Citysearch Adds Big Sales Center; IAC Hires Horan

IAC’s Citysearch has opened an inside sales center in Atlanta as part of a major sales push that also includes the development of a national sales team. There are currently 60 inside sellers in the center, and more than 150 sellers are expected to be in place by June, in addition to 30 support staff. The center complements a smaller inside sales operation in Los Angeles, which has 20 to 30 sellers.

The news about the sales center comes amid the hiring of Peter Horan as IAC’s new head of Media & Advertising, a unit that includes Citysearch, Ask.com, consumer applications and portals, and the ad sales group. Horan, who was CEO of About.com, quit after The New York Times bought it to become head of AllBusiness.com. PaidContent reports that Horan starts in mid-February.

But back to our sales center story. VP of Sales Travis Fore, part of a team of YellowPages.com sales execs who followed sales head Neil Salvage to Citysearch, beginning in June ’06, says the company liked the talent, geographical location and costs of Atlanta.

Fore emphasized that Citysearch doesn’t see the inside operation as a “call center” or its sales staff as telemarketers. “I know it is a clichi but we are really engaged in consultative selling,” he says. “Each rep is going to go through training classes where they’ll learn to understand the actual needs of small businesses. We’ll get through to them that the small businesses want their phones to ring.”

The profiles of Citysearch’s sales rep will also differ from standard telemarketer profiles. “They’ll have less sales experience, trend younger. We’re looking for a great attitude and willingness to learn,” Fore says. He also says he doesn’t expect them to come from BellSouth, which has a considerable sales presence in Atlanta.

Fore added that the reps also have a potential career track and can be promoted to outside sales reps for the Atlanta market, where there are currently eight to 10 reps; other Citysearch offices in New York or Chicago; or several new offices that the company is opening. Inside reps start at around $40,000 a year and can make into the six figures.

He also notes that the reps are only selling Citysearch and not other IAC brands. ServiceMagic, for instance, has its own sales team. I would speculate, however, as an outside observer, that cross-IAC sales seem like a distinct possibility for the future.

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