Sales Force Sizing

Over the past thirty years our team has helped companies size their sales forces in the US, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America. 

We take an integrated approach to sales force sizing. This combines an analysis of the size, structure and selling effort allocation. We have found that these three dimensions need to be analyzed together. When one changes the others may need to change too. For example, the optimum allocation of effort changes as the headcount changes; and an appropriate team structure at a certain headcount may not be viable at a smaller headcount.

Our approach is also uniquely collaborative. We’re acutely aware that any mention of “team sizing” will often cause a ripple of angst through the sales organization. To deal with this we have developed a process that combines deep analysis with collaborative workshops.

Contact us for a demonstration and to discuss your business objectives

Insights From Thirty Years of Global Sales Force Sizing Projects

“Don’t Use “Sales-per-Rep” To Determine Headcount”

This is the most common mistake made when discussing changes to sales force headcount. Someone comes up with a magic number that they think each rep should be generating in sales (maybe based on a competitor or another division). They divide sales by this magic number to come up with the headcount. The problem with this approach is that it reverses the cause-and-effect relationship. It lets sales determine the rep effort. It should be the other way around. The sales force should determine the sales.

Also, there’s no correct “sales-per-rep” ratio. Should it be $1m per rep; why not $2m per rep; then why not $5m per rep. 

Finally, if you try and improve this ratio you’ll always be nudged in the direction of reducing the sales force headcount.

“Focus On The Productivity of the Last Rep”

What would happen if you increased the headcount by one person? Which customers would they visit (and how often)? Would this person have enough to do? If you decreased the headcount by one person would the impact be significant?

These types of questions are much better than looking at the average “sales-per-rep”. We should know the fully-loaded annual cost of a rep. By analyzing the marginal return for each rep we can calculate the ROI at different headcounts. This isn’t trivial to calculate but Cozmix’s SizeMix software automatically calculates it for you.

“Mine The Data For Historical Relationship (But Don’t Depend Entirely On Historical Data When Making Decisions)”

Historical data analysis is wonderful when used appropriately.

Historical data analysis should always be carried out as part of a Sales Force Optimization project. The aim of the analysis is to understand the historical cause-and-effect relationship (e.g. how call frequency impacted the likelihood of a customer using your product). This is often a good starting point for any analysis. However, no matter how good the analysis, it’s still measuring the historical relationship.

The mistake some make is to use this relationship to make decisions about the future. This has two problems. The relationship might change in the future. For example in pharmaceuticals, the market dynamics will fundamentally change if a major competitor loses patent protection and goes generic. Secondly, simply applying a historical model doesn’t engage the stakeholders. It is likely such an approach will be challenged and is less likely to be implemented.

Cozmix understands this. We carry out deep historical data analysis — but we also engage stakeholders to assess how the market dynamics will change in the coming years. This results in an outcome that has broad support in the organization.

“Take Into Account The Multi-Year Impact Of Today’s Selling Effort”

For any mature sales organization the total annual sales are not all dependent on the sales forces’ effort that year. The sales have been built up over many years. This is the long-term effect of selling. The sales momentum, or carryover, varies depending upon what you’re selling. Some products and brands have a high carryover (e.g. highly differentiated brands), while others have a low carryover (e.g. commodity products). This multi-year dynamic is missed if a sales organization is assessed simply on one year.

We recommend a multi-year analysis, ideally at the brand level. This can increase the complexity of the analysis, but Cozmix’s SizeMix software handles the heavy lifting, giving you more time to focus on the big-picture.

“Use Sensitivity Analysis to Test the Robustness Of The Conclusions and Build Confidence In The Final Recommendations”

The main objective of any of our Sales Force Sizing and Optimization projects isn’t to build a perfect model, it’s to bring all the stakeholders together to support a recommendation. We have found one of the best ways to build confidence in recommendations is to test the model with sensitivity analysis. Here are some of the questions we often ask:

  • What is the impact on headcount if the the sales potential of each brand is reduced by 30%?
  • How sensitive are the recommendations to rep cost? Would a 10% increase in rep cost have a significant impact?
  • How bad is a six-month delay to the launch of the new brand?
  • What if the new brands grow at half the expected rate?

“Partner With The Right Company”

As we’ve already said, Sales Force Sizing isn’t just about mathematical modeling. It’s about leading the stakeholders to a recommendation that everyone can support. This task is not trivial. Sometimes there are tough decisions to be made. Some people could be threatened by potential re-allocations of selling effort. Often there are smokescreens thrown up to try to confuse the situation.  This is where an external perspective is so valuable. They can sit above the politics, challenge the stakeholders and facilitate the process. This is why you need to partner with the right team, who have the right tools and experience to deliver the results you need. 

Our approach is uniquely collaborative. We utilize cutting-edge tools to do the heavy lifting and create high-impact graphics, and we have the experience to manage and facilitate even the most complex project.

When it comes to Sale Force Sizing, it’s too important to take a chance. Partner with Cozmix to ensure you make a rational decision that everyone can support.

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