Rachel, the lowdown on sales, please
Advice on moving over from media planning
October 20, 2005
I have been on the media planning side at two large agencies for the past two years. I had extensive experience with print reps as the print go-to person within my account. I am now fortunately finding myself courted by the ad sales side to jump the fence and join their team. I’m a very driven person who is lured by the ad sales side due to the personal accountability of the job, ability to interact with many people, and more day-to-day challenges than I’m offered as a media planner. But I have a few questions. First, what is the side of ad sales that we as media planners do not see? Secondly, I’m concerned about future prospects as this would be my third job in two years. I first moved early due to an offer with another agency that could not be turned down, but I’m concerned that if I move again so soon that I will be stuck there for some time. Thirdly, does the world of media look unkindly upon someone who switched to ad sales and then wants to switch back? Any insight you could provide me with would be greatly appreciated.
—Thinking About Jumping the Fence
This is a big decision, and you’re smart to ask detailed questions. Ad sales people tell me that people whose personalities are suited to sales will have the most success jumping over from planning. If you are outgoing, hardworking, and not averse to risk and conflict, you should do well.
There are sides of ad sales that you don’t see, just as in any job. Certainly one thing you may not be aware of is the paperwork. Sales people tell me they are swamped with it.
And expect to do lots of entertaining. Count on attending parties, dinners and sporting events. You are expected to be at work at 8:30 a.m. and leave when you are finished, which could be after midnight if you’ve committed to an evening wining and dining a client.
After working for big agencies, you probably are used to dealing with large clients. Working on the sales side, even in major markets, may not always be as glamorous.
“People in agencies think of clients as companies like Ford and Chrysler,” observes Deborah Denechaud, sales manager for WSB-TV, the ABC affiliate in Atlanta. “But in sales you spend a tremendous amount of time with local business owners. You’ll be dealing with the guy who owns the tire store or gutter cleaning company. You need to know about their business and its demographics. You’ll almost act as consultant. You’ll need to learn all about other competitive media.”
Financially, your life will be less certain because some part of your salary will be commissions on sales. The upside, of course, is that you will be able to make more by working harder, at least in theory.
But you will have to work at it. As a planner you’re analytical and reactive. In sales, it’s about being proactive, going out to get the business rather than waiting for business to come to you. The phone on the desk is there for you to pick up, and woe to those in sales who simply wait for it to ring.
In answer to your second question, headhunters tell me you shouldn’t worry about the number of career jumps you have made.
“I don’t think you can look at these rules anymore about how long you should stay in a job,” says Simmy Sussman of Sussman & Morris Associates in New York City. “In this world, it is not unusual to hop around a little bit until people get an idea what they want to do. At least they are staying in the media business.”
And don’t worry about what moving into sales will mean for your career. If you want to go back and work for an agency, you will be at an advantage because you will understand both sides of the business better.
The real issue is not whether sales is attractive, but whether it is attractive to you. And only you can know the answer to that.
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