Launching a Career in Media Sales

media sales jobsThere is a theory out there that everyone, at some point of their career, should work in sales.

The reasons are simple, according to Jeff Haden of CBS MoneyWatch; you’ll learn to communicate, negotiate, be persistent, close deals and handle many types of people, skills that are needed in all careers, not just a career in sales.

Bart Foley, Vice President/General Sales Manager of ROOT Sports Northwest, originally intended to pursue a career on camera, but after getting on opportunity in media sales, discovered a career path that suited his personality and allowed him to stay close to the teams he loved growing up in Seattle.

For advice on starting a career in media sales, here’s more with Bart Foley:

What is the biggest challenge for someone that wants to get into media sales?

Foley: Knowing where to start. It’s actually not that difficult to get into television or radio ad sales. Most college graduates are gravitating toward other fields like technology and thus, it’s never been easier to get started.

Internships are still incredibly valuable experiences and now labor laws require that you get paid! There are support positions like Sales Assistants and Sales Coordinators that work behind the scenes and those too are great places to learn the ropes.

Why do you think you have had success? Is it a certain skill or trait that set you apart from others?

Foley: There is no secret sauce to being a good salesperson but if you don’t have a work-ethic, forget it.

In media sales, you see all types of approaches have success. I’ve seen the cliche ‘cheesy approach’ have success, as well as the ‘laid-back easy-going’ style work well.

Personally, I think these are the most important attributes:

  1. Make a good first impression
  2. Find a common trait with people
  3. Make it about your client, more than about you
  4. Listen more than talk
  5. Discover your comfort personality.

Regarding comfort personality, you’ll be your best if you stay true to your core personality, for me that’s a blend of humility and humor.

What was your first job in media sales like? Did you have any moments of doubt, like, maybe this isn’t for me?

Foley: I had many doubts at first about whether or not it was the right thing for me.

I had every intention of pursuing a career in front of the camera while attending Washington State University. In fact, I had already landed some work, announcing Pac-10 Volleyball on Prime Sports Northwest while still in school. My plan was to send my tapes out there and see if anyone was interested when a friend of the family, the sales manager at the Fox affiliate in Seattle, KCPQ, asked me if I would be interested in a summer internship in the sales department. “You can see how the other side of the business works,” was his suggestion which sounded good to me, so I took the internship.

When I was back at school finishing my fall semester, I got a call with a job offer to be an Account Executive! The job market wasn’t so great in 1992, so I jumped at the opportunity. I cut my teeth selling for about 6.5 years at KCPQ.

Media Sales Jobs, Work in Media Sales

There are great opportunities in media sales according to Bart Foley, VP/General Sales Manager of ROOT Sports Northwest

KCPQ was a tough place to sell new business because we didn’t have a newscast. Local news is a great place to land new business and thus, my success rate was not strong. In hindsight it was great preparation for selling at a Regional Sports Network, but it took me a while to appreciate that.

Have you had any mentors and if so what advice that they gave you still sticks with you today?

Foley: That first friend of the family, Lloyd Low was and still is a mentor. I learned from Lloyd how important it is to not take yourself too seriously. At the end of the day, it’s fun to be in media, or at least it should be.
Other tidbits:

  1. The call you fear the most is the call you make first
  2. The boss’s priorities = your priorities
  3. Know when to stop talking, so many sellers can’t stop talking

In sports it seems your ability to sell ad time is directly tied to the success of the teams you broadcast, is that frustrating or a welcome challenge?

Foley: While there clearly is a direct link from the performance on the field or court to the business you close, it’s not as much as you might think and while I would love my teams to win it all, at the end of the day I sell the quality of the audience watching more so than the sheer numbers that are watching.

We like to say that other shows have viewers while we have fans. Fans are more engaged, they’re passionate, even if they’re screaming at their own team! Fans watch the games LIVE too which is huge in this DVR world!

From an outsider’s perspective, it appears to me that successful sales people focus on building relationships, is this accurate or are there other tactics that are more important?

Foley: Relationships are still the core of how business gets initiated but not nearly as much as it was during boom economic times. Accountability is too great nowadays. Budgets are not nearly what they used to be and customers need to make their dollars go as far as possible.

We are far more solution-oriented in our selling approach than we ever were in the past. Relationships help you get an at-bat, but a good well-thought out solution to a very good understanding of a customer’s goals and objectives is how business is getting done for us now.

That, and few Diamond Club tickets right behind home plate doesn’t hurt much either!

Finally, what are the three best movies about sales people?

  1. Glengarry Glen Ross
  2. Jerry Maguire
  3. Tommy Boy

Actionable Items for a Career in Media Sales:

  1. Jobs in sales are actually not that hard to come by, and internships are still the way to gain experience and connections.
  2. Work ethic is directly related to success in media sales.
  3. In these economic times, budgets are tight so clients are looking for solutions to their problems and results, if you can approach sales with a solution-oriented frame of mind you can find success.
  4. To see what the world of sales is really like watch Glengarry Glen Ross, if you’d rather have a laugh, Tommy Boy is always worth your time.
About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for &

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


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