Last week we reported that media owners have been hit by a ’skills
shortage’ and more specifically by a ’shortage of sales staff’. We know
this will not come as news to all our readers, which makes me wonder why
so few companies are working on a solution.
As one sales director pointed out to me earlier this week, there has
been a lack of good sales people for some time. Sales executives with
two to three years experience are very thin on the ground. Those who do
fit into that bracket have too often skipped about - bumping up their
salaries but not always gaining the skills and understanding to
The salaries bit seems fair enough - after all, this is a free market
and why shouldn’t the value of good sales people go up? But the skills
bit could be a problem as less experienced sales people try to keep up
with developments in a complex business.
What’s more, some managers have expressed concern that the pool of
graduates is not growing as fast as the number of sales roles, which is
multiplying rapidly, due, in part, to the dotcom explosion. Media owners
are bound to poach each other’s staff - it would be naive to think
otherwise - but hiring your rival’s sales pros must be coupled with a
solid graduate or school-leaver recruitment programme.
In our ’What it’s like to work for’ section, we ask companies how they
recruit and train. The Sun takes on six graduates a year and BBC
Worldwide has a graduate recruitment scheme. But few, if any, others
mentioned a graduate recruitment scheme.
Most claimed to have training or, at least, familiarisation schemes, but
the majority of these seemed to amount to little more than two or three
days plus external courses ’when requested’.
Perhaps some media owners forgot to mention their graduate recruitment
schemes when talking to us. Perhaps some sales executives consider the
levels of training completely adequate. And there is no doubt that
on-the-job training is still invaluable. But many media owners need to
make a serious investment in recruiting graduates and training
Many sales professionals are being lured to new media. We have spoken to
a number who have either made the move, or are thinking of doing so.
One executive who had moved from a traditional sales job to an online
sales role said: ’Part of the attraction is the mystique of the
internet.’ He admitted this quickly wore off once he was doing the job.
He added that he might not have moved had his previous employer offered
a new-media training course. ’These are things you have to learn about,’
As media owners contemplate the skills crisis, the management might like
to ask whether they are teaching their staff as much as they want to