At the beginning of each year, we compile our sales hiring forecast by looking at the overall hiring forecasts for the year made by Manpower, Glassdoor, Indeed, Monster, and the Bureau of Labor & Statistics (BLS). Although none of these resources give a sales-specific hiring forecast, there is enough information between them to accurately predict sales hiring for 2022. However, before you jump directly to our sales hiring predictions for 2022, take the time to read the entire article to learn how the intense competition for talent is impacting sales professionals’ salaries and employers’ strategies for winning the talent war.
2021 Sales Hiring in Review.
Once the Covid lockdowns lifted in 2020, hiring rebounded quickly, and the unemployment rate plunged. By the end of December 2020, the unemployment rate had dropped to 6.7% from its Covid peak of 14.8% in April. Our prior sales forecast for 2021 predicted that “competition for talent should become intense in the latter half of 2021.” According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this hectic hiring pace continued in 2021 to close out the year with an unemployment rate of 3.9%.
Over 2021, we saw a similar drop in the unemployment rate for sales roles. Between December 2020 and December 2021, the unemployment rate for sales professionals fell from 5.7% to 3.5%. It’s important to note that the BLS does not distinguish between b2c sales roles (think car or insurance sales) and b2b sales roles (think software sales). Our 2019 Sales Hiring Forecast detailed how we can sift through BLS data to infer the unemployment rate for b2b sales professionals. Using that approach, we estimate that the unemployment rate for b2b sales professionals stands between 2% and 2.5%.
Before we present our 2022 hiring sales forecast, it’s interesting to compare Dec 2021 unemployment stats with February 2020 pre-Covid numbers. Although the unemployment rate in Dec 2021 is slightly higher (3.9% vs. 3.5%), there are far more open, unfilled jobs. At the end of 2021, there were 4.3M more job openings than unemployed workers. This compares to a 1.5M shortage in February 2020. This fact, along with other data points explored below, suggests that we are presently facing the largest labor shortage in the history of our country.
2022 Sales Forecast for Hiring.
Each year we turn to The Manpower Group’s annual survey of 39,000 employers globally for the 2022 overall hiring forecast. Manpower is one of the largest staffing firms in the world, and their quarterly Employment Outlook is one of the most respected available hiring projections. They forecast a Q1 2022 Net Employment Outlook for the US of +41%, which, according to Manpower’s President, Becky Frankiewicz, is “the most optimistic Q1 report we have seen since the survey began six decades ago”.
Now let’s look at sales hiring specifically. To gain a clear picture, Linkedin provides some of the most accurate forecastings. Linkedin’s 2022 Most In-Demand Jobs Right Now report lists Salesperson as the 2nd most in-demand job. The most in-demand jobs are those with the highest number of job posts on Linkedin. Linkedin also revealed the 25 fastest-growing job titles on their platform (from 2017-2022) in their Jobs on the Rise 2022 report. 4 of the 25 fastest-growing job titles on Linkedin were in sales.
Need more signs that the war for sales talent in 2022 will be out of control? Compared to 2019 (pre-Covid), the number of job postings on Linkedin for recruiters is up 2.8x.
2022 Sales Forecast Trends.
Here are four key sales hiring trends that will continue in 2022.
1. Tech Sales Hiring Demand Impacts Other Industries.
Manpower’s Q1 2022 Net Employment Outlook for technology companies was +60% compared to +50% for the next highest Industry (Banking & Finance). Reflective of the robust demand for talent in tech, salaries increased by 9.5% in 2021.
Within the Technology industry, Gartner predicts that Software companies will lead the way with 2022 growth of 11.5% globally. Given that the labor market will expand by only .5% in 2022, we have noticed that software companies are hiring sales talent from outside their industry. This trend should increase in 2022 and will have far-reaching implications as employers in other industries will find themselves competing against higher-paying tech companies for the best and brightest.
2. Remote Work.
COVID lockdowns forced companies to allow employees to work from home. This new freedom and flexibility created a shift in workers’ expectations, with Linkedin data showing that 87% of employees prefer to stay remote at least half of the time. As a result, enlightened HR and sales leaders and HR leaders are listening, with 81% of companies offering greater flexibility.
3. Sales Team Pay Increases.
There are two significant factors putting pressure on companies to increase salaries for sales professionals.
- As noted above, the unemployment rate stands at a tight 3.9%, and there are 10.6M unfilled jobs in the US. Quite simply, almost every talented sales professional is already employed. Much like the housing market in 2021, low supply and high demand are creating a bidding war for talent that shows no end in sight. Expect salaries and total compensation to increase in 2022.
- The highest US inflation rate in 39 years (7%!) is compelling sales reps to look for higher-paying jobs. After inflation, a $100,000 salary had 7% less buying power at the end of 2021 than at the beginning of the year.
4. Sales force turnover will increase in 2022.
Linkedin data shows that job changes are up by 25% in Oct 2021 compared to Oct 2019, with the number one reason workers give for the change being “better compensation.” With an increasing number of unfilled jobs and desperate employers increasing pay, sales force turnover should continue to increase in 2022.
Sales Hiring Forecast Beyond 2022.
The BLS forecasts the labor shortage to worsen in the years ahead. Presently (as noted above), there are 4.3M more open jobs than available unemployed workers. In the BLS’ Employment Projections Report, the US economy will add 11.9M jobs by 2030 while the workforce will only grow by 8.9M. An increase in unfilled jobs by 2030 will be great news for sales professionals and troubling news for employers trying to build their sales teams.
If you are looking to hire talented sales reps to expand your sales team, you can learn more about Sales Talent’s sales staffing strategies to headhunt top performers.