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IWD Special 7 Mar 2021 - 2 min read

Lessons from 30 years as a media saleswoman

By Lou Barrett - National MD of Sales, News Corp

Women often have to work much harder to get equal recognition and work can become all-consuming. Getting the balance right is crucial, says Lou Barrett.

I must check myself and take time out for everybody’s sake. It took me a lot of years and two marriages to realise this.

Lou Barrett

More than 30 years in media and marketing have taught me a lot of lessons in what can be a very tough and demanding industry.

From a junior sales assistant at Nine, to increasingly senior roles at ACP Magazines, 2UE, 2GB, PBL, Network 10 and now News Corp Australia, I’ve learnt a lot. Here are some insights I’ve gathered along the way.

1: be passionate about what you are doing 

Yes, I know that sounds obvious. But always remember that if you are passionate and love what you do, you are going to be better at delivering a positive outcome and people will want to work with you. You will know your product inside and out, and you will understand how to leverage that knowledge to drive strong results. What goes hand-in-hand with that passion is determination, drive and sacrifice.

2: be adaptable

Embracing change equals survival. In this industry, you can’t ever get too comfortable because something will always change. 

Whether that’s ownership changes or leadership changes or whether that’s a change in the way your product is viewed or delivered, we’ve all been through that in recent years. The lesson here? You must be adaptable and embrace change. 

The rise and rise of digital media has turned our industry upside down. Like everyone, I’ve had to become a digital native very, very quickly and adapt to a highly fragmented, fast moving and at times seemingly contradictory media and marketing environment.

3: be a good listener

Being a good listener is hard for salespeople, because we love to talk. The hardest thing for me as a young salesperson was to listen to what my clients wanted and to listen to what they needed for their businesses to become successful. But I soon discovered the importance of caring, that is, care about your client’s business and you will be successful.

An old client of mine who also happens to be a very good friend was talking about sales people the other day and said he had used me as an example when he was talking to some of his own sales staff at the dealership. 

He told them that when he ran a used car dealership out on Parramatta Road, I used to come in and sell him radio ads when he was having a weekend sale. I’d also always go to the dealership on the weekend or call him on the Monday morning to check how the sale went. Why? Because I genuinely cared how his business was performing. It’s not rocket science and it’s not hard to be good: you just have to care.

4: build relationships 

You can only build a relationship with someone if you care. You have to make your clients look good and you do that by delivering a result for them. Make sure you also deliver what you promise. 

I once had a boss who was the greatest salesman I’ve ever met. He was outstanding at building relationships, but those relationships were short-lived because he never delivered on what he promised. It was a shame, as this guy

could have run the world if he had just delivered what he promised.

You meet some wonderful people in this business, and you make some lifelong friends and clients that follow you wherever you go. I have clients today that I have known for 30 years and are now my great friends. Why? Because we care for, and about, each other and we trust each other.

5: build teams

You need to create a culture that brings out the best in people. You can only do that if you nurture their best skills and understand that they may have different strengths to you. 

The greatest leaders surround themselves with the best people and understand how to get the best out of them. Reward and recognition are a key part of that.

Mentor your team and lead by example; I never ask any of my team to do something that I’m not prepared to do myself. Never be threatened. Help people build their careers; it’s rewarding and it will deliver you the best result.

6: maintain a realistic work-life balance 

That is something I have struggled with throughout my career. I live and breathe my work and, as a result, so does my family. It has given us a nice lifestyle, but I have also sacrificed a lot. My obsession with my work drives everybody in my household mad, so I must check myself regularly and take time out for everybody’s sake. It took me a lot of years and two marriages to realise this, so I well understand the importance of maintaining some sort of balance.

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