- 18,000 a year, plus commission and perks. An advertising manager for a medium-sized publisher can make around pounds 50,000 a year, with commission.

Television occupies the top end of the market. More time is spent negotiating price with advertisers who have already decided to spend, than selling the radio station or the magazine title. "But that is changing," says Gary Digby, agency sales director of Carlton, which brings in advertising revenue of more than pounds 500m a year. "We are still looking for people who can negotiate and sell a proposition - sell the company."

Radio commands puny amounts compared to its sister world of television. Certainly the perception of those who work in radio sales is that it is more "fun" and less concerned with image (particularly its own) than TV is.

David Longman of the Radio Advertising Bureau, the industry's central body, insists that radio is the place to be for anyone who wants to start in media sales: "Radio sales are growing more rapidly than any other media. Radio grew by 23.4 per cent to pounds 220.1m to the end of 1994."

Fru Hazlitt, 32, is head of client sales for Capital Radio and responsible for generating an advertising revenue into tens of millions of pounds a year. Described as a media selling "star" by colleagues, she started working in sales for the publishers Haymarket nine years ago and was head- hunted from the Guardian last year.

"There is the idea that all the media sales bunch are out to lunch, but you have to get the results - or you're fired," she says. "The job doesn't necessarily start off exciting, but I'll never forget the first time I persuaded someone to buy a space unseen. The manager hit a huge gong and my name went up on a board. I had just got someone to hand over 800 smackers."

"You have to be money-oriented," says Gisela Schwalm. "If someone calls me up after seeing one of our ads, the first thing I do is listen to their voice, how they pitch and pace on the telephone. They have to be clear and confident and know what they want." Many sales jobs do not require direct experience or specific qualifications. There is usually an attractive training package for first timers.

Progress can be fast. Ian Westwood, 31, is advertising manager of Dennis publishing: "When I started in 1987, media sales was only beginning to take off. I don't think there are many jobs which offer you both a good training and management experience in such a short time."

Charlotte Smith has the enthusiasm of youth. "Eventually I want to be involved with the big clients like Givenchy, bringing in ad revenue in bigger blocks, looking at the number of titles at one time ... That's when it'll get exciting."