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Why Sales is Good Training for PR

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I’ll start by admitting this post is a blatant bit of self-promotion. But I’m unapologetic as it’s an issue that’s very important to me – my career. Over the past couple of years, I’ve worked at Marketing magazine where I’ve handled the PR category (among other things). I’ve also been taking my PR diploma and volunteering for a non profit organization as their national director of communications. All of this was done with a view to moving from sales into public relations. I realize that this is not without its challenges. Though I have nearly 3 years volunteer PR experience, it’s my sales experience that has been paying the bills and it’s inevitably the first thing that prospective employers consider. Additionally, while I am committed to making this move and will start back at the bottom if necessary, I don’t feel that would make the best use of my knowledge, skills and experience and would end up doing a disservice to both myself and my employer (just being honest). As I am now very actively looking for a suitable PR position (agency preferred, but open to client-side), I want to make the case for why my sales experience will prove to be an asset for my PR career.

Sales is Like Media Relations

In my view (and in the view of other PR pros I’ve talked to about this), there is very little difference between sales and media relations. Sure, there are subtle differences, but they are fundamentally the same. In both, you have to:

  • Identify your prospects and make sure they are the right person to speak to;
  • Understand their needs and deliver solutions/information that meets those needs and delivers benefits to them;
  • Do good research;
  • Be persuasive;
  • Be willing and able to pick up the phone, call someone you may have never spoken to before in your life and build a rapport with them so they will trust the information you are giving them and look to you as a valuable resource.

Sales breeds client service excellence

If you want clients to trust you and view you as a valued member of their ‘team’, you have to do a bang-up job servicing their accounts. You need to:

  • Anticipate their needs and be ready with solutions;
  • Be responsive – return calls in a timely fashion and with the information they need;
  • Manage multiple accounts, priorities, tasks, etc…simultaneously and deliver top quality work at all times;
  • If you say you’re going to do something, do it – do it well & deliver it on time;
  • Be adept at managing client expectations. Know what you can do for your client and what you can’t. You also have to be able to say no to a client.

Sales Makes You a Good Communicator

Verbal and written communication skills are just as important in sales as they are in public relations. You need to:

  • Be able to write clearly, concisely and persuasively;
  • You must be able to write well for a variety of audiences and mediums;
  • You must have a good presence – dress well, carry yourself well;
  • You must be able to communicate your ideas well in presentations. Can you hold someone’s attention? Can you read a room? A person?

Sales Requires Business Knowledge

Okay, you don’t need to have a Harvard MBA, but you need to be able to understand & assess a client’s business, its goals, objectives, competitive landscape, potential risks and develop strategies and tactics that will address those issues. It’s my sense that this business knowledge is something that is not always present with junior to intermediate PR practitioners. This is also speaks to having an interest in the world around you. You have to voraciously consume information and be able to identify how to best use it yourself or for your client. Of course, there are differences between the two disciplines. There are unique tactics, strategies and knowledge required for success. But there are fundamental and highly transferable skills that are used in sales that can readily and effectively be applied to working in public relations. Hopefully, if you’re still reading, this argument makes sense to you. Hopefully, you’re someone who’s in a position to make hiring decisions for your firm. Hopefully, you have an opening for an intermediate PR practitioner. Hopefully, you’ll look to right and see my contact info and drop me a line so we can chat about this in greater depth.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

January 24, 2007 at 10:00 am

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