May 112012

Right Sizing your Sales Force

Right Sizing: The Secret Sauce to Right Sizing your Sales Force

Right Sizing:  By George de los Reyes on Tue, May 01, 2012

Our sales consulting firm is often asked to help companies right size their sales force.   The goal of these engagements is to match our client’s selling capacity to the market opportunity that exists for their product or solution.  In this blog post I want to give you our secret sauce and outline our methodology for aligning the sales force size to market potential.

The first step in a sizing analysis is to understand where the client’s industry, company, product and sales organization are in their life cycles.  For our purposes we consider three life-cycle stages: Growth, Maturity and Decline.  We often find stage misalignment that inevitably causes disconnect between the overall sales strategy and the environment our client is operating in.  The net result is unrealized revenue goals.

The second step in a sizing exercise is to assess current state.  In this phase, we seek to understand where our client falls on the Sales Force Maturity Curve.  Sale force maturity ranges from Level 1 (chaotic) to Level 5 (Predictable).  A sales  organization’s place on the curve correlates directly with their ability to implement change, a necessary output of a sizing exercise.

In addition to assessing their maturity level, we also look for insight into how our client determined headcount in the past.  There are several common mistakes companies make when trying to determine headcount.  Ignoring market dynamics and focusing solely on cost & affordability, many of our clients…

  • Maintain sales force size to keep costs at a constant percentage of sales
  • Split a territory as soon as it hits a threshold
  • Add heads only when results generated are enough to increase investment
  • Do not add new headcount to pursue new opportunities
  • Reduce headcount to ‘pay’ for investments in sales force productivity
  • Keep headcount the same if the current size worked last year

The third step in accurately sizing your sales force is conducting a series of tests to assess the current sales force size.

After assessing the current size of your sales force, the next step is to use one of the market-driven sizing methods to determine the optimal size of your sales force.  There are various models; we recommend the following three:

  1. Activity method
  2. Pipeline method
  3. Return per call method

Once you have determined your optimal headcount, the fifth step in right-sizing your sales force is determining the growth model that best applies. There are several ways to implement resource changes.  Here are three:

  1. Rapid Build – deploy complete change in size all at once.  Best used in low risk, low uncertainty situations
  2. Safety Build – deploy half in one period and the other half in another period. The period is equal to sales cycle length plus rep ramp time to full productivity.
  3. Invest as You Go – allow incremental revenue to fund the addition of sales heads.  Most conservative strategy and reserved for high risk, low certainty situations.

The sixth and final step in sizing project is developing a Change Management Plan.  Adding or cutting headcount is disruptive to a sales organization.  Crafting a plan that addresses the potential resistance to change is critical to the overall success of the sizing exercise.  Our Change Management planning begins day one with our client and is reinforced as the project progresses.  See my previous blog post for tips on executing a Change Management Plan.

So there you have it… the secret sauce.


To Discuss how these Solutions will add value for you, your organization and/or your clients, Affinity/Resale Opportunities, and/or Collaborative Efforts, Please Contact:

Tom McDonald,; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

right sizing, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC