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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 the number of salespeople this year totals more than 25 million.

This 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 economy.

The 2018 Selling Power 500 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).

See the 2018 Selling Power 500 List:

Every year, new companies make the list while others drop off. The total number of salespeople employed by all 500 companies listed is 25,195,311, which represents a small increase of just over 1 percent – or an increase of about 260,000 salespeople – over last year. This overall change is due almost entirely to the relatively small increase in the number of salespeople working for direct selling companies.

The direct selling category, which posted a significant 4 percent decrease in 2017, posted a small increase of about 1 percent this year – a possible indication that fewer people are moving away from the less traditional direct selling industry. The number of salespeople in the manufacturing industry decreased by more than 4 percent, while the number of salespeople in both the service and insurance industries increased in 2018 – by 10 percent and 1 percent, respectively. The increase in the service industry reverses the trend in declining sales-force numbers posted for the past two years. The automotive industry posted a small increase in the number of salespeople: up just over 3 percent. Overall, without the direct-selling numbers, the number of salespeople increased by 46,890 in 2018, reversing last year’s decrease of 38,856 salespeople.

The states with the most Selling Power 500 companies are California (57), New York (52), and Illinois (40). The states in which the Selling Power 500 companies employ the largest number of salespeople are New York (6,675,612), California (5,120,730), and Texas (3,665,830). These states account for about 29 percent of the total companies and a whopping 61 percent of the total salespeople.

PRODUCTIVITY ON THE RISE

Our research team continued to find that salespeople employed by manufacturing firms contribute a far higher amount of sales revenue than other industry segments. The top 200 manufacturing firms employ 503,470 salespeople and produce almost $4.5 trillion in sales. That’s an average of more than $8.9 million in sales per salesperson. This represents a significant (14 percent) increase in productivity compared to the previous year, which means productivity – which had been stagnant or declining in recent years – has now posted two consecutive years of significant increases. The number of manufacturing salespeople decreased, declining by more than 24,000 salespeople since last year. The total number of manufacturing industry employees increased this year by almost 1.5 percent over last year.

The top 200 companies in the service sector reported a sizable increase of almost 65,000 salespeople, bringing the total to 656,918 salespeople. The number of salespeople increased by more than 10 percent, and the total revenue came in at more than $4.5 trillion – an almost 34 percent increase over last year. This represents more than $6.9 million in sales per salesperson and a robust 20 percent increase in productivity – now showing four straight years of productivity gains. The number of service-sector employees increased by a significant 42 percent this year, making it an impressive six consecutive years of increases in the number of service-sector employees.

The top 20 automotive megadealers reported positive numbers across the board this year. The top 20 firms own 1,796 dealerships (up by about 3 percent), employ an estimated 26,940 salespeople (an increase of about 3 percent), and produce more than $123 billion in sales (up by more than 5 percent). This brings the average annual sales per salesperson to over $4.5 million (up by just over 2 percent). The productivity registered shows a growing automotive industry in the early stages of a recovery period.

The top 50 insurance companies employ sales forces totaling 606,340 across the industry, with an average sales volume per salesperson of $1,626,310. This represents a small increase in productivity of about 5 percent. In fact, the number of salespeople increased slightly from last year (a 1 percent increase), while their productivity continued to increase ahead of the sales-force pace of growth. The total number of employees also posted a small increase of about 5 percent over 2017.

The top 30 direct-selling companies continued to report more than 23 million salespeople, which remained relatively unchanged when compared with previous periods of significant swings in both directions over the past 17 years.

It is interesting to note that, while overall employment numbers showed positive increases across the board, the sales-force sizes across all industries posted only small increases or were in decline. Productivity per salesperson increased significantly this year across all industries, including the automotive industry, which had been declining in previous years. Productivity per employee increased this year across all industries except in the service industry, which posted a 6 percent decrease from 2017. Overall, 2018 showed a more positive employment environment, increases in productivity, and a relatively stable sales force in terms of the number of salespeople.

SELLING POWER 500 SALESPEOPLE DRIVE THE ECONOMY

Each salesperson in the service or manufacturing industry supports, on average, 17.91 other jobs within the company; that figure marks a significant increase over last year’s number of 15.08 and continues a trend of increases over the past few years. These companies employ a total sales force of almost 1.2 million salespeople, who produce more than $9 trillion in sales and ensure the employment of more than 21 million people. This underscores the fact that the sales forces of America are responsible for helping sustain and ensure our economy’s future growth.

HOW TO GET THE MOST OF OUT THE SELLING POWER 500

TOP EXECUTIVES – Use the Selling Power 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. Buy the full listing now.

SALESPEOPLE – Use the Selling Power 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, customer relationship management solutions, automotive fleets, sales meetings, or trade show services. Begin your account planning by researching company Websites.

JOB SEEKERS – Use the Selling Power 500 to plan your sales career. These 500 companies employ the largest sales forces in America. Large companies invest heavily in recruiting, training, and rewarding sales staff. To find job openings, log onto the companies’ Websites.

EDUCATORS – Use the Selling Power 500 as a tool to build next year’s curriculum. Every year, Selling Power 500 companies 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 magazine reader has a college degree, works in sales management, and has a household income of more than $174,000 per year.)

Special thanks go to our corporate research team for collecting the data. To have your company listed in the Selling Power 500 next year, please email research@sellingpower.com.