Advertising Sales Agent

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What Advertising Sales Agents Do

Advertising sales agents, also called advertising sales representatives, sell advertising space to businesses and individuals. They contact potential clients, make sales presentations, and maintain client accounts.

Advertising sales workers sell airtime for commercials on radio and television and space for ads in newspapers and magazines. They also sell many kinds of ads on the Internet. These sales workers can also be called media buyers or advertising sales executives. Advertising sales workers call or visit companies or advertising agencies that might want to develop commercials or run ads. The sales worker and the client discuss the different lengths or sizes of advertisements available and their costs.

Some advertising sales workers work for national television and radio networks and publications. Others work for local community stations and newspapers. In offices with a large sales staff, each sales worker may be given a territory, or region, in which to contact advertisers. Broadcast advertising sales workers (who work in radio and TV) must know a lot about the kinds of people who hear or watch their station’s programs. Similarly, those who sell for magazines or newspapers need to know what kinds of people read their publications. They try to learn everything they can about their audiences, including information such as age, sex, income, and shopping habits. Using this research, sales workers can then approach the companies that want to advertise their products to specific groups of people. Advertising sales workers often generate ideas for ads. They may even write the copy for them. After a deal is made with a client, sales workers write up contracts that indicate the lengths of the ads and how much they cost. They may spend a lot of their time renewing contracts or persuading advertisers to buy more space or time.

Duties

Advertising sales agents typically do the following:

  • Locate and contact potential clients to offer their firm’s advertising services
  • Explain to clients how specific types of advertising will help promote their products or services in the most effective way possible
  • Provide clients with estimates of the costs of advertising products or services
  • Process all correspondence and paperwork related to accounts
  • Prepare and deliver sales presentations to new and existing clients
  • Inform clients of available options for advertising art, formats, or features and provide samples of previous work for other clients
  • Deliver advertising or illustration proofs to clients for approval
  • Prepare promotional plans, sales literature, media kits, and sales contracts
  • Recommend appropriate sizes and formats for advertising

Most advertising sales agents work outside the office occasionally, meeting with clients and prospective clients at their places of business. Some may make telephone sales calls as well—calling prospects, attempting to sell the media firm's advertising space or time, and arranging follow-up appointments with interested prospects.

Agents may spend much of their time visiting prospective advertisers and maintaining business with current clients.

A critical part of building relationships with clients is learning about their needs. Before the first meeting with a client, a sales agent gathers background information on the client's products, current clients, prospective clients, and the geographic area of the target market.

The sales agent then meets with the client to explain how specific types of advertising will help promote the client's products or services most effectively. If a client wishes to proceed, the advertising sales agent prepares and presents an advertising proposal to the client. The proposal may include an overview of the advertising medium to be used, sample advertisements, and cost estimates for the project.

Because of consolidation among media industries, agents increasingly sell several types of ads in one package. For example, agents may sell ads that would be found in print editions as well as online editions for a particular publication such as a newspaper.

In addition to maintaining sales and overseeing their accounts, advertising sales agents' other duties include analyzing sales statistics and preparing reports about clients’ accounts. They keep up to date on industry trends by reading about new and existing products, and they monitor the sales, prices, and products of their competitors.

In many firms, the advertising sales agent drafts contracts, which specify the cost and the advertising work to be done. Agents also may continue to help the client, answering questions or addressing problems the client may have with the proposal.

Companies generally set monthly sales quotas and place considerable pressure on advertising sales agents to meet those quotas.

Sales agents may also be responsible for developing sales tools, promotional plans, and media kits, which they use to help make a sale. In other cases, firms may have a marketing team that sales agents work with to develop these sales tools.

Work Environment

Advertising sales agents held about 154,600 jobs in 2012.

Selling can be stressful because income and job security depend directly on agents' ability to keep and expand their client base. Companies generally set monthly sales quotas and place considerable pressure on advertising sales agents to meet those quotas.

Getting new accounts is an important part of the job, and agents may spend much of their time traveling to and visiting prospective advertisers and maintaining relationships with current clients. Sales agents also may work in their employer's offices and handle sales for walk-in clients or for those who call or email the firm to ask about advertising.

The industries that employed the most advertising sales agents in 2012 were as follows:

Advertising, public relations, and related services 35%
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 28
Radio broadcasting 11
Television broadcasting 6
Other information services 3

Work Schedules

Most advertising sales agents work full time. About 1 in 5 advertising sales agents worked more than 40 hours a week in 2012. They frequently work irregular hours and on weekends and holidays.

How to Become an Advertising Sales Agent

Although a high school diploma is typically enough education for an entry-level advertising sales position, some employers prefer applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Proven sales success and communication skills are essential. Most training for advertising sales agents takes place on the job.

Advertising sales agents must actively seek new clients and initiate communication with current clients in order to meet sales quotas.

Education

If you want to be an advertising sales worker, you must have at least a high school education. Many employers also require a bachelor’s degree. Useful courses to take at both the high school and college levels include communications, business, economics, advertising, marketing, English, psychology, and speech.                   

Previous work and sales experience at a radio station, television station, newspaper, or magazine is also helpful. With the growing trend of advertising on the Internet, you should become familiar with computers and the Web.

Although a high school diploma is typically the minimum education requirement for an entry-level advertising sales position, some employers prefer applicants with a college degree. Publishing companies with large circulations or broadcasting stations with a large audience may prefer workers with at least a college degree. Courses in marketing, communications, business, and advertising are helpful. For those who have a proven record of successfully selling other products, educational requirements are not likely to be strict.

Training

Most training takes place on the job and can be either formal or informal. In most cases, an experienced sales manager instructs a newly hired advertising sales agent who lacks sales experience. In this one-on-one environment, supervisors typically coach new hires and observe them as they make sales calls and contact clients. Supervisors then advise the new hires on ways to improve their interaction with clients. Employers may bring in consultants to lead formal training sessions when agents sell to a specialized market segment, such as automotive dealers or real estate professionals.

Advancement

Agents with proven leadership ability and a strong sales record may advance to supervisory and managerial positions, such as sales manager, account executive, or vice president of sales. Successful advertising sales agents may also advance to positions in other industries, such as corporate sales.

Important Qualities

School Subjects
Business, English, Speech
Minimum Education Level
High school diploma
Salary Range
$22,000 to $135,000 (In USD as of Apr 20, 2015)
Outlook
Faster than the average
Other Articles to Read
Advertising Account Executive
Copywriter
Retail Sales Worker
Sales Representative

Communication skills. Advertising sales agents must be persuasive during sales calls. In addition, they should listen to the client’s desires and concerns, and recommend an appropriate advertising package.

Initiative. Advertising sales agents must actively seek new clients, keep in touch with current clients, and expand their client base, in order to meet sales quotas.

Organizational skills. Agents work with many clients, each of whom may be at a different stage in the sales process. Agents must be well-organized to keep track of their clients or potential clients.

Self-confidence. Advertising sales agents should be confident when calling potential clients (cold calls). Because potential clients are often unwilling to commit on a first call, agents often must continue making sales calls, even if rejected at first.

Pay

Salary Range: $22,000 to $135,000 (In USD as of Apr 20, 2015)

The median annual wage for advertising sales agents was $46,290 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,930, and the top 10 percent earned more than $103,170.

Performance-based pay, including bonuses and commissions, can make up a large portion of an advertising sales agent’s earnings. Most employers pay some combination of salaries, commissions, and bonuses. Commissions are usually based on individual sales numbers. Bonuses may depend on individual performance, the performance of all sales workers in a group, or the performance of the entire firm.

Most advertising sales agents work full time. About 1 in 5 advertising sales agents worked more than 40 hours a week in 2012. They frequently work irregular hours and on weekends and holidays.

Job Outlook

The need for radio, television, and print advertising sales workers is expected to be greater than average through 2016. There will be many applicants for each job opening, however, so those with more experience and skill will have an advantage. Starting in a small town or at a small radio or television station or print publication can provide workers with valuable experience to move on to larger markets such as Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.

Millions of more people each year rely on broadcast and satellite radio, cable, satellite, and local television, and the Internet for their entertainment and information. All of this increased media programming will produce more job opportunities for advertising sales workers over the next decade.

Employment of advertising sales agents is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022.

Media companies will continue to rely on advertising revenue for profitability, driving growth in the advertising industry as a whole. Employment growth of advertising sales agents will largely follow broader industry trends. For example, although newspaper print advertising is expected to decline, some of this decline will be offset by the sale of ad space on newspaper websites. Therefore, although employment of advertising sales agents is projected to decline in the newspaper publishers industry, it is not projected to decline as fast as other occupations in that industry.

However, an increasing amount of advertising is expected to be concentrated in digital media, including digital ads intended for cell phones, tablet-style computers, and online radio stations. Digital advertising allows companies to directly target potential consumers because websites are usually associated with the types of products that possible customers would like to buy. Digital advertising can be done without an advertising sales agent. For example, in some cases it can be done through a software application or search engine program. Therefore, an increase in digital advertising expenditures will not necessarily result in increased demand for advertising sales agents.

Job Prospects

Competition is expected to be strong for advertising sales agents. Applicants with experience in sales or a bachelor’s degree should have the best opportunities.

Employment projections data for advertising sales agents, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Advertising sales agents

41-3011 154,600 153,600 -1 -1,000 [Employment projections data.xls]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of advertising sales agents.

For More Information

In your local community, newspapers and other publications may hire students to volunteer or work part time during the summer. Your town may have a cable television station that looks for volunteers to operate cameras, sell advertising, or help out with general office work. In addition, a variety of community-sponsored activities, such as craft fairs, holiday boutiques, and rummage sales, may provide you with opportunities to create and place ads and work with the local media to get exposure for the events.

For information about advertising sales in the newspaper industry, visit

Newspaper Association of America

For information about the radio advertising industry, visit

Radio Advertising Bureau

American Advertising Federation
1101 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20005-6306
800-999-2231
[email protected]

American Association of Advertising Agencies
405 Lexington Avenue, 18th Floor New York, NY 10174-1801
212-682-2500

American Marketing Association
311 South Wacker Drive, Suite 5800 Chicago, IL 60606-6629
800-262-1150

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