Putting on your hiring hat: Finding a good ad sales rep

Whether you are just starting out as an independent publisher or you have been at it for years, solid sustainability may still be elusive.

The National Federation of Independent Business says that with any business, multiple revenue streams lead to that hoped for sustainability.  Advertising is a key source of revenue for many sites.

But an increase in ad revenue is in proportion to the quality of your ad sales representative.  Bottom line: If you want to make more money, you’ve got to hire a stellar ad sales rep.


So where do we start?


Rusty Coats, co-founder and president of Coats 2 Coats, a media consulting firm, suggests starting with advertising for the position on your own site.

“Because you are going to reach people who are already passionate about your work and that’s what you want,” Coats says.

Gapers Block

Others use Craigslist and some publishers like editor and publisher of Gapers Block, Andrew Huff have found good old-fashioned word of mouth to be most effective in garnering ad sales candidates.


Okay, so you have a few candidates who responded to your ad or they were recommended to you.  What qualities are going to send the standout candidates to the top of the resume pile?

“We are looking for people who are outgoing, who understand they are going to get a lot of rejection, they are going to get a lot of no’s, and are going to be okay with that.  Beyond that, it is mostly a willingness to come back and keep trying,” Huff says.

Sacramento Press

Along with the ability to shield themselves from the ‘no thank you’s’ and the ‘not right now’s,’ Ben Ilfeld, founder and COO of Sacramento Press, suggests a history or background in being a small business owner.

“Then they have a common experience with the people they are trying to sale ads to.  It is also really good to have a familiarity with the product they will be selling (your site).  For us, we are a collaborative news source online.  You have to be a little bit passionate about it.  You really have to believe in it,” Ilfeld says.

Coats adds to the list: “A self-starter, very well-organized, aggressive, personable coachable, well-spoken and well-presented.”

A resume with all the right adjectives like the ones listed above seems to good to be true, but you will eventually find a good fit. Be patient. Just keep trying and don’t settle.


Coats, Huff and Ilfeld, offer some pretty solid advice about hiring an ad sales rep.  To break it down, I’ve compiled the ‘top six’ pieces of advice for hiring a good ad sales rep.

1. Pay on commission.

“We are paying no base salary so they don’t make money if they don’t bring something in,” Huff says.

“You want to know how much they need to sell in order to pay themselves and help you,” Ilfeld says.

“They got to want to be paid.  Don’t cheat them in how much you are going to pay them, if you don’t want to cheat yourself in how much revenue they are going to bring in,” Coats says.

2. Don’t settle on a hire and don’t hire a friend.

“Don’t settle too much on someone before they prove themselves to be successful,” Huff says.

“You’ve got to understand that some people work out and some people don’t. You can’t really tell during an interview, necessarily.  The best people sell themselves, but that doesn’t necessarily sell ads,” Ilfeld says.

“You should really have a check list going into the hiring process and you stick to it with every candidate.  Otherwise, you are not going to have an objective baseline to make a hire” Coats says.

3. Have clear and realistic expectations.

“You need to have a strong timeline that you present to them that is part of the hiring process so that they understand what is expected of them,” Ilfeld says.

“Be clear about what your expectations are and then realize that it takes a couple of laps around the track before even the best sales person is going to bring in business so don’t expect when you hire them on Monday, you’ll be fat and happy on Wednesday,” Coats says.

4. Don’t print up business cards for your new sales rep until they actually have made some sales.

“It gets expensive.  Sales people go through a lot of cards.  If you’re spending $30-$50 on someone who doesn’t bring in any money, you’re going to run out of money pretty quick.  Instead we printed up generic sales cards,” Huff says.

5. Use and trust your intuition.

“It’s pretty easy to identify who you don’t want representing you.  This person is going to be representing you to all businesses in the region so you really want to feel comfortable with them,” Ilfeld says.

6. Let go.

“If you’ve hired a good sales rep, let that rep, rep.  Don’t get in front of her. Don’t tag along with her.  You can do that a couple of times to show her the ropes, but after that get out of her way and your way so you both can be successful,” Coats says.

For further help, all recommend using Google to search for resources. There are plenty of books, articles and resources out there on hiring a good ad sales rep just as long as you find information that fits your specific needs.

Happy hiring!



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