“Sales” Is A Bad Word To Use In Talent Acquisition!


(By Laurie Kahn) It’s what we do every day, regardless of whether you are in sales or not. You are constantly negotiating, upselling products or services. You sell yourself in every interview and in presentations, reports, and research. When you meet someone special, you sell yourself as the ideal companion. So, why do I suggest not using it in recruitment marketing?

This is a major issue with Millennials, but also with other generations as well. People are afraid of the connotation that the word “sales” brings to their mind. Even those too young to know Herb Tarlek, from WKRP, shy away when we bring up sales as a career in media.

At a recent career fair, where I had the luxury of meeting with several job seekers, primarily Millennials, I asked all what careers they had in mind. Not one brought up sales. Even though we all know that is the easiest way to get your foot in the door and you have the best opportunity to earn a nice living, they were vehemently against a “sales” position. That was at the beginning of the discussion.

Once we discussed what a salesperson in radio really does, about 80% of them changed their minds. Why is this?

The word “sales” scares people. They have visions of hitting the streets and getting beat down all the time. They fear they will be chained to a desk on a phone every day. They are afraid of failing.

In radio, it has been standard to bring in a new hire and offer them a 90-day plan to basically sink or swim, which we now recognize as a major waste of time and money. People who don’t understand all that goes into making a sale are afraid to take on a job that offers little security. They don’t often understand all the research, marketing, relationship building, and creativity used to be successful in sales. Media sales has the reputation of having high turnover, with 100% commission compensation plans. This is not attractive to job seekers or to those employees who are open to hearing about new positions.

So, is this a marketing issue, a compensation issue, or an education issue that radio stations are facing? It’s all three.

Here’s what we can do differently to better attract talent and start building a plan for future hiring.

#1:  Stop advertising for “sales.” Look at what your sellers actually do and give them a different title, whether it be Account Manager, Account Executive, New Business Development, Marketing, or whatever, just know it’s important to cast a wider net to entice a higher level of candidate to respond to your ads, so think about how you position the opportunity. Play up the opportunity to help local businesses grow; to offer strategic planning to local businesses; to offer marketing solutions which could include multiple platforms and events.

#2:  Forget about bringing in a new hire with less than 12 months of security. Without a strong compensation plan, you won’t be able to compete with other local companies who are also looking to hire “sellers.”

#3:  Get out and talk! Visit high schools and colleges and share what positions you have, what a career in media can look like, and what course work will be helpful. Get to them when they are younger and help them get over their fear of sales. Set up internships where they can work on vacations to learn the business, there is a lot of work they can do to help out.

Several years ago, when conducting a panel for a group of soon-to-be college graduates in NYC, someone in the back of the room raised a hand and asked, “We are a group of MBA students, where do we fit in?” My answer was “Today, nowhere, but you are seller of the future,” and I still believe it.

Laurie Kahn is the creator and founder of Media Staffing Network. She has worked with media companies since 1993 helping them hire top managers and sellers.


  1. Luurie’s remarks, I believe, are delivered with confidence and full sincerity. However, I think she might agree her suggestions are also tinged with certain elements of fantasy and wishful thinking.
    I mean: What are the chances….?

  2. Eleven years ago I left the broadcast business and went in a completely different direction. The focus of my practice has been the Construction Industry, large infrastructure projects with mostly private family owned businesses. My clients are the best, they don’t think in 90 day segments, they think ten and twenty years. My focus is to help them retain their BEST people. How do they do that? They invest in their long term development with coaching and training. Before the “Wall Street Invasion” radio owners would invest in the long term development and retention of their people. Laurie your comments and suggestions are spot on, the competition for talent today is greater than ever. Broadcasters are up against FANG and tech firms who are providing development and growth opportunities to the young people coming into the job market. Trust all is well with you,


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