Should Your Next Ad Sales Career Step Really Be Ad Sales Director?


Sales Rep or Sales Director?
Here are some points to consider.

You know what they say about Hollywood actors – they all want to direct. I guess it’s just a natural inclination, and it is no different in the ad sales world. When ad sales reps are successful, they want to move to the BIG chair. As in Ad Sales Director…finally having all the power, all the prestige…..and all the headaches. It’s an age-old progression. Sometimes it’s a great career move and sometimes it’s not. How do you figure out if that is the right path for you?

I’ve done both jobs in my publishing career.  I started as a regional ad sales rep for a B2B publisher. Then I went on to a new job as an Ad Sales Director of a high-tech magazine. But there were no other ad sales people. It was sorta funny being a director with no one to direct! (Sales meetings were short, though!)

Then I started my own magazine company and did pretty much everything at first—including all the ad sales calls. Finally I hit the big time and I became The Publisher with an Ad Sales Director with an Actual Ad Sales Staff.

What did I learn? I learned that there were a lot of things I liked and definitely didn’t like about my different roles.

Deep down inside I really enjoyed selling. Matter of fact, I loved selling and still do.

But I discovered I did not like managing the ad sales staff so much. In fact, for me that’s about the most difficult role I’ve had. Yes, I did the job and was pretty competent at it. But what I kept coming back to was what I loved most—the client-relationship part.

So you’ve got to ask yourself “What is it that I’m really good at?” AND “What do I really enjoy“? They are two very different questions, but both are questions that need to be considered together for your long-term career success and personal happiness.

What’s right for you? Sales Rep vs. Sales Director:

Authority: With more authority, your voice counts. As Sales Director, you typically will have a lot more say with company management. The plus is being part of helping to grow the company and having input in the decisions. The downside is all those mind-numbing meetings – sales reps don’t have as much say, but they get to spend more time doing and less time planning.

Freedom: Your work schedule can be all over the board as a rep, depending on where you work. But in general, many companies don’t care where sales reps are, as long as they’re making sales goals and bringing in the revenue. Sales reps have a lot of freedom. The downside is sales reps have to meet sales goals and bring in revenue or they won’t be around very long. Sales Directors usually have a 9-to-5, M-F job, but probably won’t have their vacation plans dashed by a bad sales week.

Day-to-day:  If you are the Sales Director, you mostly manage staff, address issues, solve problems, motivate the reps, etc. It’s more of an administrative job where you’re involved in budgets, numbers and reporting. And of course, dealing with all the problems your sales reps might have. The ad sales rep’s week is selling. You mostly have to worry about only yourself and your numbers.

Money: Ahh, here we go. I’m the big shot Ad Sales Director now, my big prize is has arrived. But it’s not unusual for a rockstar ad sales rep to make way more money than their boss. They’re the ones bringing in the money. If you really rake in the commissions, think twice about sitting in the big chair.

Advancement: Most future publishers come from the Ad Sales Director position. It’s a good position to see future company revenue ideas and understand the management team at your publishing company. The downside? Any publisher will tell you that niche publishing means you must be willing to take big-time risks and that sometimes you keep a gigantic bottle of antacids on your desk. Sales reps may not have the same advancement opportunities, but they also don’t have to stomach taking the big risks.

The most important thing to consider is what you like to do. What gives you the most personal and professional satisfaction? What position is your skill set, lifestyle, and personality best suited for?

Sometimes it’s not so obvious what is best for YOU. Take some time to really think about if you really want to sit in that big chair or if you really love what you do as a rep.

To all my niche magazine ad sales peeps out there: You rock!


Carl LandauAbout the blogger: Carl Landau is Grand Poobah of Niche Media. He is a media/event guru, SF Giants fan and part-time blogger. His 15 minutes of fame took place in the mid-eighties when he launched his famous, “Buy an Ad, Get a Cat” ad campaign. He has long since patched things up with the SPCA.



Niche Media has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. We’ve helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments! Plus, Carl Landau – Niche Media’s Grand Poobah – just launched a blog all about creating and marketing targeted events –  Check it out!

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