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A Statistical Look at Toronto’s Sales Hiring Landscape

Consistently ranked among the best places to live in the world, not to mention the largest city in Canada and commercial heartland of the country, Toronto also offers a strong business environment for employers to build their sales teams and for sales talent to advance their careers. This has created an evolving sales hiring landscape that is pitting established and growing companies from the city’s major industries against one another in their search for top performing salespeople.

In this article we examine the sales profession in Canada’s largest city, including how Toronto’s economic growth, start-up community, and educational institutions are affecting the sales talent pipeline and driving employers to pay wages at unprecedented levels.

The Toronto Landscape – An Overview:

Toronto is truly an international city. Of the more than six million inhabitants, half the population was born in another country. Significant portions of the city’s population speak Cantonese and Mandarin, Italian, Punjabi, Spanish, Portuguese, and several other languages. The city is also strategically located on the Northeastern seaboard, with easy access to other financial capitals such as New York, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, all within a 90-minute flight. This international mindset influences everything about the city – from its cuisine to cultural activities.

The city also has plenty of homegrown pursuits, including the annual Toronto International Film Festival, world-class museums, including the Royal Ontario Museum, professional sports teams, like the Toronto Raptors, world-class shopping along Bloor St. and plenty of nightlife to keep people busy in their spare time. This unique combination has set the city up as an elite business centre where companies and their employees thrive.

The city has emerged as the second largest and fastest growing financial centre in North America and, according to the World Economic Forum, is home the world’s safest and most secure banking system. The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) is the world’s largest exchange for mining and oil and gas, and the leader in cleantech listings. The TSX ranks first in the world in number of new listings, second overall globally in the number of companies listed, and second in North America in the number of technology companies listed.

As one of the most diverse economies in North America, Toronto is home to companies from almost every major vertical. More than 200,000 people work in over 13,000 technology companies, while the city lays claim to one of the largest biomedical and biotech clusters in North America, with over 50,000 people working in more than 800 companies. Greater than 36,000 employees work in 1,700 renewable energy and cleantech companies, while more than 251,000 employees work in the financial services sector.

Taken together, Toronto’s position as a leading cultural hub, its impressive array of companies, and its workforce offer a compelling combination for both sales professionals and the companies looking to hire them.

Growth in Greater Toronto:

As a place to conduct business, Toronto positions itself as one of the best in the world. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers “Cities of Opportunity” study, the city ranks fourth among the top global cities like London, New York, and Singapore. In addition, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked Toronto as the best place to live. In particular, the EIU gave the city high marks for its innovation and intellectual capital and the quality of its business environment. These findings should not surprise business leaders who are evaluating the Toronto market since the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) generates 20 percent of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the city’s economy grew by 2.7 percent in 2014.

“Toronto’s strengths are already attracting major businesses, start-ups and top talent, creating an innovation hot bed in the city’s South Core and Waterfront districts,” said Ted Graham, innovation leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Enhancing the city’s connectivity to domestic and global markets by better integrating its IT and transportation infrastructure, and embracing new technologies will be key to drive further growth in the city.”

If Toronto is a magnet for people from around the world, it is also attractive to Canadian companies and global companies looking to expand. About 40 percent of company headquarters sites in Canada are based in Toronto and even more in the surrounding area, including Kitchener, Waterloo, Markham and Mississauga. Google Canada’s headquarters (and its mini-golf course, full gym and game rooms) are located right in downtown Toronto and the company recently expanded by opening a new facility in nearby Kitchener. Apple Canada moved its headquarters from Markham to downtown Toronto last year, while Honda Canada is also based in the city.

Although the largest employers in the Toronto area, including the Royal Bank of Canada, Rogers Communications, Manulife Financial, TD Bank and Scotiabank, are all important drivers of the GTA economy, there is plenty of hiring activity among smaller firms looking for the right sales talent to drive growth.

Toronto Start-Ups:

The province of Ontario, where Toronto is located, attracted $708 million in venture capital for 152 deals during the first three quarters of 2015, nearly 44 percent of the $1.6 billion in venture capital invested in Canada, according to data from the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association. This has created a vibrant start-up scene where some of the worlds most innovate solutions are being developed and sold.

Consider the prospects of Kik Interactive Inc., a private mobile messaging and chat company. The company, which is based in Waterloo, just received a $66 million investment from China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd. Kik Interactive is planning to leverage that relationship into a greater presence in China and to develop the capability to facilitate commerce. Those plans, of course, require the right talent. That is why Kik Interactive plans to double its workforce and why it has also recently created a chief people officer position for the first time to manage that expansion successfully.

Once high-flying Waterloo-based Blackberry has hit a rough patch and has been cutting back its workforce. However, plenty of other technology companies are moving into or expanding operations in the Toronto area to make up those lost jobs. For example, Shopify, an e-commerce company based in Ottawa, has opened a new space in Waterloo for the developers and sales teams of its Shopify Plus e-commerce solution for larger merchants. The company has surged into a market value above $1 billion since it announced a partnership with Amazon, in addition to existing partnerships with companies like Intuit.

Another growing company in the city is Influitive, which provides marketing software to help companies create customer “advocates” who can become effective referral sources. The company, which recently closed on more than $30 million in funding, is planning to add new products and expand into Europe and Asia. To support this growth, the company is also planning to double its workforce to about 200 employees this year. “As more and more companies recognize that customer engagement, experience and advocacy are key to meeting their revenue goals, Influitive has become buried in market demand,” says Mark Organ, the Toronto-based company’s CEO.

Of course, not all growing companies in the Toronto area are involved in information and communication technology. Three clean energy companies in the Toronto area – Pond Fuel, Electrovaya and Celestica – have been named among the leaders of Canada’s clean energy industry. Highland Therapeutics Inc., a pharmaceutical company, is building out its sales and marketing infrastructure as it pivots toward rollout of its new drugs. To support these efforts, the company recently closed on $24 million in funding.

There are hundreds of start-up sales positions in the Toronto area. There are more than 200 sales positions listed on online job boards in the region, while demand for Peak’s services to recruit senior reps and VPs for high-growth start-ups has exponentially increased.

Toronto start-ups have focused on the following hiring criteria when building their sales teams:

  • Achieved sales quota for the past 5+ years
  • 5+ years experience using a CRM
  • 5+ years experience of successfully building and growing a territory
  • Successful experience closing six-figure deals
  • Successful experience working in a entrepreneurial environment
  • Hunter DNA

For organizations looking to build a better sales team in the Toronto area, download our free winning job description templates for VP of Sales, Sales Manager, Account Executive, and Sales Engineer positions.

Finding the Right People:

To fill the sales jobs created by start-ups and more established firms, Toronto employers have to present themselves as great places to work and grow careers. “The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) employers understand that they exist in one of the most competitive employment landscapes in the country,” said Richard Yerema, managing editor of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. “The employers who call the GTA home must ensure that their human resource practices are not only competitive within their industry but also in the wider GTA neighborhood.”

This competition for talent is a key selling point for companies looking to expand into the Toronto area. After all, if there is competition for talent, there is compelling talent to be found and hired. A survey of 105 U.S. executives conducted by Development Counsellors International found that “high-quality workforce” is the phrase these executives most commonly associate with Canada. According to the report, “well-educated” and “quality workforce” was also among the themes most frequently submitted by executives regarding Canada’s advantages for U.S. companies looking to relocate or expand.

However, there is a critical shortage of sales talent in the city. Peak’s recruitment engagements in the city have tripled since 2011. In particular, demand for senior reps selling enterprise software and service offerings has increased by 8% since 2014, while demand for regional territory managers and VP Sales for IT, service, and SaaS firms have increased by 13%.

An educated workforce:

Looking towards the future, more and more talent is graduating each year in Toronto and entering the workforce. The City of Toronto has an average of 24,000 students enrolling annually in one of their eight post-secondary institutions – four universities and four colleges – with over 130,000 students currently enrolled.

The University of Toronto, the city’s largest university, offers bachelor business programs with concentrations in Digital Enterprise Management, Finance and Economics, and Management Studies as well as a Masters of Business Administration program. Maclean’s Magazine ranks the University of Toronto, as the number one business school in the country, with nearby York University coming in at number three. Moreover, Humber College offers a certificate of achievement in professional sales, allowing students to acquire fundamental sales skills and knowledge..

Toronto’s Challenges:

Like other major urban centres, Toronto has downsides that create challenges for both employers and employees. Traffic congestion is an ongoing concern and an aging and under-funded public transportation system is presenting difficulties for suburban commuters entering the city.

Another issue is the cost of housing. Housing prices, especially locations in the city and near public transit, are well above the national average. In 2015, the average sales price for all housing, including single-family homes and condominiums was $622,217, an increase of nearly ten percent from a year earlier. The only thing keeping home sales from growing more last year was the fact that demand for housing outstripped the available supply. As a result, experts predict that some of that ongoing demand that will carry over into 2016/2017. With supply and demand continuing to be out of sync, additional housing cost increases appear to be all but inevitable. “The average selling price is also expected to rise to between $655,000 and $665,000 – one of the highest in Canada – up from $622,217.”

Riding the Escalator in Toronto:

What offsets the challenges of living and working in Toronto and its surrounding areas are the benefits of living and working there. A study conducted for Statistics Canada identified Toronto to be an “escalator region.” “Migration into Toronto is associated with an income premium, such that in-migrants appear to immediately receive an income benefit that exceeds the income benefits associated with migrations to other urban areas, and/or staying,” according to the study. “That is, while migrations to other large, medium or small urban areas are also often associated with income benefits, the benefits of migrating to Toronto appear to be greater. In effect, it would appear that income growth was accelerated by migrating into Toronto – a productivity effect.”

This escalator effect yields benefits to both employers and employees.

Migrants moving to Toronto either from within Canada or other parts of the world have greater opportunities available to them. For sales professionals in particular, migration into Toronto offers net new revenue opportunities since the city is home to the largest cluster or bussiness in the country and is strategically located close to some of the world’s largest markets.

Employers looking to hire these individuals benefit from a much larger, more talented and more diverse labor pool than other cities might offer. “The (Toronto) metropolitan area benefit(s) from high in-migration rates among young labor force migrants, and a corresponding net loss amongst older age groups and at retirement,” the Statistics Canada study found.

This turnover from baby boomers retiring at the end of their careers makes room for new talent to thrive. This circumstance is well illustrated when it comes to sales management positions. A Canadian government analysis, for example, shows that demand for sales managers is likely to exceed the talent supply through 2022 as senior sales leaders retire in these positions at a higher rate than workers in other positions. Below is a breakdown of the industries most likely to be hiring sales managers.

An overall look at the workforce in the Toronto area shows a group of 2.8 million people with experience in a variety of industries. Although manufacturing and retail trade employ the most people, there is are a number of industries represented, including professional services and financial services.

Pay Levels in the Toronto Area:

While pay levels in the Toronto area are not the highest in Canada, they are still in the top three of major cities. As seen in the table below, the median total income jumped nearly 12% from 2009 to 2013.

A broader view of pay levels shows wage growth since the 2008/2009 global recession for Toronto and its surrounding areas.

This turnover from baby boomers retiring at the end of their careers makes room for new talent to thrive. This circumstance is well illustrated when it comes to sales management positions. A Canadian government analysis, for example, shows that demand for sales managers is likely to exceed the talent supply through 2022 as senior sales leaders retire in these positions at a higher rate than workers in other positions. Below is a breakdown of the industries most likely to be hiring sales managers.

Data from Environics Analytics provides a clearer picture of income levels by breaking it down into five equal segments.

Statistics Canada provides a breakdown of wages for select sale positions, including the lowest, median and highest wage levels for each position.

Finally, our own data shows a breakdown of the typical compensation packages earned by salespeople in Toronto, according to their position.

A Look Ahead

Although Canada’s oil-dependent economy will rise and fall to some extent with worldwide oil prices, there is reason to expect something different for Toronto. With its diverse economy and healthy start-up culture, the city and its surrounding area is attracting different types of companies that can provide a steadier flow of economic gains, well-paying sales jobs and, for employers, continued competition for the best talent. To be sure, companies that thrive in this environment must go above and beyond to present themselves as employers of choice if they are going attract and retain the sales talent necessary to drive the next level of growth.


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