Right Sales Force Size? Ask your Customer

July 31, 2012 at 9:15 AM

A sales leader recognizes the direct link between driving revenue and accurate Sales Force Sizing.  If you want to hit your number in 2013 you better get your headcount right.  The size of your sales force not only affects your sales team, but most importantly it impacts your customers.  If your Resource Planning doesn’t properly align with your Sales Strategy and most importantly take into account the how your customers actually want to buy, revenue will stagnate or worse - profitability will decline.

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The smart sales leader understands the dynamics between proper sizing and performance. Problems can surface if you grow your sales force too aggressively.  New salespeople need time to learn the company’s offerings, markets and selling process as well as establish customer relationships. Adding too many too quick will drive down overall productivity and affect the bottom-line.  On the other hand, if your sales force is too small you won’t close all the sales opportunities that could have been yours with proper staffing.  So how do you size your Sales force for success? A systematic process for correctly sizing your sales force involves the following three steps:  Assess, Determine & Implement.

Three Steps to Determine Headcount resized 600

Assess Current Size

You can quickly assess the current size of your sales force by performing the following five tests:

  • Customer Test
  • Sales Force Morale Test
  • Selling Activities Test
  • Competitive Position Test
  • Financial Test

Customer Test

The voice of the customer provides invaluable insight into the proper sizing of your sales force.  One way to determine whether your sales force is the right size is to find out what your customer thinks.  Question:  Do you know how your customer wants to interact with your sales force?  The answer is critical to properly allocating headcount.  Surveys can be leveraged to measure current customer’s viewpoint and its impact on your Resource Planning.  The table below illustrates common remarks that offer important signals that your sales force size is either too big or too small.

Customer Comments on Sales Force Sizing resized 600

A good example of headcount gone awry is the Pharmaceutical Industry.  Physicians were increasingly expressing their annoyance over the amount sales calls they got from pharmaceutical reps.  In a 2007 survey, over 90% of physicians and other healthcare professionals expressed sales rep fatigue.  Some doctors indicated they were visited by more than 20 different reps each day.  Listening to the voice of their customer, companies such as Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly dramatically cut the number of reps (2004-2007) and sought more efficient ways to maximize a smaller sales force for improved interaction with their physician clients.

Call to Action

Are you listening to the voice of your customer?  Have you surveyed your customers and prospects lately?  If not, it’s time to.  Pull three lists together: (1) current customers, (2) suspects/prospects and (3) lost deals.  Reach out to all three and ask them why you won or lost the deal, how they prefer to interact with your sales force, what they value in the exchange with a rep, etc.  The insight will be invaluable and you will have great insight into how many feet on the street you need.

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Topics: sales strategy, Sales Force Sizing, Resource Planning

Posted by George de los Reyes

George de los Reyes
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