Posted August 10, 2010 7:29 am by with 1 comment

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What is the sure fire sign that a company is moving into a more ‘business-like’ phase of its development? Usually the hiring of sales talent is the best indication. So the rest of the marketing world should be preparing themselves for a ‘new’ Twitter very soon as the social media powerhouse has hired some sales players.

AdAge reports

Want to buy an ad on Twitter? Now there’s someone to call.

The micro-blog service, which still classifies itself as “pre-revenue,” has an enormous user base and a few fledging ad units — with more on the way. And now it has started building out a sales team starting with two hires: Facebook veteran Dan Coughlin and Yelp’s first salesperson, Amanda Levy.

Both will be charged with building out a team to move what Twitter is calling its Promoted Suite, or Twitter ads that today consist of promoted tweets and promoted trends. While Twitter’s ad deals and promotions have been experimental thus far, the plan is to ramp up revenue in fourth quarter while trying out different types of ad units.

Now of course, calling this a ‘sales effort’ is slightly misleading since I doubt there will be much of a need for cold-calling. The difference with what will happen with Twitter is how well they handle the inbound inquiries and if they have skilled enough sales reps (Sales Twits?) to walk advertisers through whatever offerings are available.

This is a new idea and model and even though Twitter is becoming a household name there will need to be plenty of handholding of customers and prospects alike. Since this is likely to be the case I would suspect that there will be a hunter (new sales) and farmer (account management) aspect since most frontline sales people are not very customer service oriented as they finish one deal and look to close the next. How they are compensated will play a huge role in how they represent the company, as well.

Right now there is a need for support because, as noted earlier, this is all very new and most people (including Twitter folks) will be figuring this out as they go. This is evidenced in how Twitter’s biggest advertising fan, Virgin America, works with the service.

Porter Gale, VP-marketing at Virgin America, said the marketer has been using an automated dashboard to buy Twitter’s first unit, the promoted tweet, but the company still picks up the phone for Twitter’s advice on how to make its commercial tweets more authentic.

“They are a very collaborative partner, and we do ask them for support and advice,” she said. “We ask them, ‘What do you think?'”

Twitter was certainly smart in hiring new sales execs who have that exact experience in two of the largest start-ups in the online space. While nothing like this ever goes perfectly having this kind of experience at the highest levels will help smooth out the rough spots.

Is the world ready for Twitter ‘the business’? That really doesn’t matter actually because it’s happening whether the rest of the world is ready or not.