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 first time that the number of salespeople is approaching the 25 million mark. 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 2015 SP 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 2015 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 24,831,572, which represents a small increase of about 1 percent – or slightly more than 300,000 additional salespeople – as compared to last year. This overall change is less than half the increase from last year and may signal some stagnation in the momentum of the economic recovery.

The direct-selling category, which posted a small 3 percent increase in 2014, posted a smaller 1 percent increase this year, a possible indication that people are seeking to join a more traditional full-time sales force in greater numbers. The number of salespeople in the manufacturing industry statistically remained the same, as did the number of salespeople in the insurance industry. The number of salespeople in the service industry increased by a significant 2.7 percent – the first sizable increase in more than five years. The automotive industry posted an encouraging increase in the number of salespeople: up almost 8 percent. Overall, without the direct-selling numbers, the number of salespeople increased by just over 25,000 people, reversing three consecutive years of declines.

The states with the most SP 500 companies are New York (51), California (49), and Illinois (35). The states in which the SP 500 companies employ the largest number of salespeople are New York (6,729,945), California (5,541,800), and Michigan (3,034,545). These states account for about 27 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 compared to other industry segments. The top 200 manufacturing firms employ 488,828 salespeople and produce over $3.8 trillion in sales. That’s an average of over $7.8 million in sales per salesperson. This represents no significant (+.83 percent) change in productivity compared to the previous year, which means productivity has been stagnant now for three consecutive years. The number of manufacturing salespeople remained relatively unchanged, gaining about 2,000 salespeople compared to last year. The total number of manufacturing industry employees increased slightly this year, increasing by less than 1 percent over last year.

The top 200 companies in the service sector reported a very small increase of just over 16,000 salespeople, bringing the total to 616,598 salespeople. The number of salespeople increased by almost 3 percent, and the total revenue came in at over $2.7 trillion, which is more than a 12 percent increase over last year. This represents more than $4.5 million in sales per salesperson and an almost 10 percent increase in productivity – more than reversing last year’s productivity loss. The number of service-sector employees increased by almost 4 percent this year, making three consecutive years of increases in the number of service-sector employees. This year, the total number of employees in the service industry increased by more than 200,000.

The top 20 automotive megadealers reported positive numbers across the board this year. The top 20 firms own 1,689 dealerships (up by about 8 percent), employ an estimated 25,335 salespeople (an increase of about 7.9 percent), and produce more than $116 billion in sales (up by almost 10 percent). This brings the average annual sales per salesperson to $4.6 million (up by more than 1.7 percent). The productivity registered is a hopeful sign for an automotive industry that is continuing its recovery.

The top 50 insurance companies employ sales forces totaling 642,768 across the industry, with an average sales volume per salesperson of $1,130,266. This represents a significant increase in productivity of more than 10 percent. In fact, the number of salespeople remained about the same as the prior year, while their productivity increased by more than 10 percent. The total number of employees posted an increase of about 2.5 percent over 2014.

The top 30 direct-selling companies reported over 23 million salespeople, continuing a trend of increases in the number of salespeople in this industry within the past 14 years. However, this year’s increase of more than 280,000 salespeople is one of the industry’s smallest annual increases within the past five years.

Overall, the numbers illustrate a recovering economy continuing to gain its footing, with generally positive results across all industries. Although the total number of salespeople employed by the top 500 remained relatively static, there were increases across the board in the number of employees, and the revenue generated per salesperson increased across every industry.

SP 500 SALESPEOPLE DRIVE THE ECONOMY

Each salesperson in the service or manufacturing industry supports, on average, 13.82 other jobs within the company; that figure marks a small increase from last year’s number of 13.75. These companies employ a total sales force of over 1.1 million salespeople, who produce more than $6.6 trillion in sales and ensure the employment of more than 16 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 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, customer relationship management 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 heavily in recruiting, training, and rewarding sales staff. To find job openings, log onto the companies’ Websites.

EDUCATORS – Use the SP 500 as a tool to build next year’s curriculum. Every year, SP 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 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.