SEEK Employment Trends: spotlight on the sales industry

New technologies have shaken up one of the world’s oldest professions. As more consumers log on to get the low down on potential purchases, the sales industry has been forced to rethink its approach. Strategic insights are now a key feature of the sales arsenal and customer relationships have never been more important.

These changes in the sales industry are reflected in the latest data from the SEEK Employment Trends report. Analysis and reporting roles are on the up, while demand for sales representatives has dropped, compared to January last year.

Sales job ads in slight decline

While there are some bright spots within the sales industry, SEEK data for January 2016 show that job ads across sales categories have been generally flat or in slight decline over the past year.

Sales ads in the three months leading to January 2016 were 1.5% lower than in the same three-month period to January 2015. Salaries remained stable at an average of $79,860; however, the drop in demand, coupled with a high availability of candidates, created a more challenging environment for job-seekers during the month.

The overall decline in sales ads reflect a 6% drop in demand for sales management positions, compared to the same time last year. Andrew Jacques, General Manager of sales and marketing company CPM Australia, says this may be a result of increases in management-to-staff ratios. “A 10:1 ratio, for example, might be getting pushed out a bit to reduce overheads,” he says.

Drop in sales rep demand

January 2016 also saw a decline in the largest of the sales job advertising categories: sales representatives and consultants. Jacques says this this may reflect changes in the traditional sales cycle. While sales reps were once the custodians of product information, the internet means consumers now have this at their fingertips.

He adds that the sales representative and consultant category is also vulnerable to broader industry changes. “About five to 10 years ago, the energy industry was going gang busters and we just couldn’t find enough people with energy sales experience,” he says. “That’s quietened down now. We also saw an increase in sales rep roles in the solar industry when the government changed the tariffs around buying solar. Demand for these roles tends to be cyclical.”

Gold for data miners

Sales roles involving analysis and reporting saw a 31% spike in demand year-on-year. Although these roles represent a small advertising segment, more companies are finding value in the strategic insights that data analysis can provide. This may lead to further growth in this segment.

“We’re in a data-driven world,” says Jacques. “The flow-on effect is that someone needs to analyse it, tease out the trends and find opportunities in that data. As a result, we’re seeing a spike in demand for business analyst roles within sales.”

Relationships matter

SEEK employment data for January 2016 also identified an increased demand for account and relationship management roles, with a year-on-year growth of 6%. In times of economic doubt, retaining customers is often more cost effective than winning new ones and companies may be looking to bolster their sales team with roles aimed at nurturing existing relationships.

Jacques sees a connection in the demand for analysis and relationship management roles. “Analysts know who the customers are and they know their average spend. There’s big opportunities within that data to cross sell and up sell, so you need that relationship-based sales role to take the data back to the customer.”

Bright spots ahead

Despite the slight decline in sales job ads over the past year, experts are seeing opportunities for growth.

David George, ‎Managing Director Western Australia and Victoria at recruitment firm Michael Page, says the end of the decade-long mining boom has forced businesses in the technical and industrial sales category to rethink their offering. “We’re actually seeing good recruitment demand in this area,” he says. “Companies who have been servicing the resources sector are now having to open up new product lines or after-sales service. They can’t just keep doing what they have been doing or they won’t survive.”

Retail sales roles also appear to be dodging the overall sales sector decline. The latest online retail sales index from NAB indicates 93% of Australian consumers still prefer buying goods in-store and Jacques says the industry can expect to see an increase in demand for retail sales roles.

“The online space is about research, recommendations and advocacy, but purchases are still being made in-store because of the touch and feel element,” he says. “That’s where we’re seeing a spike. A lot of our clients are putting budget toward their stores.”

While the sales industry experienced a slight dip in job ads in January 2016 compared to the same time last year, news is not gloomy. The significant growth in minor categories, such as analysis and reporting, suggests companies are more willing to invest in the opportunities that data can present. The lift in relationship management roles also suggests a new emphasis on excellent customer rapport, which represents a win for everyone.

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