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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Guru Careers: Product Design Engineer / UX Designer

£20 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a tech savvy Product Design Engineer /...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: German speaking Account Manager / ...

Guru Careers: System Administrator / Sys Admin

£23 - 30K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a System Ad...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor