Report | Are Sales Professionals Recession Proof?


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According to a recent survey the recession hasn’t stopped companies from continuing to invest in their sales forces. The market was found to be especially resilient in the technology sector with the number of vacancies on the rise.

Sales professionals who can offer clients the full package when it comes to sales acumen, technical understanding, and a stable work history are the most sought after by companies.

The ability to add immediate value by transferring from a close competitor has been well rewarded with offers of between 15-20% in excess of current salaries enticing prospects to leave their current positions.

The FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) market stayed flat with little signs of growth and salaries remaining unchanged. There was, however, a trend for companies increase the proportion of commission making up overall pay packages. So in order to keep salaries at the same level a proven ability to add to the bottom line has become a necessity.

The many well-known challenges faced by the construction industry and the public sector has had a knock on effect when it comes to sales recruitment – and these were the hardest hit when it came hiring and salaries.


Benefits: The Key to a Happy Salesforce

sales happiness

80% of employees questioned in the report said they enjoyed their jobs, however two thirds said they were still keen to find a new job in 2012. Despite this most employers said they hadn’t seen an increase in staff quitting their jobs compared with the previous year.

And, while sales professionals seemed relatively happy – with 53% feeling that their managers were supportive, the majority felt they would benefit from new opportunities.

When it comes to commissions only 3% of staff surveyed said they received a monthly bonus, while many (43%) didn’t’ receive a bonus at all in 2011 and bonuses received were down on previous years. 57% of employers said they had no plans to change the commission structure going forward.

Company benefits rated highly on the wish list for sales professionals, second only in preference to a company car and private medical cover. Although less than half currently received an individual performance related bonus, this was deemed an important benefit along with contributory pensions. Overall, 46% were reasonably satisfied with their current benefits – while 20% were dissatisfied.


Sales Market Overview and Salary Guide 2012

sales chart


Career Progression and Looking Ahead

All employees questioned believed they had the relevant skills and experience needed to progress in their careers however nearly half felt they were not currently being offered adequate scope for progression within their current jobs.

Over two thirds of employers admitted they had not invested in any staff retention strategies in 2011 – but 82% said this was going to be a big area of focus going forward – since they believed that recruiting and retaining quality staff would be a key factor in their organisation’s return to growth post- recession.

Almost 70% of employees surveyed believed their workload had increased without them receiving any increase in pay, with only 16% of sales professionals questioned of the opinion that things had remained the same. 60% felt the recession had had a negative effect on their long term prospects.

Salary was the single most important factor when it came to considering a new job, with career opportunities in second place, followed by organisational values.

sales chart


Commitment Phobic?

It seems sales professionals are not prepared to commit with 52% stating they felt less loyal to their current firms than previously, with just 20% feeling more committed than before.

This could be a problem for employers since 84% stated that commitment and dedication was the single most sought after characteristic they desired in employees.


Sectors at a Glance – How did the Sales Force fare in 2012?

FMCG was still feeling the effects of the recession with an over – abundance of candidates compared to vacancies. However, talented sales professionals – those who can cultivate good relationships with buyers and generate new income streams – are still sought after, with organisations competing fiercely for them.

Salaries remained stable but companies put more focus on guaranteed bonuses in a bid to recruit the very best. Retaining the best employees was a primary concern and offering top sales staff a clear earnings potential was one incentive used to encourage stability in new jobs.


Commodities & Construction

Energy. Oil and Gas providers continued to seek employees with technical as well as sales experience – those working for close competitors were especially sought after. A stable work history and network of contacts was highly prized. Salaries and benefits overall across the sector remained the same.

Construction was one of the sectors most affected by the recession and those hiring were looking for individuals who could help companies penetrate foreign markets. This meant there was a higher interest in European candidates, as well as those proficient in tendering and PQQs.

Salaries as well as bonuses have been negatively affected more than within other sectors. Employees looking for career progression looked not only at salaries but whether a move would be commercially beneficial for them.



Online advertising and social media have become important elements when headhunting candidates within this sector.

I.T. and Telecoms remained buoyant with a host of new roles to tempt sales professionals, especially those with Cloud Computing experience. Clients were actively seeking candidates with technical knowledge as well as selling ability and those with proven experience were given high priority.

Retaining staff was a challenge which was met with guaranteed year-end bonuses, and a challenging and clear career path.

Media and Communications saw a big growth in the use of social networks, with prospective employers actively seeking salespeople who could deliver effective social media campaigns.

Developers with experience of the technical aspects of online advertising including SEO (search engine optimisation), PPC (Pay per Click) were much in demand.

Account management typically attracted higher salaries than that of Business Development, although the latter were able to achieve a higher earning potential overall.

Manufacturing actively looked to recruit experienced individuals with existing accounts in order to take advantage of these key relationships. Key account managers at competitors were prime targets for competitors both for their contacts, their ability to win new customers along with specialist sector knowledge.


Whilst sales professionals have been in demand regardless of the economy it was safe to say that one of the strongest desires for employers was that the sales professional had adequate experience in the respective industry. Whilst it’s difficult to gain experience when companies are not hiring it’s proven that it’s far easier to do so when you’re in the sales industry.

Specific industries were without doubt going to be mostly affected simply because they were so closely attached to the underlying politics of the economy, but then came the technology startup bubble which has proven to be a battle field for acquiring business development managers and other sales personnel.

Simply put sales professionals were actually let off easily when the economy was at its worst, the order of supply and demand means that without these sales people selling whats in demand then a business cannot function.

For the full report click here

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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