Every time you open the careers section of a newspaper or go on a careers website, you will probably see a number of different jobs advertised in the same overly-enthusiastic way: “Hey there! Why not start an exciting career in media sales?”
Careers in media sales might seem like the kind of job that people just fall into when they don’t know what they want to do, or have failed to get the job they really wanted. However, these careers can be genuinely interesting and rewarding.
Media sales basically involves selling advertising space to different companies across a range of different media, i.e. directories, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and online. The space where you see every single advert, has been sold by a media sales professional – anything from double page spreads in the centre of Vogue and banner adverts on your favourite website, to those funny little ads in the back of your local newspaper that offer solutions to ‘gentlemen’s problems’.
Is a career in media sales the same as a career in media?
The most important thing to remember with media sales is that it is a ‘sales’ job. It’s unlikely that a career starting in media sales will directly lead you to a job as a television producer, advertising copywriter or football magazine columnist.
Sure, you might be lucky, but if you want to work in journalism, advertising or broadcasting then it’s probably best to get work experience in those areas first. The people who prosper in the media sales industry are the people who enjoy selling. Admittedly, an interest in media can be a great asset to a media sales professional, but their real passion has got to be doing deals, hitting targets and making money.
How do I get into media sales?
The start of your career in media sales might be tedious at times. However, media sales teams tend to be groups of young, dynamic people, so your day can often be lively and lots of fun. You might also be able to earn a good bit of extra cash from commission and bonuses.
To begin with, a career in media sales will probably involve a lot of selling over the telephone. Firstly, it’s all about identifying the people in suitable organisations that are responsible for advertising budgets and making contact with them. It’s then your job to discuss their advertising needs with them and persuade them to buy advertising space in the publication that you are working for.
Later in your career, you might progress into an account manager position, where you might be more responsible for meeting clients face-to-face, taking them out for lunch, understanding their advertising needs and building lasting relationships with them. These roles are more strategic and less about the hard sell. You might also be responsible for leading sales campaigns for larger ad campaigns, rather than selling space in the classifieds section of a newspaper or magazine.
What qualities does a successful media salesperson possess?
Much like other sales careers, jobs in media sales are driven by targets and deadlines. The kinds of people who thrive in this industry are friendly, energetic, confident, tenacious, resilient and hard-working.
Media sales professionals need to know their market inside out, and must have the ability to understand and use sales data in their pitches. Excellent negotiation skills are also essential, as the intangible nature of advertising space and time means its selling price can be flexible.
People can pursue their careers with specialist media agencies that sell advertising for a range of different clients, or they might work in the media sales department of a specific media organisation, such as ITV or the Guardian.
While not necessarily as glamorous as Mad Men, and somewhat less bizarre than the film How to Get Ahead in Advertising, a career in media sales and advertising is perfect for those of you who are sales-driven, work well under pressure, and enjoy the thrilling prospect of commission.