August 3, 2012

Selling Power 500

By Selling Power Editors

Every year, Selling Power magazine’s research team ranks companies according to the estimated number of salespeople they employ. The 500 top companies in America – which employ the world’s largest sales forces – depend on millions of salespeople to achieve their revenue goals, and this year marks the second consecutive year that the number of salespeople has topped 23 million. This research shows that, without question, the men and women who make up each company’s sales force produce the revenue that will continue to fuel this country’s economic recovery.

The 2012 SP 500 list includes the top 200 companies in the manufacturing industry, the top 200 companies in the service industry, the top 50 insurance companies, the 30 largest direct-selling companies, and the top 20 automotive-dealer organizations (megadealers).

Every year, new companies make the list, while others drop off. The total number of salespeople employed by all 500 companies listed adds up to 23,400,352, which represents a small increase of less than 1 percent, or just over 60,000 more salespeople, as compared to last year. This overall change may be signaling a leveling off of the large growth in the direct-selling industry that had been experienced in previous years. The direct-selling category, which posted an 8 percent increase in 2011, posted a much smaller 1 percent increase this year, a possible indication that people are seeking and acquiring more traditional full-time sales jobs.

The number of salespeople in the manufacturing category statistically remained the same, as did the number of salespeople in the service category, but that number decreased in the insurance category by a sizable 12.4 percent. The automotive industry posted a small increase in the number of salespeople: up 2.3 percent from last year. Overall, without the direct-selling numbers, the number of salespeople decreased by almost 100,000 salespeople, reversing the 3 percent gain last year, due mainly to a decrease in the insurance category.

The states with the most SP 500 companies are New York (54), California (48), and Illinois (32). The states in which the SP 500 companies employ the largest number of salespeople are New York (6,723,506), California (4,980,920), and Michigan (3,032,635). These states account for about 26 percent of the total companies and a whopping 62 percent of the total salespeople.

Productivity on the Increase

Our research team continued to find that salespeople employed by manufacturing firms contribute a far higher amount of sales revenue compared to other industry segments. The top 200 manufacturing firms employ 486,004 salespeople and produce more than $3.8 trillion in sales. That’s an average of $7.8 million in sales per salesperson. This represents a significant (5.4 percent) increase in productivity but is down from last year’s 15 percent increase in productivity. It should be noted that manufacturing companies reversed three straight years of declining numbers of salespeople, but just barely, adding only 165 in total. The total number of manufacturing employees remained statistically about the same, increasing by less than 1 percent. 

The top 200 companies in the service sector reported an insignificant decrease of 289 salespeople, for a total of 634,282 salespeople. The number of salespeople decreased by less than 1 percent, and total revenue came in at just a little more than $2.6 trillion, which is a 2.2 percent increase over last year. This represents more than $4.1 million in sales per salesperson and a 2.3 percent increase in productivity, continuing last year’s small productivity gains. The big service-sector change reverses two previous years of substantial decline in the total number of employees. This year, the total number of service-industry employees increased by 287,476, a significant 4 percent increase.

The top 20 automotive megadealers reported positive numbers across the board this year. The top 20 firms own 1,313 dealerships (up by about 2 percent), employ 19,695 salespeople (an increase of 2.2 percent), and produce almost $81 billion in sales (up by a sizable 13.4 percent). This brings the average annual sales per salesperson to $4.1 million (up by more than 10 percent). The productivity registered is a hopeful sign for an automotive industry that continues to struggle.

The top 50 insurance companies show a total sales force of 707,728, with an average sales volume per salesperson of $1,072,136, which represents a healthy increase in productivity of more than 25 percent. Note that the number of salespeople decreased while their productivity increased. The total number of employees posted a negligible decrease of about 2 percent from 2011.

The top 30 direct-selling companies reported 21.5 million salespeople, continuing a trend of increases in the number of salespeople over the last 11 years; however, this year’s increase of about 160,000 salespeople is one of the industry’s smallest annual increases over that time period.

Overall, the numbers continue to show the struggles of a recovering economy, with mixed results across all the industries. There were no large decreases in the number of employees or salespeople, however, and the revenue numbers show hopeful signs of life.

SP 500 Salespeople Drive the Economy

It is important to note that each salesperson in the service or manufacturing industry supports, on average, 13.1 other jobs within the company; that figure marks a small increase from last year’s number of 12.9. These companies employ a total sales force of 1.12 million salespeople, who produce more than $6.4 trillion in sales and ensure the employment of almost 16 million people. This once again highlights the fact that the sales forces of America are responsible for helping to sustain and ensure future growth in our economy.

How to Get the Most out of the SP 500

TOP EXECUTIVES – Use the SP 500 to benchmark your company’s productivity per salesperson. Find out how you measure up to your competition and the average in your industry. Check which companies have decreased their sales forces and which are gearing up for expansion.

SALESPEOPLE – Use the SP 500 as your best-prospect list. There is no other source that gives you access to those companies that purchase products for a large number of salespeople. This is your ideal list if you sell sales training, sales incentive services, CRM solutions, automotive fleets, sales meetings, or trade show services. Begin your account planning by researching company Websites.

JOB SEEKERS – Use the SP 500 to plan your sales career. These 500 companies employ the largest sales forces in America. Large companies invest significant amounts of dollars in recruiting, training, and rewarding their sales staff. For job openings, log on to the companies’ Websites.

EDUCATORS – Use the SP 500 as a tool to build next year’s curriculum. Every year, SP 500 companies will seek to recruit more than 500,000 college graduates. There are more than a dozen colleges that offer sales curricula, and all of their graduates can look forward to solid careers in sales. Prepare your future students for a lucrative career in sales. (Note: Media research shows that the average Selling Power reader has a college degree, works in sales management, and has a household income of more than $174,000 per year.) •

Special thanks goes to our corporate research team for collecting the data. To have your company listed in the Selling Power 500 next year, please write to SP 500 Research, PO Box 5467, Fredericksburg, VA 22403.