Many people today view careers in Sales with disdain. Salespeople are “always trying to sell you something you don’t need; at a price you can’t afford”. Films like “Tin Men”, “Glengarry Glenn Ross”, “Used Cars” and others celebrate (often humorously) the less than honorable profession of selling stuff to unsuspecting and often naive consumers who buy from salespeople who possess an engaging demeanor and a “gift of gab” who can sell “refrigerators to Eskimos”.
Back in the day when I managed Ad Sales organizations in both Radio and Cable Television, I conducted lots of sales meetings and interviewed lots of candidates for sales positions. My comments with regards to Ad Sales as a career were always consistent.
If the only reason a sales person came to work in the morning was to earn a commission check, that was fine with me. As long as they represented our company (and me) in a manner that adhered to our core principles i.e. Respect, Honesty, integrity and Continuous Self Improvement with a 100% focus on achieving a Win-Win, I had no problem with that.
A dear friend and former boss once told me there are only two (2) ways to ever earn what we’re worth; own the company or get into sales. If you do anything else for a living, you will earn whatever your boss, company or industry determine that job to be worth. No matter how good you are at what you do, or how long you’ve done it, eventually you’ll reach a ceiling in your compensation. Unless you change jobs or companies, any further pay increases will be minimal. If you own the company or have a career in sales, whatever you earn is directly related to how hard you work, how smart you work, and how much you care about your customer’s success. Your earnings potential is then, for all intents and purposes, unlimited.
But my focus in these meetings and interviews was always on something more than money, because I believed sales (especially ad sales) was a truly noble profession that if done well, offered salespeople the opportunity to earn a very good income while assisting businesses to grow in the communities we served. Politicians (especially those running for election) like to talk about how their efforts or government policies helped create jobs. The reality is that nearly 70% of the jobs in this country were created by small businesses. Multi-national corporations, government at the federal, state and local level, and non-profits receive most of the publicity, but small businesses employ twice as many people and generate twice as many new jobs. My point to the salespeople was always this; if you do your job well, lots of good things happen. Businesses grow, creating job opportunities for more people. Growing businesses purchase products and services from other businesses, causing them to grow. Businesses pay taxes which pay for schools and improved infrastructure and increased social services. People with jobs buy products and services, pay taxes, buy homes and cars and in many cases save to help put their kids through college.
I’m sure there are instances where businesses and indeed whole categories have grown through word of mouth, I just can’t think of any. In the vast majority of cases, businesses grew at least in part because of the good work provided by media ad sales people who asked probing questions, did lots of research to understand their client’s business, industry and customer base, and worked hard to make sure those small businesses were advertising the right products and services at the right time to the right audience at the right price.
Media sales also offer tremendous career opportunities for minorities. Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Nationality are all secondary. Diversity is a reality in any successful sales organization, because for the most part a sales staff that is as diverse as their customer base has an advantage over the competition. Plus, any sales manager or sales organization with half a brain understands that a good salesperson who is smart and has a strong work ethic, displays empathy, honesty and integrity will be highly successful and worth their weight in gold.
In any professionally run organization, salespeople and management have instant and ongoing accountability. Hard work and success are recognized, and in most cases celebrated.
Those of you reading this article who work in ad sales for Catholic and other faith-based media know full well the additional responsibilities associated with assisting businesses and Church-related organizations in their efforts to reach out to the Faith Community, and like you we have to work even harder than secular media to make sure the businesses advertising with us are held to the highest standards. That being said, I truly believe the vast majority of secular media salespeople also hold themselves to a high standard, not just because it’s a morally sound philosophy, but because it’s just good business.
In closing, Ad Sales done well has an enormous, positive impact on not only ourselves and those around us, but on our communities and society as a whole. Ad Sales is indeed a Noble Profession.