to Invest Heavily in New Sales Staff and Locations

Need a job in sales? is hiring. The AT&T-owned firm yesterday announced major plans for cross-country expansion of its sales force. The company is planning a massive ramp up in sales staff in the hopes of competing for dollars in local markets otherwise untapped by search and Internet Yellow Pages (IYP). Throughout the year, several new sales locations will be established, bolstering a presence that’s now mainly based in the East.

In the first half of this year, sales offices have opened or will open in Denver, Idaho, Iowa, Minneapolis, New Mexico, Portland, Seattle, and in two Virginia locations. More Western offices will open later this year in Phoenix and Salt Lake City. The company currently has locations in Boston, Charlotte, Harrisburg, Las Vegas, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. said it aims to hire hundreds of additional account reps, doubling its current number of offices and sales staffers in 2007.

Already since fall 2006, has bolstered its sales staff from 200 to 500, according to VP of Local Sales Danny Deal. The planned hires will be for both inside and outside sales with “a heavy emphasis on premise representatives,” according to Deal.

“Think about how much money they’re throwing down on that,” said Matt Booth, SVP program director interactive local media for research firm The Kelsey Group. He estimated that at average earnings of $70,000 per year, hundreds of new salespeople could cost the firm millions more annually. “It’s a pretty substantial investment,” added Booth.

IAC/InterActiveCorp’s Citysearch, a competitor for local ad dollars, in January announced intentions to nearly double its inside, outside and national sales force. The YellowPages sales ramp-up isn’t a reaction to Citysearch’s troop surge though, said Booth.

Currently offers advertisers display ads, pay-per-call advertising and other options, and plans to sell video ads soon, Deal told ClickZ News. The company in late March unveiled a wireless text-based local search tool enabling users to search business listings via their mobile devices. Users of the firm’s site can also send search results from the Web to their mobile gadgets.

Search engines, free classifieds sites and other local online offerings are stealing dollars away from traditional local ad venues including print yellow pages. However, some say time remains for companies with strong local footholds to gain market share online by attracting new local markets that may not have advertised in yellow pages or other traditional media, but are willing to explore Web advertising.

Unlike print yellow pages, noted Deal, “We have found that our usage has a long tail…and we have just begun to identify and provide effective service to those businesses. To do so, we need to continue to diversify and provide optimal focus to our account executives.”

Search engines have paired with local media companies to gain access to small advertisers, and companies including have signed distribution deals with search engines like Yahoo Local to drive traffic to their Web listings.

To some, these are signs that local business listings from online yellow pages services and search engines will become one and the same in the near future. Local ad research firm Borrell Associates last year released a report showing 60 percent of its experts panel believed search engines will merge with the online yellow pages model in the next two years.

That “2006 Local Search Advertising” report found local paid search, which accounted for about 10 percent of all local online advertising last year, was poised to reach 47 percent or $4 billion in 2010.

To Booth, the sales boost is a clear sign the company wants to get in on that potential windfall. The firm’s sales buildup may also compel competitors to make similar moves. “They’re going to force the other players in the market to respond to this,” he said. “The other people are going to have to…hire more sales people, too.”

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