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  • Writer's pictureAlex Handsaker

What is Capital Efficiency and how does it affect Sales Planning?

capital efficiency revenue

Now we're well and truly out of the post-covid boom, the great resignation and (almost out of the) constant wave of tech layoffs, capital efficiency has emerged as a pivotal factor that can make or break an organization's success.

Growth at all costs is dead for now, and it's no longer sufficient to simply generate revenue; businesses must do so in a manner that optimally utilizes their resources.

Capital efficiency essentially gauges how effectively a company can grow its revenue using the least amount of capital, let's dive into what it means for you and most importantly how you build plans that tick the box.

Understanding Capital Efficiency

Capital efficiency, in the simplest terms, is the ratio of how much a company is spending to grow its revenue against the amount it actually earns in return. It provides a lens to examine how efficiently a business is utilizing its cash to fuel its growth. Sometimes, it's also referred to as Return on Capital Employed (ROCE).

A common misconception is that a robust growth rate is synonymous with capital efficiency, however, achieving a healthy growth rate doesn't automatically make a business capital efficient - A company might demonstrate impressive growth multiples, but if it has been spending exorbitantly to achieve this growth, it wouldn't be deemed capital efficient.

The Significance of Capital Efficiency

1. Preparedness for Economic Downturns

Capital efficiency fortifies a business against periods of economic instability, If your company is capital efficient, it indicates that it can operate (for a while at least) without needing additional outside capital. With VP funding drying up to an extent due to rising interest rates, the ability to extend burn has become critical to survival.

2. Attracting Investor Interest

Investors themselves are increasingly prioritizing capital efficiency in their investment strategies and theses, especially in an economic climate that's seeing constricted investment budgets. Companies demonstrating sound spending decisions and high capital efficiency invariably rise to the top of investment priorities - demonstrating capital efficiency can position your business as a sustainable and profitable bet for venture capitalists.

3. Sustainable Growth Strategy

Capital efficiency doesn't just keep your business afloat during economic downturns; it equips your business with an agile approach that can adapt to various growth and financing strategies. This adaptability can make weathering future economic slumps significantly easier and contribute to a sustainable and long-term growth strategy.

Capital Efficiency Metrics: The Yardsticks of Success

While capital efficiency is a broad concept with numerous ways to measure it, certain key metrics can provide a comprehensive understanding. Let's look at five crucial metrics that investors often consider:

1. Burn Multiple

Burn Multiple measures the amount a company is spending to earn each incremental dollar of Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR). It's calculated by dividing net cash burn by net new ARR for a specific time period. This metric reveals several aspects of a company's financial health and flags potential issues on the balance sheet.

2. Rule of 40

The Rule of 40 is a balance of growth and profitability that has been correlated with higher valuation to revenue multiples. Simply calculated by adding YoY Growth rate to your EBITDA margin, the aim is for the combined percentage to be greater than 40%.

By measuring the Rule of 40, you learn about the proportion of growth to profitability, how attractive your company is to investors, and the sustainability of your growth in the long term.

3. Venture Capital Efficiency Ratio

The Venture Capital Efficiency Ratio is essentially a measure of return on capital that compares a company's exit valuation to its total capital raised. Although a lagging metric, it can be instrumental in analyzing past performance to identify areas of improvement for the future.

4. Return on Invested Capital (ROIC)

ROIC assesses financial efficiency by comparing the cost of capital with the output or return on capital. By maintaining a high ROIC, companies can discern if the activities they invest in are worth the investment.

5. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) Ratio

The CAC Ratio measures Sales and Marketing efficiency by dividing net new ARR by customer acquisition cost (CAC). This metric indicates the efficiency of Sales and marketing spend to acquire growth.

The Role of Sales Planning in Capital Efficiency

Sales planning plays a crucial role in capital efficiency, however, it's not as straightforward as it seems. The changing dynamics of the market, fluctuating lead volumes, and varying deal sizes all add layers of complexity to the planning process.

The traditional approach of dividing a company's revenue target by each salesperson's goal is no longer effective, and today a more sophisticated, data-driven approach to sales capacity planning is needed - one that adapts to shifting market conditions and keeps the business on track toward its revenue targets.

Understanding Sales Roles: SDRs and AEs

Before beginning sales headcount planning, a base level understanding of the modern sales roles in play and their responsibilities in the sales organization is essential.

Built for efficiency, the divide between SDR and AE roles was originally built with a factory line approach of handling leads and opportunities, however now it should be seen as a specialisation between lead generating and opportunity handling.

Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) are responsible for prospecting, nurturing potential leads, and ensuring a steady flow of qualified prospects to Account Executives (AEs), who focus on closing deals and driving revenue.

Some approaches have treated SDR teams as a pure cost centre, believing that they are simply supplemental to the existing AE teams. The reality is that without explicitly hiring for 360 AE's (i.e. AE's that will source and close all of their own business), your sales teams are unlikely to be effectively skilled or equipped to do the full 360 sales role - This means that your planning needs to tread a delicate balance if switching things up.

Building Sales Teams: Balancing Marketing and Sales Roles

When building sales teams, striking the right balance between marketing and different sales roles is crucial. As the cost of marketing increases in a business, the case for using SDR teams to generate opportunity increases. Naturally as marketing volumes increase, it should be expected that the current average costs are going to be largely unsustainable (with economies of scale unfortunately not being a thing with ad spend!) and so should be intensively monitored and scenario tested as time goes on.

Revenue Targets and Capacities

Historically seen simply as a quota capacity, the revenue formula behind capacity planning has evolved considerably to be more complex, and reflective of real-life capacities. A bottom up approach to capacity planning is a crucial, considering both the Opportunity Generation Capacity, which is a function of your marketing and outbound capabilities, and Revenue Closing Capacity, which is the capacity of your teams to handle the volume of opportunities needed to reach the target.

The Impact of Market Dynamics

Market dynamics can wreak havoc with capital efficiency with macro factors such as changes in the economy, customer behavior, and industry trends all indirectly influencing a company's capital efficiency. These dynamics have a direct impact on things like sales cycle lengths, conversion rates & average deal sizes as businesses scramble to close what they can, all of which has a direct impact on the projected revenue of a plan.

Using Sales Capacity Planning Software for Efficiency Modelling

In light of the complexities of modern sales capacity planning, traditional spreadsheet methods are no longer sufficient. As dynamics shift, so do your sales KPIs, making it almost impossible to keep your plans up-to-date, and it becomes all to easy to be working to a plan that is no longer viable or successful.

"Checking back" to the plan is not only time consuming, but too sporadic in most businesses to be able to act as any kind of early-warning system that current planned approaches need change.

This is where dedicated sales capacity planning software, like Clevenue, comes into play. It connects the advanced models and approaches to sales capacity planning to live data in a platform that helps you quickly, and easily plan in a more capital efficient way.

Ultimately sales capacity planning software ensures that your plans are always pointing in the right direction - towards your revenue target. You can even start for free today


In a nutshell, capital efficiency is key to the growth and success of SaaS businesses. By understanding what it entails, measuring it through key metrics, considering the impact of market dynamics, and embracing the emerging tech of sales capacity planning software, you can optimize for capital efficiency, build robust sales teams, and ultimately drive revenue growth.


Q: What role does capital efficiency play in today's business landscape?

A: Where growth at all costs is largely no longer viable, capital efficiency has become a crucial factor for success. Businesses must focus on generating revenue while optimizing resource utilization.

Q: What is capital efficiency, and how is it measured?

A: Capital efficiency is the ratio of how much a company spends to grow its revenue compared to the amount it earns in return. It's also known as Return on Capital Employed (ROCE). This metric indicates how effectively a business uses its cash for growth.

Q: What's the significance of capital efficiency for businesses?

A: Capital efficiency provides various benefits:

  1. Economic Downturn Preparedness: It helps businesses operate without requiring additional outside capital during economic instability.

  2. Investor Interest: Investors prioritize capital efficiency as it reflects sound spending decisions and attractiveness for investment.

  3. Sustainable Growth: Capital efficiency equips businesses with an agile approach for sustainable and adaptable growth strategies.

Q: What are key metrics to measure capital efficiency?

A: Several metrics help gauge capital efficiency:

  1. Burn Multiple: Measures spending to earn each incremental dollar of Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR).

  2. Rule of 40: Balances growth and profitability, aiming for a combined percentage greater than 40%.

  3. Venture Capital Efficiency Ratio: Compares exit valuation to total capital raised.

  4. Return on Invested Capital (ROIC): Compares the cost of capital to return on capital.

  5. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) Ratio: Measures efficiency of Sales and Marketing spend for growth.

Q: How does sales planning contribute to capital efficiency?

A: Sales planning is vital, considering changing market dynamics, lead volumes, and deal sizes. Traditional methods of dividing revenue targets among salespeople are outdated. Data-driven sales capacity planning is needed to adapt to market shifts and meet revenue goals.

Q: What's the significance of understanding sales roles in capital efficiency?

A: Understanding modern sales roles, like SDRs and AEs, is essential for effective sales headcount planning. SDRs focus on lead generation, while AEs handle deal closing. A delicate balance is required for efficient results.

Q: How do you strike a balance between marketing and sales roles when building sales teams?

A: Striking the right balance between marketing and different sales roles is essential. As marketing costs rise, utilizing SDR teams for opportunity generation becomes more attractive. Monitoring marketing costs and scenario testing are crucial.

Q: How do you consider revenue targets and capacities in capital efficiency?

A: A bottom-up approach to capacity planning is important. Opportunity Generation Capacity depends on marketing and outbound capabilities, while Revenue Closing Capacity reflects a team's ability to handle necessary opportunities.

Q: What's the impact of market dynamics on capital efficiency?

A: Market dynamics influence capital efficiency, affecting factors like sales cycle lengths, conversion rates, and deal sizes. These dynamics directly impact projected revenue in a sales plan.

Q: How can sales capacity planning software enhance capital efficiency modelling?

A: Traditional spreadsheet methods are inadequate for modern sales capacity planning due to changing dynamics. Dedicated sales capacity planning software, like Clevenue, uses advanced models and live data to ensure plans are always accurate and aligned with revenue targets.


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