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Raleigh’s Sales Hiring Landscape

Raleigh Sales Recruiting Landscape

Fans of college sports are no doubt familiar with the Raleigh, N.C. area. The University of North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, the Duke Blue Devils in Durham and the North Carolina State Wolfpack are perennial competitors in the NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments.

And those in the tech community know that Raleigh is part of a world-renowned tech and bio-tech hub called the Research Triangle where leading organization’s like Cisco, IBM, and Glaxo-Smith-Kline have established significant operations.

But, there is more to Raleigh than tech and college sports – much more!

The city and its surrounding areas boast rich cultural opportunities, state-of-the-art research and development facilities, leading academic institutions and state and local government determined to attract businesses to the area.

With all the elements necessary to support a thriving business community, Raleigh has become one of the most desired places for CEOs and VPs of Sales to build their sales team and for salespeople to look for new career opportunities. 

This has created a sales hiring and recruiting landscape that is changing at a rapid pace, with competition over top performing salespeople heating to levels not experienced since the late 1990s. 

The Raleigh Landscape – An Overview:

Equal parts college town, state capital, economic engine, and R&D hub for many industries, Raleigh fulfills all those roles with ease. However, it is difficult to talk about Raleigh alone.

The city is part of the famous Research Triangle, so named decades ago to reflect the research prowess of the region’s three major universities – North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina.

Research Triangle Park - Sales Recruiting

The building of the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in the 1950s cemented the area’s reputation and led to the rapid growth of another city in the area, Cary, N.C., which is close to RTP.

Today, the Research Triangle remains a key driver of economic growth for the region as one of the most successful hubs for research supporting new technologies and biotechnology. It is arguably the reason why North Carolina is named #2 out of 50 on Forbes’ list of Best States for Business.

That fact alone would be enough to generate strong growth in sales jobs, but other industries are also drawn to the region. Newsmax indicated that the top 5 industries in North Carolina in 2015 included aerospace and aviation, automotive, biotech and pharmaceuticals, energy, information and communications technology. This diverse business mix is generating attractive opportunities for sales professionals.

Finally, the area is also a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity for sales professionals interested in working for small, but high growth companies.

Not surprisingly, the Research Triangle attracts some of the best and brightest talent from throughout the U.S. and around the world. This a key reason why companies of all sizes, both new and established, are drawn to the region.

As a result, the city and surrounding areas boast strong salary levels and increasing competition for the best sales talent. For example, Peak’s requests for senior salespeople from technology and professional service organizations in Raleigh has exponentially increased over the past five years.

“Raleigh is one of the nation’s best places to start a business because of the wealth of intellectual capital, low cost of doing business and the incredible lifestyle the area has to offer,” said Jesse Lipson, vice president and general manager of workflow and workspace clouds for Citrix Systems, which has significant operations in the area.

In Raleigh, sales opportunities are abound. The city and Research Triangle are home to the headquarters of two of this year’s Fortune 500 companies (Quintiles Transnational Holdings in Durham and The Pantry in Cary, which has since been acquired). In addition, the privately held SAS Institute, with 5,200 employees, has been an anchor of RTP for many years.

Global companies looking for an ideal site for their U.S. headquarters also frequently turn to the area. As a result, companies that include GlaxoSmithKline, Syngenta, Bayer Crop Science, ABB, BASF, and Novozymes all have their U.S. headquarters in the area. CBC Americas and Merz Pharma Group are among the latest companies to decide to move their headquarters to the region.

Other major companies, like IBM and Citrix Systems, also have a significant presence in the area. “One of the great things about our Research Triangle Park campus is that every single unit of IBM has a presence here,” said Fran O’Sullivan, general manager for IBM systems strategy and operations. “When our clients are using Watson (artificial intelligence computer system) in the cloud, it’s right here in RTP.”

Mid-size companies, including technology company Red Hat Inc., also have their headquarters in Raleigh. North Carolina has “world class infrastructure, world class research and good leadership,” said Mark Yusko, founder and CEO of Morgan Creek Capital Management. It has “all the makings of a great tech scene, but it is still emerging.”

The lifestyle is another plus that resonates with many companies and their executives. The area offers plenty of cultural events— from the North Carolina State Fair in autumn, to concerts and music festivals year round.

In addition, the North Carolina Museum of Art anchors a strong line up of museums in the region. “It’s a dense and growing area with lots of alternative music, lots of alternative lifestyles and that tends to breed a pretty high-tech culture, a designed-focused culture, which is what we look for in our team.” says Tobias Dengel, CEO of app developer Willow Tree which recently opened an office in the area.

Put all this together and it is no wonder that Raleigh has been a mainstay on the “best” lists for more than a decade.

Most recently, Glassdoor ranks Raleigh as the best city for jobs with more than 24,000 job openings and a median salary of more than $50,000. Numbers like these underscore the various opportunities for sales professionals looking for a career in Raleigh.

Moreover, Forbes magazine rates the city as the second best place for business and careers in the country, which further demonstrates the city’s viability as a top business hub for organizations today and into the future.

What is Driving Growth?

Raleigh’s success has not been an accident. State and local governments have worked to nurture a business-friendly climate. The state provides incentives to attract companies to the area and for companies already in the area to expand existing operations.

For example, Evalueserve, a research and analytics company, recently received incentives from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant program to create 400 new jobs in Wake County by the end of 2017. Such programs are one reason why Chief Executive magazine rates North Carolina third out of the 50 states for business.

As for future growth, researchers point to three major industries—health care, professional services and construction—as the drivers of job growth and these projections are showing signs of coming true.

NC State’s employments statistics revealed that the top industries their MBA graduates begin their career in included consumer products, technology, consulting, and pharmaceuticals, biotech and healthcare.

Raleigh Sales Hiring Graduate Industry Breakdown

The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows employment growth in these industries in the Raleigh/Cary area, while mining and manufacturing contract. For sales professionals working in/or targeting those industries, opportunities are plentiful and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, a study of technology job growth puts Raleigh in second place in the number of technology jobs (38,853) created between 2004 and 2014, a growth rate of 62.3 percent. STEM job growth increased 39 percent over the same time period to create 49,593 of these jobs.

Bayer Crop Science is just one example of a company expanding in the area. “We’ve spent about $78 million over the last couple of years and more than doubled the size of our footprint,” says Jim Blome, the company’s CEO.

This expansion includes a $33 million headquarters renovation and a $27 million state-of-the-art greenhouse to support the company’s research and development efforts. The company is also developing a strong sales force. For example, Bayer Crop Science’s 12-month Commercial Excellence Leadership Program is available to promising new employees in sales, marketing and general management.


Entrepreneurial activity is also strong in Raleigh and its surrounding areas. Raleigh and the Research Triangle area routinely land on the top 20 lists for attracting venture capital.

recent report from the region’s Council for Entrepreneurial Development found that the Research Triangle attracts the vast majority of venture capital in the state of North Carolina. Of the 90 venture capital deals completed in the state during the first half of 2015, 74 involved companies in the Research Triangle area—24 deals in Raleigh, 21 in Durham and 14 for companies based in Research Triangle Park.

Since many sales professionals enjoy the challenge of meeting competitive quotas in a start-up environment, the strong entrepreneurial activity in Raleigh will attract those seeking careers in non-corporate environments. In fact, late stage start-ups looking to recruit senior sales professionals with experience in entrepreneurial environments has doubled in Raleigh over the past two years.

Overall, the state attracted more than $426 million in venture capital during the first half of 2015 for life sciences ($268 million for 26 deals), technology ($114 million for 48 deals), advanced manufacturing and materials ($34 million for ten deals) and clean tech ($9.7 million for six deals). This represents a 70 percent increase in venture capital secured compared to 2014.

There are other types of investments occurring as well.

In the RTP, the Alexandria Center for Science, Technology and Agriculture is about to launch the first phase of its development. This includes the MedBlue Incubator, which focuses on investing in and developing the science and technology from the departments of surgery, pathology and anesthesiology at Duke University Medical Center.

There will also be an accelerator called LaunchLabs that is currently nurturing nine start-ups. This facility joins more mature venture capital firms, accelerators and other entrepreneurial infrastructure in the region.

Google Fiber’s investment in ultra-high-speed fiber optic network in the Raleigh-Durham area is another sign of the area’s importance. “It’s huge,” said Chris Heivly, co-founder of The Startup Factory in Durham. “It is another big validation of everything that is going on in the Triangle. Google obviously sees what we see: a vibrant and intellectually curious community poised for great things.”

Others agree that Google Fiber represents “a new frontier for innovation in the Triangle” said Adam Klein, chief strategy officer for American Underground. “There are industries, companies and jobs that will be founded on this infrastructure that don’t exist today – much the same [as] when the smartphone was created.”

All of this activity is beneficial to entrepreneurs, however challenges remain.

According to research from North Carolina State University’s Entrepreneurship Clinic, talent acquisition is one of their top challenges, along with gaining access to capital, dealing with competition and finding new customers. Even so, they remain optimistic with 81.1 percent anticipating an increase in sales and 56.7 percent expecting to add to their workforces.

Raleigh’s Challenges:

Like any city, Raleigh is not without its challenges. Given its growth prospects, there are concerns that the flow of qualified new graduates will not be sufficient to meet future hiring needs.  (For more on how hiring managers can attract millennials to join their sales team, read this Forbes article).

More specifically, with growth in well-paying technology and STEM jobs projected for the area over the next several years, there is concern about whether the region will offer enough qualified candidates to fill those jobs.

To address this for the future, the state has developed a “STEMAccelerator” program.

“High quality STEM education is critical to North Carolina’s future prosperity,” says Gov. Pat McCrory. “To address the gap in education and workforce needs, we must provide resources and support for teachers’ professional growth – especially in the critical areas of science and mathematics.”

There is also concern about graduation rates at the Research Triangle’s key universities. “If native North Carolinians are going to be competitive for future jobs in our state, our universities must not just successfully enroll students, it must successfully matriculate and ultimately graduate them” noted the Predicting North Carolina’s Job Market in 2020 report.

Sales Hiring Graduation in North Carolina

For example, graduation rates after four and six years need to improve across the board. The report noted that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which offers a Bachelor of Business with a major in sales, is one of two of the only public universities that graduate more than 50 percent of their first-time, full-time freshmen in four years.

UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, which offers an undergraduate and graduate degree in Business Administration, are the only public universities to graduate more than 70 percent of their first-time, full-time freshmen in six years.

“This failure represents not only an expense to the state’s taxpayers, but also lost opportunities for these students to compete for employment in the job market with more educated in-migrants,” the report concluded.

However, there is opportunity for sales leaders looking to recruit junior salespeople in Raleigh. There are several sales specific programs offered in the city’s central and surrounding areas that allow students to build sales specific skill sets.

For instance, 28 and 75 miles from Raleigh are the University of North Carolina: Kenan-Flagler Business School and North Carolina A&T State University. Both institutions were ranked among the top universities for professional sales education in 2013. In fact, NC A&T State’s School of Business offers a marketing program with a concentration option in sales for marketing students looking to enhance their sales acumen.

Impact on Sales Salaries and Compensation in Raleigh

If jobs in Raleigh are all about skills, employers have to be willing to pay for those skills. Unemployment in the Raleigh (4.7 percent) and Durham (4.9 percent) areas has remained steady over the past year and now stands just below the national rate.

Still, Raleigh led the state in job creation in September 2015 with 3,000 new jobs. This recent growth in jobs represents a window of opportunity for sales professionals and employers interested in relocating to a growing region with a great deal of opportunities.

Raleigh Sales Comp Data

Looking more closely at wage data provided by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers can get a more nuanced view of the occupation as whole in the city.

Sales Salaries By Position in Durham and Chapel Hill

Sales Salaries By Position in Raleigh and Cary - Peak Sales Recruiting

Looking Ahead

As long as technology continues to drive growth in the U.S. and broader global economy, Raleigh and its surrounding area will continue to flourish. Even as companies expand and contract or become part of a larger organization through a merger or acquisition, chances are excellent that a new, growing organization will take its place in the area.

If there is anything that might stand in the way of Raleigh’s continued success, it would be the region’s ability to keep up with the demand for top talent and specialized skills required to sustain the growth of Raleigh’s employers.

Attracting and retaining a strong workforce, including key sales positions, could require greater effort for companies in this region. However, Raleigh has proven that it is a magnet for migrants moving in from other states and countries. That, along with the excellent array of colleges and universities in the area, makes Raleigh a good bet for continued success.

Are you an employer looking to expand your sales team in Raleigh? Our team can help. Learn more about our Raleigh sales recruiting operations here.


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