Market update: Commercial wage inflation

29 November 2021

Commercial Wage Inflation Hc

The UK remains a key market for commercial staff and hiring, a microcosm of a macrocosmic movement.  2020 was a challenging year globally, in every respect, especially for commercial expansion. Whilst hiring plans were put on hold throughout the pandemic, and grace was offered by Boards and Investors as a result, the foot has been taken off the break completely throughout in 2021.   Investors are demanding growth: market share, new market entry, provision and sale of new products and services – all factors measured in Sales.  However growth is not only measured in top line sales or bottom line profit but also in strength of workforce. There is as much emphasis on scale as there is on financials.

At no time has demand outweighed supply to the degree that the market has experienced in 2021 with ambitious hiring plans desperately trying to balance a massive 300% rise in year-on-year investment.

One obvious result of this is wage inflation. Candidates are well aware of their worth, and smart candidates take advantage of the yearly inflation expected from spiralling demand. Equally aware of the struggle to replace such valuable talent, firms are fighting to keep existing employees and are ready with counter-offers at the first sign of trouble. Thus the salaries offered, and proportionally the premium to move, is increasing as potential employers try to incentivise the move and trump the cost of buy-back.

Business Development Managers

The highest demand in the market is for BDMs / “Hunters” at the next level – 3-5 years’ experience with proven industry experience, most probably a vertical specialism and/or a “black book”.  The market is pitching £70-90,000 base but in truth few move for the lower end, only those with 2-3 years.  From £50-55,000 base, a candidate will move for £70-75,000; from £70-75,000 they will move for £85-95,000 base. 

In these mid-levels the premium to move is c25% presently (when 12-18 months ago, 20% would have been considered generous).  The curve is not smooth – comparatively few candidates now earn in the £60,000’s or £80,000’s; whereas previously £85,000 allowed for another move before reaching the £100,000 threshold (that is still evident).

Sales Managers

A Sales Manager can earn £90-125,000; and a true Head of Sales, anywhere from £120-175,000.  Beyond this level and in the £175-225,000 range typically are CCOs, and of more established firms.  In 2019, £175-180,000 was a consistent senior level, and there were firms who struggled to pay more than £150,000; whereas now £180,000 is a benchmark.  We have supported searches at £250,000+ base level but these in truth are a rarity.  At more senior levels, base salary is less important than other benefits, bonuses and importantly equity.

The Big Picture



Current (Base)

Expected (Base)

Priced out of a move?


0 – 2

£30 – 40,000

£45 – 55,000



2 - 4

£50 – 60,000

£70 – 75,000



3 – 5

£70 – 75,000

£90 – 95,000



7 – 10

£90 – 125,000

£110 – 150,000




£120 – 145,000

£140 – 180,000




£150 – 300,000



We are often approached by the market regarding benchmarking, i.e. can we put a number to a title or role.In truth this is difficult, the spreads are broad as evidenced above and there are many factors at play, such as, size of firm, stage of development/funding, location etc. As such, we often provide 3 numbers – the salary we’d expect the candidate to be earning today; the number that you should expect to have to offer to move them; and then a number that you could offer existing employees to disincentivise a move – and this is the last column above.

It’s worth noting perhaps that in the Senior category, it’s hard to price someone out without offering more than market, and the same at 3-5 years.  Most firms would choose not to do this but some might think that an additional £5,000 is a small sum to pay in return for loyalty and longevity.

By Andrew Cook, Head of Europe, Headcount


For further information please contact Andrew Cook at: