Major disruptions in the economy, technology innovation, an aging population, and pervasive global connections will continue to challenge SBI 100 companies in 2016 and for years to come. In today’s article we review the three macro trends of employment, finance, and geography that are affecting sales forces.    


For all their ingenuity and imagination, people tend to adapt slowly to change. Facing untold shifts in the nature of business as usual, many sales leaders are in a quandary about the path forward. And last year, the world’s largest sales forces lost market share as a group: SBI 100 companies averaged 2.5 percent revenue growth in 2015 versus global gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 3.1 percent.


At the same time, 64 SBI 100 companies increased revenues, and the average company in this group grew revenues by 7.8 percent. Nonetheless, 36 SBI 100 companies saw their revenues decline, and the average company in this group lost 6.7 percent of revenue. The gap is widening between companies that keep up on the global stage and those lagging behind.


It’s difficult to grow revenue faster than your industry’s growth rate and faster than your competitors. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year.


Sales Strategy Macro Trends


This year is setting up to be a similar economic environment with global GDP expected to grow at 3.4 percent. Barring significant changes, SBI 100 companies will have a 2016 that is very similar to their 2015. Evolving market conditions call for bold new thinking to transform business models that no longer hold true.


Global economic activity remains soft. While emerging markets and developing economies accounted for over 70 percent of global growth in 2015, this growth slowed for the fifth consecutive year. Meanwhile, advanced economies continued a modest recovery following the 2008 recession. Three economic factors stand out across the business landscape.


First, China experienced a gradual slowdown. Spending in investments and manufacturing ramped down faster than it increased for consumption and services. Second, energy and
commodity prices continued to trend lower than in recent years. This created opportunity for some and difficulty for others. Third, as the U.S. economy recovers, there is a gradual tightening of monetary policy while most other advanced economies ease their policies. Developed countries are attempting to balance their position across the global stage to keep their economies healthy.


Last year, macro trends affected the world’s largest sales forces in six major areas: employment, finance, geography, industry, service versus product, and productivity.


In today’s article we will review the first three trends with a look at each of these follows.




Employment Macro TrendOver the last three fiscal years, SBI 100 companies increased total employee head count by 8.0 percent. At the same time, average revenues grew 8.7 percent. SBI 100 companies averaged 106,724 employees in 2015. Of these, 6,892 were in sales (6.5 percent of total head count). Sixty-seven SBI 100 companies increased head count over the last three years while 28 reduced their head count; the other five companies held steady with no change.


IBM (No. 1 on the SBI 100 list) leads the pack with 39,072 sales employees, 9.5 percent of its total head count. IBM shrank its workforce by 3.3 percent over the last three years, while revenues declined 21.8 percent. (No. 38) has the largest percentage of sales employees, at 33.5 percent. has added 105.5 percent head count over the last three years while growing revenues 137.1 percent. G4S Secure Solutions (No. 100) has the lowest concentration of sales employees. It has 2,185 sales employees, which is 0.3 percent of total head count. The company’s total head count decreased 1.3 percent over the last three years while revenue grew 1.1 percent.




Finance Macro TrendThe world’s largest sales forces generated $51.3 billion average revenues in 2015, 2.5 percent more than 2014. Profits averaged $6 billion in 2015, 11.7 percent of revenue. Over the last three years, average revenues increased 8.7 percent while average profits increased 18.5 percent. Royal Dutch Shell (No. 30) leads the revenue pack at $421.1 billion, while Paychex (No. 60) is last in revenue ranking at $2.7 billion. (No. 38) is growing revenue the fastest at 137.1 percent over three years while DuPont (No. 64) has the lowest growth rate, with a 28.2 percent drop in revenues over three years. Overall, 64 of the world’s largest sales forces increased revenue in the last year while 36 saw revenues decline.


ExxonMobil (No. 78) is the most profitable at $51.6 billion in the most recent fiscal year. But its revenue growth over three years is –15.4 percent. The most profitable company on a percentage basis is Paychex, at 39.1 percent. All told, 57 of the world’s largest sales forces increased profits and 35 experienced declining profits in the last year, while 8 held steady with unchanged profits.




Geography Macro TrendThe growth of the world’s largest sales forces mimics the world’s GDP trends. Eight of the companies making the list have operations only in the United States. The remaining 92 see the majority of their growth in emerging and developing economies. These emerging and developing areas grew at 4 percent, more than double the rate of the advanced economies at 1.9 percent.


In 2015, Spain (3.2 percent), the United States (2.5 percent), and the United Kingdom (2.2 percent) led growth in the advanced economies. At the same time, Japan (0.6 percent), Italy (0.8 percent), France (1.1 percent), and Canada (1.2 percent) lagged behind. Asia paced the emerging and developing economies by growing at 6.6 percent. Within Asia, India (7.3 percent) and China (6.9 percent) were the leaders. The laggards in the emerging and developing economies were Brazil (–3.8 percent) and Russia (–3.7 percent).


The projections for 2016 look very similar to 2015. The world  economy is expected to grow at 3.4 percent. Growth projections for advanced economies are 2.1 percent while emerging and developing economies are expected to grow 4.3 percent.


Within the advanced economies, Spain (2.7 percent), the United States (2.6 percent), and the United Kingdom (2.2 percent) are expected to lead the pack again. Meanwhile, Japan (1.0 percent), Italy (1.3 percent), France (1.3 percent), and Canada (1.7 percent) are expected to lag behind. Asia’s growth projection is 6.3 percent, again leading the emerging and developing economies with India (7.5 percent) and China (6.3 percent) pacing this group. Brazil (–3.5 percent) and Russia (–1.0 percent) are expected to remain the laggards.


In next week’s article we will review the final three macro trends of industry, service versus product, and productivity.



International Monetary Fund. World Economic Outlook (WEO) Update: Subdued Demand, Diminished Prospects. January 2016
McKinsey Global Institute. No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, by Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel. May 2015
Images sourced:

SBI 100 The World's Largest Sales Forces

In this issue, we rank the world’s largest sales forces.


Aaron Bartels

Helps clients solve the most difficult challenges standing in the way of making their number.

He founded Sales Benchmark Index (SBI) with Greg Alexander and Mike Drapeau to help business to business (B2B) leaders make the number. The world’s most respected companies have put their trust in and hired SBI. SBI uses the benchmarking method to accelerate their rate of revenue growth. As an execution based firm, SBI drives field adoption and business results.

His clients describe him as a consultant who:


“Makes transformational impacts on me, my people and my business”


“Solves my most difficult problems that to date we have been unable to solve ourselves”


“Brings clarity to an environment of chaos”


“Has real world sales operations experience making him qualified to advise us on a variety of sales and marketing challenges”


“Is able to spot proven best practices that once implemented will make a material impact on my business”


“Constantly challenges status quo and compels us to act”


“Focuses on execution and driving change to stick in our environment”


“Makes good on his promises while enabling our business to realize his projected results”

Read full bio >