How Big is the Sales Profession?

At the most recent Sales 2.0 conference, there was reference made to the number of salespeople in the United States.

We were told that there were 18 million salespeople in the United States and that, by 2020, there would only be 3 million. Given the fact that my livelihood is derived from helping salespeople sell better, that number piqued my interest. So I did some digging... According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of salespeople has already dropped!

They report 13,715,050 people are in sales and sales-related occupations. Seriously, a difference like that probably means a difference in how we define "salespeople." In any event, the BLS number means about 4.3% of the population is in sales!

Because that includes retail and counter-sales positions, it makes sense that the number will be less by 2020. After all, retail and counter-sales positions are faltering as transactional purchases go online. However, I was also interested in what's going on in a few large pockets of the country, so I took a peak at the percentage of the population in sales jobs in the ten biggest Metropolitan Areas:

  1. New York: 4.5%
  2. Los Angeles: 4.3%
  3. Chicago: 4.7%
  4. Dallas: 5.1%
  5. Philadelphia: 4.8%
  6. Houston: 4.5%
  7. Miami: 5.2%
  8. Washington, D.C.: 4.5%
  9. Atlanta: 4.5%
  10. Boston: 5.4%

As an aside, my “science” was loose: the sales number came from the BLS and the population of each MSA came from the census bureau. 

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Jeb Brooks

As the President and CEO of The Brooks Group, Jeb Brooks is responsible for carrying forward the nearly 40-year legacy of building world-class sales organizations. Having grown up in the business, helping organizations reach their full potential through transformational change is a part of Jeb’s DNA. Jeb's passion for sales and sales management developed at an early age when he began attending sales conferences with his father (and The Brooks Group's Founder) the late Bill Brooks.

Published on March 18, 2011

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