Media folks: Too
many reps don't get it
Big beef: Time-wasters who don't know their job
By Toni Fitzgerald
So what do media buyers and planners
really think of sales reps?
They think half or more don’t know how to do their jobs.
They think too many are phone pests and time-wasters. And they say most
reps know too little about their clients and their clients' needs.
That’s according to the results of a recent Media Life poll
asking readers to weigh in on their likes and dislikes regarding the media
sales people who call on them.
We asked, “What percentage of sales reps would you say
really know their stuff and are helpful to you?”
The answer: Fewer than you might expect, somewhere
around 50 percent. An alarming 17 percent said only 10 or 20 percent of
sales reps are helpful.
So what’s the problem? Why are media people so
The thing they’re most distressed about is the ignorance of
many sales reps. These are reps who don’t know their own product, the
media property they're selling, and don’t know anything about the client
whose business they are pitching.
We asked readers what advice they'd pass on to those reps.
Here are some of the answers.
“Do your homework & don't try to feed me a line that is
not true. Know your product, terminology and the numbers because I can
promise you, I do know them and I can tell when a rep does NOT know,”
wrote one respondent.
“Understand that what's a sale to you is part of a strategy to
the agency and a part of a much, much bigger picture to the client,"
wrote another. "If you're an important component (which you hope you
are!) you need to understand and communicate this understanding.”
Another beef with reps: taking rejection as a personal affront. As
one respondent put it, “If you are the lowest-rated station for my demo,
don't act surprised and mad when you don't get bought!! It's NEVER
Above all, media buyers and planners want reps to understand
that if they want their clients' business they have to work for it, and
work hard, rather than expecting it to fall in their laps.
“The harder you work for my client, the stronger reward you
will receive,” wrote one respondent. “It's not up to me how much of a
share you get on a buy. That will be determined by how hard you work for
it. Oh, and stop asking me what your share is because I will never give it
But all that said, the vast majority of media people who deal
with sales reps accept that they have a job to do and that most go about
it with decent intentions.
We asked, “How would you rate the reps you deal with, on
Just under half, 49.4 percent, agreed with the statement: “No big
deal. Sure, they’re annoying sometimes, but I’m sure they find me
equally so. It’s how the industry is set up.”
A slightly smaller share, 44.5 percent, agreed that they're "a
necessary evil. Most are okay, but there are a few really obnoxious ones I
hate doing business with.”
What’s the most annoying thing a sales rep can do?
That's easy. Abuse the telephone.
We asked readers to tick off sales reps’ most annoying habits.
Respondents could pick more than one. Some 56.5 percent chose: “Call too
much. I got your first six messages, I’ll get back to you when I have
something to say.”
But not far behind was the hard-sell, at 47 percent: “Give
too much of a hard sell. When we both know they’re ranked No. 4 in the
market, they’ll find some obscure way to claim they’re really No. 1.”
Then came ignorance of the client at 45.3 percent: “Not
knowing anything about my client. Do some research!” And not far behind,
at 36.1 percent, was going over the person's head: "I hate it when
they ask to speak to a supervisor.”
Other annoyances of note: Presentations that go on
forever, unannounced visits and mispronouncing the names of clients’
There was general agreement that 20 minutes was the perfect length
for a presentation, but respondents were divided on the most annoying
thing sales reps can do during their spiels.
Almost 30 percent chose: “Make me sit through an in-person
meeting for something that could have been handled over the phone.” Tied
for second at 22 percent were “Linger on things I already know or do not
care about” and “Not be prepared.” Twenty percent chose “Take too
Being late was another annoyance.
July 6, 2005
Toni Fitzgerald is a staff writer for