Media: pounds 25,000+ at 26? Not bad for a salesperson

Sales used to be regarded as the least glamorous job in the media. But good money and perks, plus a surfeit of available positions, makes it more and more attractive

"A salesman has got to dream, boy," is how Arthur Miller famously defined the huckster's art, "It comes with the territory."

Unfortunately, a media salesman has to do rather more than dream. He has to trade in the recondite advertising world of cost per thousands and station average price. This salesman has to walk at the very front line of the media business, continually treading a tightrope of rejection before he can hope to emerge breathless with that faxed rationalisation of his role - the holy grail, the sale.

It's a tricky balancing act. The media salesman has to be an eloquent professional, conversant with the mental arithmetic skills of the forex dealer; and yet, like his City cousin, he must also have about him that touch of the extrovert - even if that means he must simply bark loudly on an ever-present phone, all the while continuing to sport loud ties or shoulder pads a decade after such brash sartorial style was ever tolerated. The media salesman has to do all this and still be in little doubt of the way many in the media will treat him.

"Media sales is the lowest form of media life. At least that's how many people think. They tend to dismiss salespeople - both men and women - as loud, brash and insensitive," admits Ben Hadfield, himself a former salesman and now a senior consultant at the media recruitment specialists Carreras Lathane.

"They look at jobs like TV presenter or DJ as the very top end of the media, and then work down past still-glamorous roles like the journalist or TV production person, all the way down to media sales. But there aren't that many careers where a 26-year-old can be earning a basic pounds 25,000 a year, with up to pounds 8,000 in commission, driving a company car, running an expense account and looking after a team of people. Media sales is one of them."

And the fact remains that this is the one area of the media where the supply of appropriately motivated staff has problems keeping up with the demand. Although for some years now most of the entrants have had some form of higher education, increasingly nowadays employers are prepared to cast their net ever wider in the search for individuals with the requisite hunger.

"Academic qualifications aren't as important in sales as in other branches of the media," Hadfield says. "In marketing or planning, where there is a need to write detailed reports and spend time on research, obviously it's a different story. But in sales, employers don't want people who spend 10 weeks coming up with a beautifully reasoned essay. They want people who can think on their feet, tell you off the top of their head what 7 per cent of seven is, and not be afraid when they get given a list of calls to make and a financial target to hit. It's true that we don't in this country tend to give salespeople the respect they deserve, but the fact is, it's job with a fantastic social side and a great sense of achievement once you complete a deal."

That is not to say that the job is entirely visceral, or that there is no creativity required. One consequence of the explosion of new media outlets is that many established media brands, especially in television, are having to manage a long-term decline in readership or viewer numbers. It's the salesman's job to think of reasons why advertisers should stay with them through this decline. And because of the way air time is priced, on ITV, for example, this already stiff challenge is becoming even stiffer. On ITV, as the number of viewers falls, then, bizarrely, the price of advertising rises. It's the salesman's job to tell the client that his spot in the middle of Blind Date this year will reach 2 million fewer people than it did this time last year. Oh, and cost 10 per cent more than it did then. By any standards, it is hardly the most comfortable sell in the world.

But the fragmentation of media is also, of course, causing the already considerable opportunities in the media sales industry to increase by the day. Nowhere is the increase in opportunities more apparent than in the TV and new media.

"The career progression for salespeople used to take them from selling classified ads on a trade or technical magazine up through selling display ads before moving to a consumer title, but no more.

"It's got much more flexible now, simply because there are so many new media outlets," points out Shirley Nelson, associate director at the recruitment specialists, the Davis Company. "And the biggest change is the development of the whole Internet and new media area, where there is such a lack of qualified sales people that they are now having to offer vast sums of money to entice salespeople.

"Nevertheless they are still having trouble finding the right people."

It is not just that there are more media outlets. The added competition has caused many operations that were content in the past to farm out their sales to a third party, to resume charge of their own destiny.

"Here in the radio industry one company, the Capital Radio-owned MS&M, used to represent 92 stations. It was difficult for salespeople to get the message of individual stations across," agrees Tom Toumazis, managing director of Emap On-Air, the sales operation for radio stations such as London's Kiss FM. "That's changed and now sales points like ourselves are looking after far fewer stations and determined to employ quality people to get the message and flavour of our stations across to clients."

It means the media sales person has the chance to do much more than merely tap in numbers on a calculator. He has to make the client dream.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine