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12 August 2011
Is Sales now a Profession?

Is Sales now a Profession?

By Ben Turner @ 08:59 :: 3171 Views :: 7 Comments :: Article Rating :: Featured Articles
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Is it me or is the stigma attached to pursuing a career in sales beginning to change? Sales in the UK has somehow worked itself into building a reputation and stereotypical image around shysters, del boys , making a quick buck and selling your own grandmother to hit targets.

Like any professional there will always be an element of this, since time began people want to get where they want quicker even if this means bending the truth. The problem is the word ‘sales’ to majority of people (typically non sales people) conjures up the feelings of being backed into a corner and made to say yes, often to something you don’t want.

However I believe this is beginning to change, not in all the sectors (See Mary Portas and her perception of phone sales people and estate agents) but it is certainly happening.

In my chosen area of sales, Media Sales, employers are waking up and smelling the coffee, at last the industry has recognised that keeping and developing talent is far greater than always looking for talent. After all, sourcing candidates is one thing, attracting them is another but keeping them is actually the golden ticket, I’m sure the same applies to other sales verticals as well.

Across the industry most sales departments or teams are currently sat at a yearly retention rate of 60%, meaning 40% of the sales team are leaving every year. Look around your own department (if you have been there a year) and do the maths yourself, what did it look like a year ago?

In terms of retaining staff but moving them to other areas of the business, this retention typically falls around 15%-25%. Meaning that on average 60% of people cannot be convinced to stay, or more importantly, it was not highlighted that they wanted to leave before being too late.

This is a problem; sales will always have an element of moving around. The desire to work on new products, the closure of old products, wanting to chasing the bonus , moving for an often slight salary increase, having a desire to manage people, equally not wanting to manage people, restricted travel or too much travel are all common resignation reasons.

However, most if not all of these things can be achieving staying put. Why is it then that these opportunities are only really highlighted when you tender your resignation?

So what is changing?

Simply, sales employers are investing back into the business and there sales teams. They are recognising that sales people need development, nurturing and often retraining, in an ever changing advertising landscape. Products are developing; buying habits are rapidly changing, so why wouldn’t sales methods equally need to change?

A number of media sales employers including Incisive Media, Future and Emap have just recently reintroduced full scale annual sales conferences, which in previous years had fallen off the agenda.  In addition, many media employers are currently rewriting and reviewing the structure, training and development programmes for those in sales. The use of internal mentoring is also becoming popular with at least four organisations I am aware of, assigning you a mentor no matter what your seniority, allowing you to learn from other areas and job functions.

Skillset, the industry body which supports skills and training for people and businesses in the UK creative industries, have recently completed a nationwide exercise to create the first ever National Occupational Standards, specifically aimed at Advertising Sales.

The final version of standards was created after a number of nationwide roundtable sessions were held with a variety of media sales employers, before finalising a standard that any media sales employer can now benchmark against.

One such organisation involved were IPC Media who produce over 85 brands and have a large portfolio spread across both print and online. Instrumental in developing the programme and subsequently rolling out across IPC Media was Group Ad Director, Cathy Neale;

"I feel that the Standards will help all of my management team develop their sales people to a consistent level and will support performance management and progress systems that we already have in place."

"Sales people will need to be more knowledgeable about different media and the Standards emphasise this."

So even with just a few examples, it demonstrates the great work being undertaken across the industry, significantly improving the professionalism and career opportunities within sales.

Love Media Sales we aim to play our part by continuing to build good relations with both media sales professionals and employers alike to assist with raising standards, creating best practice and facilitating sector networking.

Jordan Adams

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comment By Stuart McLean @ 13 August 2011 11:56
No question - of course sales is a profession. At Incisive Media we have always considered and treated our sales people as professionals.
Incidentally, at Incisive Media we have ran our sales conference every year for the last 6 years. We recognise the value of such events which continue to have at their core, learning, sharing best practice, creating new ideas, celebration of our success and talent and of course having fun. Incisive sales people create the event for all our sales teams. The event continues to contribute to the ongoing success of our sales teams.

comment By Ben Turner @ 16 August 2011 07:22
Many thanks Stuart, although the work you are doing at Incisive Media elevates the professionals within your business to achieve more, do you think this behaviour is happenning enough throughout UK business. I think the tide is changing, and more businesses are investing in their sales teams but there is still a long way to go.

comment By Matt Hepple @ 24 August 2011 11:39
Its probably more to do with staff crossing over from product knowledge areas of customer service and being promoted within companies. SO lets say for instance, customer service/help support staff has been at the company for three years and backing up the sales has a fixed salary - Normally this perosn would wait for an alternative oppurtunity than sales but on the realization of a higher income (much needed at the moment) is then moved into a sales role as well.
What more could you want? Knowledge, company proceedure and no costs or risks involved recruitment? And of course customer service in the after sales has also increased which is something that had to be addressed in this country.

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