17 Jan 2019

2019 Sales Hiring Forecast

At the start of every year, we compile hiring projections for the upcoming year. Because there aren’t specific hiring forecasts for sales, we build our own sales hiring forecast based on overall hiring projections made by CareerBuilder, Manpower, and Linkedin. By aggregating these forecasts, we can infer a sales specific hiring forecast that has proven to be extremely accurate in previous years. Based on this research, our 2019 sales hiring forecast predicts another strong year for sales hiring.

2018 Sales Hiring in Review.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan sums up the current state of employment in the United States. “This is the tightest market, labor market, I’ve ever seen”. To put that to numbers, the unemployment rate in the United States at the end of 2018 was 3.9% according to the Burea of Labor & Statistics (BLS). This is down from 4.1% at the end of 2017. Most economists argue that an economy is considered fully employed at 5%.

The BLS also looks at unemployment levels by profession. The unemployment rate for b2c and b2b sales professionals combined dropped from 3.8% in Dec 2017 to 3.6% in Dec 2018. In total, there were 16.2M sales professionals employed at the end of 2018. As an aside, b2c is roughly 4x larger than b2b. This would suggest that there are approximately 3.3M Americans in b2b sales.

We can look to the white collar unemployment rate (workers that hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher) to separate out b2c sales reps and get a better picture of the b2b sales unemployment rate. At the end of 2018, white collar unemployment stood at 2.1%. Taking in the overall unemployment picture, we think it is safe to conclude that the unemployment rate for b2b sales professionals currently stands somewhere between 2% and 3%.

2019 Sales Hiring Forecast.

All forecasts for 2019 point towards continued hiring growth. Manpower forecasts a Q1 2019 Net Employment Outlook for the U.S. of +20% which is a 1 percentage improvement over Q1 2018. It’s their strongest hiring forecast in the past 12 years. CareerBuilder forecasts that 63 percent of U.S. employers plan to hire full-time permanent workers which is up from 60 percent the prior year.

The forecasts for sales hiring specifically reveals just how “in demand” sales professionals are. #2 on Linkedin’s Most Recruited Jobs Report is Enterprise Account Executive. In the technology sector, Enterprise Account Executive is the #1 most recruited job and #3 is Sales Development Rep. Almost unbelievably, sales has leapfrogged programmers for the most in-demand roles in tech.

The Tipping Point in the Sales Talent Wars.

At the end of 2018, there were 6.9M open jobs but only 6.3M unemployed persons. Contrast this with the end of 2017 when there were 6M open jobs and 6.6M unemployed persons. You are reading this correctly, there are currently more open jobs in America than unemployed workers to fill them. If we look at the white collar unemployment rate, it held steady at 2.1% between Dec 2017 and Dec 2018. Given that the available positions for white collar workers has increased during that time, it suggests that 2% is the practical bottom limit for unemployment.

What this means is that we are firmly in a candidate driven market. This is great news if you’re a sales professional. It’s troubling news if you’re an employer looking to expand your sales force. To spell that out, there are more employers chasing fewer sales professionals. All of this adds up to wage increases and positions being left unfilled for longer. Beyond offering better wages, a key to hiring in a tight market is targeting passive, currently employed top sales performers. In the 4 Rules of Headhunting Elite Sales Professionals we share several tips on how to attract and hire in today’s brutal job market.

Longer Term Sales Hiring.

There are two trends that spell an increased battle for sales talent in the years ahead. The first is the aging of the U.S. population. Baby Boomers started retiring in 2011. Second is a falling birth rate. Combined, these two factors mean that the growth in the size of the labor force in the U.S. has slowed from 2.6 percent annually in the 1970s to projected growth of just .4 percent in 2020. Compoundng this are projections of additional 10M new jobs by 2026 and the math points towards a bigger shortfall between open jobs and available workers.

Barring an economic recession, employers should brace themselves for a war for talent the likes of which this country has never experienced.


Chris Carlson

President and founder of Sales Talent Inc, a B2B sales recruiting firm. We place sales reps, sales engineers and sales leaders across North America. Employers can inquire about our sales recruiting services. Candidates can view our current sales openings.