So You Want to Be a Media Seller

Here's How to Get Started

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What is a "media seller"? Here, we covered the role of the media buyer, who purchases ad space for individual media outlets -- television networks and local stations, radio networks and stations, newspapers, magazines, websites, or other media. Here, we'll address what you need to know if you want to become a media seller, the point person at a particular media outlet who sells advertising time and space to the media buyer from a media agency. Some of the top media executives -- from TV network bosses to magazine publishers -- got their start as media sellers.

Got any office experience? Those with undergraduate degrees, especially in communications (media or advertising concentration) or business, would be considered as prime candidates for internships or entry-level positions at most media outlets. In most cases, previous job experience is not required -- these are entry-level positions. However, any relevant experience one may have had during school -- say, in an office environment -- will be seen as an asset. One of the major broadcast networks says it hires recent college graduates as sales assistants, as do several leading publishers of consumer magazines. Sales assistants work directly with account executives, each of which typically is in charge of various accounts. (Oftentimes, the sales assistant will assist not merely one but multiple account executives.)

The job of the sales assistant is basically much like that of an administrative assistant at any type of company, and includes everything from the routine (scheduling appointments; preparing media kits; submitting expense reports; helping to plan requests for proposal, or RFPs; carrying out administrative duties such as preparing mailings and fielding calls; conducting basic research) to the more technical (making sure commercials are properly coded).

Key skills. According to recruiters, the ideal media seller candidate should: have strong communication, organizational, multitasking and people skills; be able to work in a fast-paced environment; be good with dealing with clients as well as numbers; understand the basics of the company for which he/she is working, as well as the medium (technical specifications, ad rates, demographics, etc.); have familiarity with computer programs like Excel, PowerPoint and Salesforce; and be goal-oriented, as ad-revenue targets constitute the main contributor to the bottom line of most media companies.

Where to look. As with other advertising jobs, there is any number of ways to find the sales assistant position, including through your school's department advisors, job fairs and/or company recruitment on campus, job sites like MediaBistro, and professional associations. Most large media companies, as well as many local media outlets, include such job listings on their corporate websites.

Polish your resume. Just as those applying for creative jobs at agencies should put together an impressive portfolio, better known as a "book," to show off their best work, those applying for media seller positions need to design a resume to stress the above-listed skills as well as any relevant work experience, plus interest or expertise in all media. Be prepared, on your resume, in cover letters and in interviews, how, even in doing your class work, you've thought about marketing problems and how to solve them, and to demonstrate your communication and presentation skills. Also, be sure to garner as much information as you can about the industry by following industry publications as well as being aware of (and able to discuss) marketing campaigns that inspire you. Just because it's an "account job" doesn't mean shouldn't have at least some understanding and appreciation of creative.

On the job training. Media sellers, like most entry-level professionals, learn much of what they'll need to know on the job day-to-day, working with seasoned, senior salespeople. But some companies also have developed training programs to ensure their new hires have an even more solid footing. One TV network has a program (which it calls "the media school") designed to teach entry-level hires about all aspects of the business. Account executives lead most of those classes, but even top sales and programming executives have been known to address the participants. Said one person at the network, "It's great to give them the exposure and let them learn and see that this is still a very exciting and fun business." Another said he and his colleagues on the sales side of the network "really strongly believe that you bring these young people in [and] don't let them walk out the door in six months because they're bored and they haven't learned anything."

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