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  • Writer's pictureAlex Handsaker

Sales Capacity and Headcount Planning with ChatGPT

Capacity Planning AI

GTM Planning is hard. Maybe it’s your first time having to build a plan or perhaps you’re not the world’s most skilled Excel / Google Sheets user, either way, you need to figure out how you’re going to hit your revenue targets. So you do what any self-respecting B2B SaaS professional does in 2023, you ask ChatGPT of course.


And so, here’s our step-by-step guide on how to make the best GTM planning spreadsheet possible using ChatGPT and whether or not it actually works.


The First Take


I started with a relatively straightforward prompt…


Provide me with the steps to create a sales capacity and headcount plan in a spreadsheet for a B2B SaaS business.


The result? A bit of a false start to be honest, ChatGPT wrote me a pretty useless, totally vague 12 point guide on building a GTM plan which I'll spare you from reading.


At best it made some smart recommendations on things I should do without giving me any practical detail. At worst, it set me up to fail from the outset and made pretty major steps in the planning process appear as though they were extremely simple tasks. To save you the full 12 points, here are some highlights:


Define Sales Goals and Metrics, establish KPIs for the upcoming year and decide how you will measure success

Out of the gates GPT suggests I establish sales goals for the coming year across various KPIs. If the boom/bust of the global B2B SaaS market has taught us anything, it’s that top down planning like this does not work. All too often, the gap between ambition and reality is too large and results in plans that are totally unrealistic. Bad ChatGPT, bad!


Forecasting revenue based on historical data provides limited visibility only

Ah, yes! If only it was as easy as forecasting expected revenue for the entirety of the upcoming year. And while we’re at it, let’s predict exactly how the market will evolve along with our product in the next 12 months. Again, this is asking the impossible of us as sales leader nor does it actually help you to build a plan. Forecasting beyond the length of your average sales cycle is hard enough, how is anyone supposed to do that for an entire year?


However, it’s not all bad news. GPT did recommend I try my hand at scenario analysis to assess the impact of changes to my core KPIs on the rest of my plan, which is an approach that is more dynamic than most planning spreadsheets allow for. It also reminded me that such plans should not be static and need continuous adjustment, which is true…just hard to do in a spreadsheet designed for use once a year.

Back to the Prompt Drawing Board


Let’s take our original prompt and focus on more specific suggestions and avoiding those key mistakes we highlighted.

Provide me with a step-by-step guide to build a spreadsheet for sales capacity and headcount planning. The spreadsheet should be designed with the needs of a B2B SaaS business with a recurring revenue model in mind. Please avoid top-down planning and ambition-based goal-setting. Instead, build the plan in a more realistic way based on the actual unit economics of my sales function and allow me to factor in a percentage increases/decreases across the core KPIs that determine performance such as conversion rates, deal size, sales cycle etc. Do not factor any forecasting into the planning process.


Here’s what that gets you:


Breakdown of first steps to create a sales capacity plan; data gathering, KPI framing and analysis of current capacity

Better, closer, warmer. With the above prompt, the suggestions ChatGPT provides me are more detailed and definitely give me a better understanding of what needs to go into a robust planning spreadsheet. It demonstrates a sound understanding of what goes into Sales Capacity Analysis on a rep-by-rep basis and seems to have taken what I said regarding top down planning into account.


It also did something I really liked, it advised me to consider my budget in my planning.


Sales Team Budgeting

All too often this is an afterthought. Once a plan has targets, an annual hiring cadence and in general feels as though it adds up, the budget to realise it is shoehorned in.


But still, I’m not sure this output is something that a revenue leader could easily translate into a GTM plan. Whilst it’s specific in places i.e. when ChatGPT suggested a formula for me to use to calculate adjustments in my KPIs, it skims over big tasks that I’d likely need help from RevOps to complete as if they were minor steps along the way.


Third Time's a Charm


Not satisfied with the nature of the output, I change tack entirely and alter my prompt to ask for a template for sales capacity and headcount planning rather than a guide. Here’s what I ended up with.


Provide me with a spreadsheet template for sales capacity and headcount planning. The spreadsheet should be designed with the needs of a B2B SaaS business with a recurring revenue model in mind. Please make sure the template is NOT based on a top-down approach to planning or ambition-based goal-setting. Instead, build the template so I can plan in a more realistic way, based on the actual unit economics of my sales function. It should allow me to factor in percentage increases/decreases across the core KPIs that determine performance such as conversion rates, deal size, sales cycle etc.


Do not factor any forecasting into my planning process. It should build a plan based on capacity and historical trend data alone.


Drumroll please...

ChatGPT Table Output: smart but not useful

A nice looking set of tables that include spaces for all the right kinds of things such as KPIs, adjustment modifiers and historic data, but beyond copying this into a spreadsheet and using formulas to connect each of the elements, it’s not particularly helpful. Which kind of brings us back to square one, I need to get back into excel and build this using sophisticated formulae.


The Verdict


Here’s what ChatGPT is good for, with the right prompts it can provide you with some pretty solid recommendations for building a solid go-to-market strategy that approaches the topics of sales capacity and headcount planning quite intelligently. Unfortunately, from a practical standpoint the output from ChatGPT is lacking somewhat. Without any specific advice on how to actually build a spreadsheet for capacity planning at certain points it also starts reverting back to planning practices that we know don’t work but may catch less experienced revenue leaders off-guard. For this reason, using ChatGPT to create your commercial plan is not something we'd recommend.


Closing Thoughts


So what’s a revenue leader to do? You either turn to the same old broken spreadsheets you’ve used before or you implement one of the well traipsed and critically flawed templates that already exist. But there’s only so far you can get in most spreadsheets, namely through a lack of flexibility and the ease at which you can make mistakes in calculations.


Here are two better alternatives.

  1. Download the free Clevenue Capacity Planning spreadsheet template. It’s the best spreadsheet out there but it’s still a spreadsheet and won’t help you in 6 months when reality has deviated drastically from the plan.

  2. Try building your plan in our purpose-built platform for GTM planning. You can get started on a free 30-day trial and we can walk you through how to build a flawless, dynamic plan in no time.


FAQs

Q: What is the purpose of a Sales Capacity and Headcount Planning Spreadsheet?

A: It helps B2B SaaS businesses plan and manage their sales teams effectively by factoring in realistic adjustments to important performance metrics like deal size, sales cycle and conversion rates.


Q: Why should SaaS businesses avoid top-down planning and ambition-based goal-setting?

A: Top-down planning often leads to unrealistic sales targets due to them being based on outside ambitions rather than historical performance. Realistic planning based on actual unit economics and historical trend data is more effective.


Q: How can scenario analysis be utilized for Sales Capacity and Headcount Planning?

A: Scenario analysis assesses the impact of changes in core KPIs on sales capacity and revenue projections, identifying potential risks and opportunities for sales teams.


Q: What considerations should B2B SaaS businesses make for budgeting in their planning process?

A: Including budget considerations early ensures that the plan aligns with financial constraints and prevents last-minute adjustments that could lead to failure.


Q: Are there alternatives to traditional spreadsheet-based planning for Sales Capacity and Headcount?

A: Yes, purpose-built platforms like Clevenue offer more flexibility and dynamic planning capabilities for intelligent and adaptable plans.

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