Pressure to meet monthly sales quotas can be stressful.
Advertising sales agents—often referred to as account
executives or advertising sales representatives—sell
or solicit advertising, including graphic art, advertising
space in publications, custom-made signs, or television and
radio advertising time. More than half of all advertising
sales agents work in the information sector, mostly for media
firms, including television and radio broadcasters, print
and Internet publishers, and cable program distributors. Other
agents work for firms engaged in direct mail advertising or
display and outdoor advertising, such as billboards and signs.
Because most revenue for magazines, newspapers, directories,
and broadcasters is generated from advertising, advertising
sales agents play an important role in their success.
Outside sales agents call on clients and prospects
at their place of business. They may have an appointment,
or they may practice “cold calling,” arriving without an appointment.
Inside sales agents work on their employer’s premises
and handle sales to customers who walk in or telephone the
firm to inquire about advertising. Some also may make telephone
sales calls—calling prospects, attempting to sell the media
firm’s advertising space or time, and arranging follow-up
appointments between interested prospects and outside sales
agents. Advertising sales agents should not be confused with
telemarketers, whose duties are limited solely
to soliciting orders for goods or services over the telephone
and who work primarily in call centers that provide telemarketing
services on contract.
Within the advertising and related services industry, media
representative firms sell advertising space or time for media
owners, including print and Internet publishers, radio and
television stations, and cable systems. Media representative
firms maintain offices in major cities and employ their own
teams of advertising sales agents. These agents work exclusively
with the executives at advertising agencies, called media
buyers, who purchase advertising space for their clients.
Media representative firms may represent any number of publications
and radio or television stations, selling space to advertising
agencies with clients who want to initiate a national advertising
campaign or place advertisements outside their local market.
Sales agents employed in media representation normally do
not cultivate new advertisers but maintain contacts with existing
advertisers through the advertising agencies. A local television
or radio station or publication would have a national sales
manager to promote its best interests and coordinate the efforts
of all the media representative firms on its behalf.
Local sales agents are employed by local publications or
radio and television stations and are responsible for sales
in a local territory. For these sales agents, obtaining new
accounts is an important part of the job, and they may spend
much of their time traveling to and visiting prospective advertisers
and current clients. During a sales call, they discuss the
client’s advertising needs and suggest how their products
and services can meet those needs. A critical part of building
a relationship with a client is to find out as much as possible
about the client and its products. Sales agents inquire about
the client’s current customers, prospective customers, and
the geographic area of the target market.
During the first meeting with a client, sales agents gather
background information and explain how specific types of advertising
will help promote a client’s products or services most effectively.
Next, the advertising sales agent prepares an advertising
proposal to present to the client. This entails determining
the advertising medium to be used, preparing sample advertisements,
and providing clients with estimates of the cost of the proposal.
Consolidation in the media industries has brought the sale
of different types of advertising under one roof. Sales are
increasingly made of integrated packages that include advertisements
to be placed in print, online, and with a broadcast subsidiary.
After a contract has been established, advertising sales
agents serve as the main contact between the client and the
firm. They handle communication between the parties and assist
the client in developing sample artwork or radio and television
spots. They also arrange for commercial taping sessions and
may accompany clients to the sessions.
Beyond selling, advertising sales agents have other duties
as well. They analyze sales statistics, prepare reports, and
handle the scheduling of their appointments and work hours.
They read about new and existing products and monitor the
sales, prices, and products of their competitors. In many
firms, the advertising sales agent handles the drafting of
contracts specifying the advertising work to be performed
and its cost, as well as the billing and recordkeeping for
their customers’ accounts—which may include customer service
responsibilities such as answering questions or addressing
any problems the client may have with the proposal. Sales
agents also are responsible for developing sales tools, promotional
plans, and media kits, which they use to help make the sale
Selling can be stressful work because income and job security
depend directly on the agent’s ability to maintain and expand
clientele. Companies generally set monthly sales quotas and
place considerable pressure on advertising sales agents to
meet those quotas. The added stress of rejection places more
pressure on the agent.
Many advertising sales agents work more than 40 hours per
week. Although the hours are long and often irregular, most
have the freedom to determine their own schedule. The Internet
and other electronic tools allow agents to do more work from
home or while on the road, enabling them to send messages
and documents to clients and coworkers, keep up with industry
news, and access databases that help them target potential
customers. Advertising sales agents use e-mail to conduct
much of the business with their clients. Use of e-mail has
considerably shortened the time it takes to negotiate a sale
and place the ad. Sales agents may accomplish more in less
time, but many work more hours than in the past, spending
additional time on follow-up and service calls.
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Some employers prefer applicants with a college degree, particularly
for sales positions that require meeting with clients. Courses
in marketing, leadership, communication, business, and advertising
are helpful. For those who sell over the telephone or who
have a proven record of successfully selling other products,
a high school degree may be sufficient. After gaining entry
into the occupation, successful sales experience becomes more
important than education when looking for a position. In general,
smaller companies are more willing to hire unproven individuals.
Personality traits are equally important as academic background.
Because they represent their employers to the executives of
client organizations, advertising sales agents must have excellent
interpersonal and written communication skills. Employers
look for applicants who possess a pleasant personality, honesty,
and a neat professional appearance. Self-motivation, organization,
persistence, independence, and the ability to multitask are
required because advertising sales agents set their own schedules
and perform their duties without much supervision.
Training takes place mainly on the job. In most cases, an
experienced sales manager instructs a newly hired advertising
sales agent who lacks sales experience. In this one-on-one
environment, the supervisor typically coaches the new hire
and observes as she makes sales calls and contacts clients.
The supervisor then advises the new hire on ways to improve.
To conduct more specialized training—for example, in selling
to a particular market segment, such as real estate professionals
or automotive dealers—the employer may bring in a consultant.
Advancement in the occupation means taking on bigger, more
important clients. Agents with proven leadership ability and
a strong sales record may advance to supervisory and managerial
positions such as sales supervisor, sales manager, or vice
president of sales. Frequent contact with managers of other
departments and people in other firms provides sales agents
with leads about job openings, enhancing advancement opportunities.
In small firms, where the number of supervisory and management
positions is limited, advancement may come slowly. Promotion
may occur more quickly in large firms.
Advertising sales agents held over 154,000 jobs in 2004.
Workers were concentrated in three industries: More than 3
in 10 jobs were in newspaper, periodical, book, and directory
publishers; 3 in 10 in advertising and related services; and
2 in 10 in radio and television broadcasting. A relatively
small number of jobs were found in specialized design services,
including industrial and graphic designers; printing and related
support activities; computer systems design and related services;
business support services; and cable and other program distribution.
Employment was spread around the country, but jobs in larger,
well-known publications or radio and television stations were
concentrated in big cities. Media representative firms also
were concentrated in large cities with many advertising agencies.
Part-time employment of advertising sales agents was most
common in advertising and related services and less common
in publishing and radio and television broadcasting. Self-employment
also was more common in advertising and related services.
Overall, relatively few advertising sales agents were self-employed.
Employment of advertising sales agents is expected to grow about as fast as the
average for all occupations through the year 2014 because
of growth in population and advertising revenue. Rising demand
for advertising sales agents also will stem from fast growth
in cable systems and from the expansion of firms into the
growing Hispanic market.
The industries employing advertising sales agents experienced
considerable consolidation in recent years, and that trend
is expected to continue over the next decade, although at
a slower pace. This consolidation is not expected to affect
employment of advertising sales agents significantly because
prospective clients still will require sales agents to create
and demonstrate advertising proposals. Technology has made
advertising sales agents more productive, allowing them to
take on additional duties and improve the quality of the services
they provide, without substantially lessening overall demand.
Productivity gains have occurred mostly in the accounting,
proposal creation, and customer service responsibilities of
sales agents, allowing them to provide improved services.
In addition to the job openings generated by employment growth,
openings will occur each year because of the need to replace
sales representatives who transfer to other occupations or
leave the labor force. Each year, many advertising sales agents
discover they are unable to earn enough money and leave the
occupation. As a result, job opportunities should be good,
especially for those with a college degree or a proven sales
Advertising revenues are sensitive to economic downturns,
which cause the industries and companies that advertise to
reduce both the frequency of campaigns and the overall level
of spending on advertising. Advertising sales agents must
work hard to get the most out of every dollar spent on advertising
under these conditions. Therefore, the number of job opportunities
for advertising sales agents fluctuates with the business
Most employers pay a combination of salaries, commissions,
and bonuses. Commissions are usually based on the amount of
sales, whereas bonuses may depend on individual performance,
on the performance of all sales workers in the group or district,
or on the company’s performance. For agents covering multiple
areas or regions, commissions also may be based on the difficulty
in making a sale in that particular area. Sales revenue is
affected by the economic conditions and business expectations
facing the industries that tend to advertise. Earnings from
commissions are likely to be high when these industries are
doing well, low when companies decide not to advertise as
Median annual earnings for all advertising sales agents were
$40,300 including commissions, in May 2004. The middle 50
percent earned between $27,740 and $59,880 a year. The lowest
10 percent earned less than $20,210, and the highest 10 percent
earned more than $89,720 a year. Median annual earnings for
sales agents in May 2004 in the industries employing the largest
numbers of them were as follows:
|Advertising and related services
|Radio and television broadcasting
|Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory
In addition to their earnings, advertising sales agents usually
are reimbursed for expenses such as transportation costs,
meals, hotels, and entertaining customers. They often receive
benefits such as health and life insurance, pension plans,
vacation and sick leave, personal use of a company car, and
frequent flier mileage. Some companies offer incentives such
as free vacation trips or gifts for outstanding sales workers.
Advertising sales agents must have sales ability and knowledge
of their clients’ needs and businesses. Workers in other occupations
requiring these skills include advertising, marketing, promotions,
public relations, and sales managers; insurance sales agents;
purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents; real estate
brokers and sales agents; sales engineers; sales representatives,
wholesale and manufacturing; and securities, commodities,
and financial services sales agents.See the Careers
Database for more information
|Sources of Additional Information
For information about advertising sales careers in newspaper
- The Newspaper Association of America, 1921 Gallows Rd.,
Suite 600, Vienna, VA 22182. Internet: http://www.naa.org/
Source: Bureau of
Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition