THE GREAT E-SCAPE: Many sales people think the web is the place to be. But how do you break into the e-business? Mark Tungate investigates

You are standing with your back to the bar, scanning the scene before you. Nobody in the crowded room is much over 30 - most of them are younger.

You are standing with your back to the bar, scanning the scene

before you. Nobody in the crowded room is much over 30 - most of them

are younger.

The look is relaxed rather than dressy, with a smattering of expensive


You could be at a trendy drinking den in Notting Hill or Shoreditch.

In fact, this is an online industry gathering called Boob Night (aka Buy

Our Own Beer Night).

Boob was designed to offer a smaller, cosier alternative to sponsored

events like First Tuesday, which is filled with e-trepreneurs stalking

venture capitalists. Now Boob is almost as big as its predecessor and

has spawned numerous spin-offs. Everyone, it seems, wants to make the

great e-scape.

Why is new-media so great?

’In a word - growth,’ says Dela Quist, director of European sales at

Excite. ’Internet revenues are growing at 300 per cent a year and that’s

unlikely to change over the next 12-24 months. You can expect to climb

the career ladder very quickly.’

Now is probably the ideal time to make the jump from traditional media

sales into new media. The sales houses are expanding and recruiting,

publishers are going online and new websites are popping up every five


Crucially, a lot of start-ups are still at pre-IPO stage, so there is

potential for considerable financial rewards over and above your


And if you accept the theory that the internet is the future of

publishing, it’s better get into it sooner rather than later.

The working methods in new media can also be a breath of fresh air.

Dominic Trigg, UK advertising sales director of Microsoft MSN, worked as

advertising manager on Focus magazine before moving to new-media sales

at BT. ’Our team has a very flat structure and group goals so people are

motivated by more than self-profit,’ he says. ’It contrasts with the

established way, which is about hierarchies, central management,

different tiers, wining and dining.’

How do you get in?

The great fear is that you need to be some kind of web-head to make the

switch. At the moment that isn’t the case, although there are many more

people with online sales experience than there were two years ago.

’You either get the web, or you don’t,’ says Dela Quist. ’You should be

a fan and ideally you’ll be online at home. You should be able to talk

enthusiastically about your favourite sites. And if you don’t have a PC,

get yourself down to an internet cafe like EasyEverything.’

Davina Lines, sales and marketing director of online information service

Net Imperative, says: ’At this stage, passion and talent are more

important than experience, although you should start learning about the

industry before you go out into the marketplace. And it’s best to start

now, because 18 months down the line there will be more competition and

it will be harder to jump.’

Peter Wilson, sales manager at online sales house TSMSi, says: ’Apart

from the technical aspect, the skills you need to work in new media are

no different from those you need in traditional sales. The only

additional characteristic is an enthusiasm for the medium.’

But Steve Davies, project manager, key accounts at, warns

that competition for places is now so intense that you may have to pull

something extra out of the bag. ’You can’t jump ship just because you’ve

got ten years’ experience in traditional sales. You need to bring added

value, which means ideas and imagination.’

Transferring to the internet seems easier for people with experience in

a hard-sell environment. ’Radio to new-media is good, and we have also

placed a lot of consumer magazine sales people within new-media, at all

levels,’ says Kathryn Nall, associate director at Media Contacts.

Kate Burns, account executive at online advertising company DoubleClick,

has a typical track record.

Five years ago she was selling recruitment ads at The Sun, but she also

surfed the net regularly at home. This led to a job with an internet

consultancy, then a post at Ziff-Davis, and finally her current role at


Burns says that once you get your new-media job, you’ll need to become

au fait with the technology pretty rapidly.

’The medium is evolving fast and you’ll need to keep up with the latest

developments,’ she warns. ’You will also have to sell to people with

technical know-how, or educate companies that aren’t online.’

Which company?

’I would advise anybody with the interest, the skills and the talent to

join a start-up,’ says Burns. ’You can climb the career ladder more

quickly, make a real difference to the future of the company and, if it

is in pre-IPO stage, reap the financial benefit.’

Excite’s Quist says that a start-up could be a good route if you want to

move into a publisher-type role. ’You’ll have opportunities to steer the

direction of the company that you wouldn’t get in a sales house.’

But how do you choose your start-up? The net industry is going great

guns now, but some believe there will be a crash, with a lot of the

smaller players going to the wall.

Quist is reassuring. ’Nobody is going to discount the three years’

experience you had in traditional media. And when you apply for a job at

a more established web company, the few months’ experience you had at

the start-up will put you at a premium.’

Richard Warburton, who is now an account manager at Real Media,

initially worked at a start-up after leaving outdoor contractor Maiden.

’After a few months it became clear that there was considerable scope to

develop my career,’ he says.

There are also a few factors that might help you make an educated


Burns explains: ’You might be better off picking a US-based


They tend to have more venture capital behind them and by the time they

have reached the UK, they are already evolving into significant global


Alternatively, you could join one of the big portals, such as AOL,

Lycos, Excite, Yahoo! or - a newcomer to the UK - Alta Vista. Quist

says: ’If you join a sales network you may have a bias towards agency

deals. Working for a company like Excite or AOL may indicate you prefer

to work directly with clients.’

Mark Dawson, senior sales executive at AOL, previously worked at The

Daily Telegraph. ’Moving from an organisation like The Telegraph to a

small start-up would have felt like moving from something built on

concrete to something built on sand,’ he says. ’I think joining a larger

organisation made me feel more secure.’

On the other hand, you might fancy a job at one of the established

online sales houses, such as DoubleClick, 24/7, Real Media or TSMSi.

Mark Nall, sales director at 24/7, points out: ’If you move to a sales

house you’re going to end up selling across a portfolio of sites. If

you’re currently working for a number of titles at a publisher like IPC,

you’ll probably enjoy that. But if you’re used to working on a single

brand, you might prefer to go to somewhere like Excite or AOL.’

But as Quist says: ’Wherever you decide to work, the most important

factors are that you feel relaxed with the people and the


What’s the downside?

Salaries are competitive, but don’t believe the hype - the virtual

streets are not necessarily paved with gold. ’We have a lot of people

coming in with unrealistic salary expectations,’ says TSMSi’s Wilson,

’especially if they already have some web experience. Having said that,

you’ll reach your ’level of incompetence’, as Dilbert calls it, more

rapidly, so your salary will grow as you climb the career ladder.’

Nearly everyone we spoke to cited ’crazy hours’ as the main disadvantage

- but that’s the price you pay for working in an exciting


Besides, this will stabilise as the industry matures. Quist says: ’At

the moment it reminds me of that tape ad in the 80s. The guy turns on

his stereo and is pushed into his armchair by the force, hair raked back

and tie flapping in the wind. That’s what working in this industry feels



Last November a recruitment and training agency was founded for

traditional media sales people who want to move into new media.

NewMediaHR offers sales people a free new-media ’acclimatisation’

course, and aims to place wannabes in the online business. Managing

director Vincent Sheppard, a former media sales manager, runs the

company, while Paul Angeli, Universal Media managing director, is

backing the venture.

The course

The first course started on 26 February, with 14 trainees in attendance,

including a Media Business journalist. It ran over four evenings from

6pm to 9pm.

In session one we were taken through a brief history of the web, the

principals of successful online marketing and examples of ’quality’


Session two included a simple explanation of the threat posed by the net

to traditional offline businesses. Comparisons were made between virtual

businesses ( and established companies that use the

internet as a sales medium (Dell). And we were given some homework:

reviewing a website.

In session three, we were given more details of the roles played in the

online industry by client companies, sales houses, agencies and media

owners. We also learned about staff roles within those


We were talked through a typical online campaign from concept to


Session four was more technical, with a look at campaign analysis, ad

tracking and reporting formats. We were also told what clients expected

from new-media campaigns and how that could be delivered, with a

question-and-answer session on tracking and accountability. There was

also a talk from a senior industry figure and an open forum


Trainees’ views

The trainees included several media buyers/planners, a senior newspaper

sales executive, an exhibition sales manager and an entrepreneur from

overseas looking to break into new-media sales. Their views on the

course varied:

’The first two sessions were very straightforward - most of it was quite

obvious - but it’s difficult to find a level that suits everyone.’

’I’ve already landed a new job as a sales and marketing manager at a

new-media design agency, and this course has helped me enormously. I

feel more confident about what I’m getting into.’

’For a start, it’s good to meet other people in exactly the same

situation as yourself. The course itself was good, neither too intense

nor too full of jargon, and interesting enough that I didn’t doze off

after a day at work.’


Angeli and Sheppard want to mine a lucrative market - new-media

recruitment - and the training could be seen as an enticement to get

potential job candidates onto their company’s books.

The convert’s view

The course is a lot more than an enticement. The syllabus has been

devised by a panel of experts, including Electronic Telegraph boss Danny

Meadows-Klue, and it will provide a good foundation for anyone starting

out in new media. There is a desperate shortage of expertise in

new-media sales and anything that contributes to increasing the pool of

talent and skills available is to be applauded. - Jonah Bloom

For more details call NewMediaHR on (020) 7935 9197.