Nearly 100 years ago (July 10th, 1916, to be exact), thousands of salespeople congregated in Detroit for the first ever World’s Salesmanship Congress. The keynote speaker, President Woodrow Wilson, told attendees to “…go out and sell goods that will make the world more comfortable and more happy…” which sounds like an admirable vocation, both then and now.

The sales profession established its legitimacy in the Midwest a century ago – and according to data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it looks like the future of sales is returning to the region.

The chart below shows that total employment in sales and related fields has risen steadily since 2010. Taking a simple additive forecast model and applying it to the last six years’ worth of data, we are projected to top 15 million sales employees in 2018 in the U.S. alone – an approximately 11 percent increase since 2010. That’s a significant rise in employment over nine years in a very competitive field.


The total employment in sales appears to be trending upward, and a similar effect can be seen in wages in sales and related fields. Taking the median wage growth in each of the four geographic regions as defined by the BLS here (using the median instead of the mean for the sake of clarity), there is an upward trend in each of the four major regions. That’s positive for the whole nation, but it’s especially important to one region in particular: the Midwest.

Not only does the Midwest have the steepest median wage growth trend (almost twice as steep as the West), it also is the only region that has experienced continually larger median wage growth year-over-year. The below graph shows that in 2013, the other three regions all experienced a dip in median wage growth, contributing to the significant median wage growth difference between the Midwest and the other three regions in 2015.


The result of this data may affect the way companies hire, as well as how and where job seekers apply. The Midwest’s wages are rising at a greater rate than any of the other regions, and rent is significantly more affordable (seven of the 10 Best Affordable Cities are located in the Midwest region). That means Midwestern sales employees can afford better lifestyles and more easily meet long-term financial goals. With the sales industry growing at its current rate, job openings are likely to be abundant – that means more flexibility to find the “right” company.

For employers, office rent growth is lowest in Indianapolis among the top ten high-growth tech hub cities in the U.S. (note: five of the ten cities aren’t in “coastal” states, with Texas being a possible exception). Finding sufficient space is important for growing companies, but so is hiring the right number of salespeople. Companies considering relocation can capitalize on sales superstars they hire by offering incentives they can afford.

The launch of “Scientific Selling” in 1916 in Detroit was far different than the data-driven, repeatable approach many sales leaders are prescribe for their teams today. While selling has changed significantly over the last century, the Midwest represents the future of the best sales organizations in the nation.