The historically end of year, work blocking, guesstimate laden "we need to make the numbers work" chore of sales capacity planning actually holds a role of being fundamentally important to business success, and grossly under utilised as a success driver.
At its core, sales capacity planning simply refers to the strategic process of predicting and managing the resources your sales team needs to meet committed sales targets. The reality is that it's waaaaaaay more complex than how it appears on the surface.
The complexities originate from the multifaceted nature of sales operations, and the continual balance necessary between marketing, varied sales roles, and shifting business metrics.
It's the pursuit of this balance (and the approach to find it) that many businesses are getting wrong.
Navigating the Sales Role Spectrum: AEs, SDRs, and Hybrid Salespeople
The sales roles in an organization, from Account Executives (AEs) to Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) to hybrid salespeople, form a varied mix of competencies. Each role brings unique skills and focuses on different aspects of the sales process, creating an delicate fabric of responsibilities.
Account Executives, typically responsible for closing deals, are often the revenue drivers, where their capacity correlates to the size and number of deals they can handle (this is not the same as quota). On the other hand, SDRs, by qualifying leads and setting up sales appointments, function as the lifeblood of the sales pipeline. Hybrid sales roles, with their flexible involvement in both prospecting and closing, add another layer of complexity to sales capacity planning, however approaches within a territory are typically tied to either AE/SDR combo or hybrid only.
Efficient capacity planning must account for the distinct roles and adjust accordingly, as the balance can shift based on the company's strategy, sales structure, and as we've recently seen, market conditions.
An example of flexing capacity to company need, during a new product launch, the company might need to ramp up SDRs to generate new leads. Conversely, a focus on upselling to existing customers might necessitate an increase in AEs or hybrid sales roles if upsells are handled by sales, or Commercial Account Managers if handled by CS.
Changing Metrics: Deal Sizes, Lengths, and Conversion Rates
Whilst navigating sales role dynamics is already a pretty substantial task, integrating constantly shifting business metrics—such as deal sizes, deal lengths, and conversion rates—adds a whole additional layer of complexity, and one that can be pretty difficult to model.
An increase in average deal size might signal the need for more experienced AEs who can navigate larger, more complex deals, and might not necessarily result in the same percentage uplift in revenue - Simply doubling a deal size won't double revenues unless the volume of deals (and leads) that a sales person both receives and can handle remains the same. It's more likely that increased deal sizes will result in higher revenues, but somewhere in-between current & the percentage deal size increase.
Longer deal lengths might demand additional support staff to manage sustained relationships, and so can serve to pull revenue out of quarters reducing reportable performance (even though the actual revenue isn't lost).
Fluctuating conversion rates, meanwhile, might indicate the need to adjust the number of SDRs or hybrid salespeople focused on lead generation, and should be closely monitored to ensure that the volume of leads flowing to sales remains sufficient to hit the end revenue targets.
Striking the Right Balance: Marketing and Sales
Creating harmony between marketing and sales is another crucial piece of the capacity planning puzzle. Marketing plays a pivotal role in lead generation, directly influencing the number and quality of prospects for the sales team. Efficient sales capacity planning requires a keen understanding of marketing strategies, targets, and results, and an ability to adjust sales resources accordingly.
A surge in marketing might result in a massive influx of leads, necessitating an increase in SDRs for lead qualification, or AEs for deal closing. Conversely, a reduction in marketing activities might mean scaling back sales capacity.
How the hell do I model this?
The reality is that unless you're in the top 0.1% of spreadsheet users, and you have an intricate understanding of the revenue formulas & sales science, you're unlikely to be able to model this in a way where you can understand all of the risks, routes and outcomes.
Even if you can, you'd still have to then link it up with live data to get a constant view of projected future revenue performance that keeps you up to date with the constantly changing picture of business performance.
Finding the balance is difficult, but not impossible, with the real challenge in needing to constantly find a new balancing point as the business and markets evolve - This is where technology can really help, outside of the mess of spreadsheets.
Here at Clevenue we recognise how difficult it can be to find the balance, and how frequently businesses can be thrown off it. We're changing the way businesses capacity plan, by linking live data & advanced models, making the science of sales and the formula of revenue easy and accessible to all.
What is sales capacity planning?
Sales capacity planning is the process of predicting and managing the resources your sales team needs to meet forecasted sales targets.
Why is sales capacity planning important?
Efficient sales capacity planning ensures optimal utilization of sales resources, enhances sales performance, and aids in achieving business goals.
How does sales capacity planning interact with changing business metrics?
Sales capacity planning must adapt to changing business metrics like deal sizes, deal lengths, and conversion rates, as these can signal the need for different resources or adjustments in sales strategies.
What role does marketing play in sales capacity planning?
Marketing directly influences sales capacity planning as it affects the number and quality of leads for the sales team. An efficient sales capacity plan must account for marketing strategies, targets, and results, and adjust sales resources accordingly.