Advertising Sales Agents

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Advertising Sales Agents Do[About this section] [To Top]

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.

Duties of Advertising Sales Agents

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
  • 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

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 followup appointments with interested prospects.

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 are increasingly selling 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, of a particular publication, such as a newspaper.

In addition to maintaining sales and overseeing their accounts, advertising sales agents analyze sales statistics and prepare reports about clients’ accounts. They keep up to date on industry trends by reading about both current and new 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.

In addition, sales agents may be responsible for developing sales tools, promotional plans, and media kits, all of 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 for Advertising Sales Agent[About this section] [To Top]

Advertising sales agents held about 167,900 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most advertising sales agents were as follows:

Advertising, public relations, and related services 36%
Newspaper publishers 14
Radio broadcasting 10
Television broadcasting 8
Other information services 4

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.

Advertising Sales Agent Work Schedules

Most advertising sales agents work full time. About 1 in 4 advertising sales agents worked more than 40 hours a week in 2014. Some work irregular hours and on weekends and holidays.

How to Become an Advertising Sales Agents[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Advertising Sales Agents near you!

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 Agent Education

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 and 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.

Advertising Sales Agent Training

Most training takes place on the job and can be either formal or informal. In the majority of 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 for Advertising Sales Agents

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

Important Qualities for Advertising Sales Agents

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 and potential clients.

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


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Advertising Sales Agent Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for advertising sales agents was $48,490 in May 2015. 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 $22,840, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $114,350.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for advertising sales agents in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Other information services $58,010
Advertising, public relations, and related services 56,020
Television broadcasting 50,590
Radio broadcasting 41,650
Newspaper publishers 36,440

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 usually are 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 4 advertising sales agents worked more than 40 hours a week in 2014. They frequently work irregular hours and on weekends and holidays.

Job Outlook for Advertising Sales Agents[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of advertising sales agents is projected to decline 3 percent from 2014 to 2024.

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, newspaper print advertising is expected to decline, but some of this decline will be offset by the sale of digital ads 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 online video ads, search engine ads, and other digital ads intended for cell phones or tablet-style computers. Digital advertising on the Internet allows companies to directly target potential consumers because websites usually are associated with the types of products that those consumers would like to buy. Digital advertising can be done without an advertising sales agent, possibly dampening growth for this occupation. 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.

Advertising Sales Agents Job Prospects

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

Employment projections data for Advertising Sales Agents, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Advertising sales agents 167,900 163,400 -3 -4,500


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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