2021 Sales Hiring Forecast: 5 Juicy Stats You Need to Know

Published on Jan 21, 2021

2020 was a tumultuous year to say the least. It was a year that reminded us how important adaptability and resilience are, and it showed us how critical it is for sales hiring managers to keep evolving. 

Now that 2021 has arrived, what can we expect in the New Year?

Here’s an in-depth sales hiring forecast to help shape your approach. 

1. 19% of Salespeople Will Work From Home Permanently

One of the biggest trends that’s resulted from the pandemic is a growing number of salespeople working from home indefinitely. 

“A majority of North American employers expect that most of their furloughed workers will return to work by the end of the first quarter of 2021,” writes Stephen Miller of SHRM. “Nevertheless, more workers will continue working from home on a permanent basis than before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In fact, experts predict that roughly one out of five salespeople will continue to work remotely. That’s a percentage that’s down considerably from its peak of 44% in July 2020. But it’s nearly three times what it was prior to the pandemic, which was just 7% in 2019. 

Bottom line: working at home is becoming mainstream, and it’s wise for sales leaders to account for this trend when building their sales team. 

2. 92% of Salespeople Think 2021 is a Good Time to Look for “Gig” Work

The “gig” economy, which refers to people working temporary, flexible jobs rather than full-time, permanent positions, has been steadily gaining steam in recent years. But just like with the surge of remote workers, COVID has accelerated its growth as well. 

According to recent data, a staggering 92% of salespeople think 2021 is “a good time” to look for gig work. And a growing number of businesses are adopting this hiring framework, with “15% of the total job market consisting of open sales positions.”

This graph from VizWorld illustrates projected growth in the gig economy from 2017 to 2027, and conversely, shows how the number of traditional employees is declining. 

This really puts the trajectory of the gig economy into perspective and shows that hiring salespeople on a contract-by-contract basis is something to at least consider in 2021. And if you need extra manpower for seasonal spikes, this can be a great solution. 

3. 81% of Hiring Experts Say Virtual Recruiting Will Continue Post-Pandemic

In addition to a growing number of sales reps working remotely permanently, there’s also a huge trend where companies have turned to 100% virtual-based recruiting to find quality candidates. 

More than 4 out 5 talent professionals believe virtual recruiting will continue after COVID, and 70% believe it will become the new norm. 

“Companies have dabbled with video interviewing and remote assessments in the past, but the lockdown realities of COVID-19 have sparked them to create an end-to-end virtual recruiting process for the first time,” explains Gregory Lewis of LinkedIn. “And they’re both noting and embracing the cost and time savings that that change has brought with it.”

Although traditional face-to-face interactions during recruiting will likely rise as COVID vaccines are distributed and the overall situation stabilizes, it’s clear that developing a virtual recruiting strategy is advantageous and something that’s definitely worth your attention. 

4. 77% of Hiring Experts Say Diversity is Essential to the Future of Recruiting

Besides the pandemic, several other topics have shaken the headlines, and the push toward racial equality has gained massive momentum. While many companies have embraced diversity for some time, it should be taken to a whole new level in 2021. 

More than three-quarters (77%) of talent professionals say diversity is “very important” to recruiting not just in 2021, but to the future of recruiting. 

And as Gregory Lewis adds, “Diversity is not a feel-good ‘initiative’, but a business-critical imperative — one that recruiting can lead.” 

Just look at the numbers. 

Businesses that rank below-average in their diversity scores only generate an average innovation revenue of 26%. But those with above-average diversity scores generate an average innovation revenue of 45%.

Further, a separate study found that diverse teams make smarter decisions 87% of the time — largely because of the insights that stem from different perspectives and experiences. 

This isn’t to say that you should make diverse hires just for the sake of being diverse and blindly jump on the bandwagon. But the data clearly shows that salesperson diversity can have a positive impact, both financially and culturally. 

And with a virtual framework for recruiting and working remotely already in place for many businesses where you can reach sales candidates all around the world, this shouldn’t be all that difficult of a transition to make. 

5. 44% of Companies Currently Use AI to Find Top Salespeople 

AI has spread its tentacles to multiple areas of HR and has a plethora of applications. One of which is identifying top tier sales candidates. 

At the start of 2021, 44% of companies already used AI for recruiting to find the best salespeople, and beyond that, 40% use AI for screening and assessing candidates throughout the process. 

This chart shows the details. 

Many sales hiring managers are familiar with applicant tracking systems and use them in some capacity to filter through the sales candidate pool, but AI takes things to a whole new level. With it, you can zero in on an extremely targeted segment of candidates, narrowing it down to the small handful that meet key criteria and making the overall process much more efficient. 

It’s also helpful for reducing bias with hiring and creating a level of objectivity that up until this point has been impossible. So, this is definitely a type of technology worth your attention in 2021. 

Gearing Your Sales Hiring Up For Success

By nature, sales hiring is always evolving. But you could argue that it’s moving at a faster rate than ever before. These insightful stats should crystallize your approach in 2021 and help you attract the best and brightest

If you’re looking for a top of the line tool to hire better sales talent, faster, check out HireDNA. It uses cutting-edge technology that analyzes candidates based on 20 key data points and 21 core selling competencies to help you find the perfect fit. 

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