Compiled By Deborah Austin Bright economic portent: 54.1% of executives plan to boost sales staffs during second-half 2002, up 12.9 points from the first half, suggests a survey of nearly 200 executives by sales talent placement firm Sales Consultants, subsidiary of Cleveland-based Management Recruiters International Inc. (MRI). Another 41.2% will maintain current staff, down 12.4 points; 4.7% plan decreases, down 0.5 points. The trend indicates "the majority of decision-makers in corporate America are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," says Mark Haering, director of operations for the Indianapolis office of MRI. "When you're coming out of recession, you want to have a strong sales force in place so you can defend existing market share and capture new market share." And smart companies are pursuing ace salespeople available from recession-related downsizing. While telecommunications and information-technology sectors still lag, sales hiring in consumer products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals/biotechnology and construction looks strong -- the latter two perhaps spurred by aging demographics and low interest rates, Haering says.