The
Sales Capacity Plan
Clevenue's ultimate how to guide on sales capacity planning, from key rules, assumptions and formulas to free templates.
Sales capacity, quota setting and sales planning in general is sorely misunderstood and miscalculated, with internet guides and leadership programmes promoting all kinds of formulas that encourage planning behaviours that only lead to missed targets and overspend.
Instead, we've gone back to basics to work out the real maths behind revenue planning, creating a new set of revenue formulas that you can use and trust, that we'll break down the why and how.
The below guide is a comprehensive guide to the sales capacity plan, covering off some key rules to follow, the maths, some of the modeling, and some of the logic behind a realistic sales capacity plan, as well as how you use it to drive targets, and not the other way around.
Grab yourself a coffee and a biscuit before starting as it's around 30 minutes of reading time, however it goes deep on the formulas and concepts so you might need longer!
Use the jumps below to skip to any of the key sections:
Let's dive in.
What is Sales Capacity?
Don't worry, this guide ramps up very quickly, but it makes sense to realign your potential knowledge out the gates. For the purpose of this guide, Sales Capacity is a measure of how much capacity a sales rep has to do the work required to generate revenue from opportunity. Based off their working week, it should account for time spent doing any of the following activities, even if they don't lead to revenue:

Generating Opportunity

People Managing (i.e. leading a team)

Qualifying Opportunity

Managing & Closing Opportunities

Account Managing Clients
Any of the above activities may form part of someone's role, however the more time that is needed on activities outside of managing and converting opportunities into Closed Won revenue, the less actual capacity is available in a form that maps to quota.
What is a Sales Capacity Plan?
A Sales Capacity Plan is a model of what capacity your business has do to all of the activities that are required in order to generate revenue, and how it maps against your people, their roles and your future plans covering marketing and people hiring.
This includes:

Opportunity generated through planned marketing

Qualifying marketing opportunities via SDRs or AEs

Understanding what additional pipeline is needed to reach target

What pipeline is generated by the current team

What additional marketing or sales hiring is needed close the gap
Notice how quota isn't mentioned anywhere above? For good reason, but we'll come back to that in a mo.
The sales capacity plan should be one of the most intricate models that is built, and given that revenue generation is pretty much the lifeblood of businesses (especially post ZIRP era), not dedicating appropriate time to this part of planning is a sure fire way to miss targets.
So we've got the basics down and we'll come back to them all shortly, however there's a few key rules you should follow if you want to build a plan that actually works (and not just ticks a box for finance/exec):
Sales Capacity Golden Rules
There's no rules that exist when it comes to planning sales capacity, but we feel that there should be. These rules act as guardrails for your process, and everyone involved from building through to interrogating and signing off on the plan should know, understand and accept these rules.
Doing so helps you to build a plan that actually works, instead of something that simply ticks a box:
Rule 1: Quota Coverage ≠ Capacity
The single most misunderstood part of sales planning, and one of the leading reasons behind businesses over committing, over hiring and over spending on sales teams. When you hear of sales teams at 5060% attainment your first thought shouldn't be to question the skills of the sales teams, it should be to ask if there was ever justification for a team of it's size.
Quota coverage is like a fuel tank in a car. It's a representation of both how much fuel the car can hold, and based on an average MPG, you can estimate how far you can travel.
Let's assume that you have a car that can hold enough fuel to travel 1000 miles.
If you half fill that car, you will travel 500 miles. Adding more cars to the fleet will not increase how far you can travel  EVERYONE will break down at 500 miles if everyone gets a full tank.
Even better, lets say you have 5 full tanks of fuel and 10 cars.
Now every additional car that you add is going to reduce the amount in each car even further: If I add 10 more cars (so 20 cars in total) I now have 1/4 of a tank for each car, and each car will travel 250 miles.
You would have to be stupid to blame the cars here right? This is where we'll stop...
The solution?
Reduce the fleet of cars down to 5, so that your 5 tanks of fuel fully fill the 5 cars. Now you have 5 cars that each can reach 1000 miles. (And aren't paying for the cost of the additional 15 cars...)
It all makes so much sense when put this way, right?
Rule 2: Assumptions in = Bad data out
We all know that bad data in = bad data out, however bad assumptions can quickly kill a plan also. Much like the above, the problem is that you don't realise that you've killed your plan until your progress starts to diverge from what you expect, and by then it's too late. Bad assumptions are in effect the worst kind of bad data as the assumptions are very deliberately chosen.
This means that when it comes to your assumptions, you should be very careful about which ones you make, and why, and ensure that you always keep sight of how they compare to actual performance.
Even better is to not use assumptions  Create your baseline plan based solely on actuals, and if you're aiming to improve certain KPI's, create additional scenarios that unlock new routes.
Only once the business is achieving the elevated KPIs should you actually move from plan A to plan X.
And what happens if you ignore this rule? Let's play out a scenario:
The SDR team generate 50% of the current pipeline, however we're hiring enablement so we believe that they are going to be twice as effective (lol) as before, and so generate all of the pipeline. This means that we can cut marketing budget, and there's no need for additional hires.
Fast forward 6 months and the increase is a 20% performance increase (awesome)
But we'd accounted for 100% increase (guh)
Instead of generating 100% of the required pipeline, you're generating 60% and the remaining is simply missing as you didn't hire, and you cut marketing spend.
You're already 6 months through the year and depending on how fast your sales cycle is, you might not even be able to recover in time to overachieve Q4 enough to save the year (not only would you need to hit 100% over Q3 & Q4, but you need to make up for 50% in Q1 & Q2)
You can now make a far more sensible assumption in that you're not going to hit any more than 50% of the annual target. Great. (Not).
Rule 3: Scenario Test the Bounds of Bad Data
Bad data can't be avoided, but all data comes with a degree of confidence, and this is at least a starting point. Whilst the above rule about assumptions is based on outperforming the current state, there might be certain parts where you have to assume a data point that is based off a current trend, and not just wishful thinking.
In this case, it's not unreasonable to create an assumption, however you need to understand both sides of the coin.
Scenario testing your plans helps you to understand every eventuality, helping you to build contingency into your plan and to move faster when things don't go as expected.
To do this, for each unsure KPI, you should create some reasonable bounds and scenario test each of them, with an appropriate plan in place for every scenario, especially in the worst case direction.
For example:
Conversion rate between Stage 2 and Closed Won is all over the place, but we think it could be 17% on average.
We feel confident that it's at least 10%
It could be as high as 22%
We should create a plan based off 17% conversion
A new plan off a scenario that is using 10% conversion
An additional plan that is based off 22% conversion
Then you should closely monitor and track the KPI, updating the plan or moving between scenarios as the picture of the accurate figure becomes clearer.
Side note: This is naturally more difficult to do in spreadsheets (due to the permutations), it can take seconds in our planning sandboxes however.
Rule 4: Finish Planning Before the Sales Cycle Starts
Are you planning for a full year, or just the final 3 quarters?
For many tech & SaaS businesses, planning season doesn't kick off until Q4, and doesn't often conclude until right at the end of it, which is problematic.
Let's say that you have an (optimistic) sales cycle of 3 months  Everything that you do today will count towards your targets in 3 months time, and no sooner.
But what if as part of the planned efforts you need to hire? You can add an additional 2 months onto that, plus time to ramp.
Here's the problem with planning in annual cycles: You're starting too late.
Even with a 3 month sales cycle, any plan that requires hiring sales to reach a sales target requires a 56 month run up.
If you work to a calendar year, it means that to hit a January target you need to have plans finalised in June/July. Your February relies on certainty in July/August, and your entire Q1 is missed if your planning doesn't finish by August/September!
This means that if you're wrapping up planning in November/December you may as well write off the entirety of H1, and this means that any revenue growth is going to have to be found in H2. If by then things like sales cycles or conversion rates have shifted, you might find yourself needing a new plan or even worse, up s*** creek without much of a paddle.
Rule 5: Hire for Capacity in the Correct Areas
Right at the start of the guide we covered what sales capacity is, and what it means in terms of planning, but this is one of the most critical areas (along with understanding that quota ≠ revenue)
Hiring for capacity in the right areas means understanding all of the tasks of the sales and retention process, and designing a effective and efficient team around it.
A key thing to define is what you mean by efficient  Do you care about the overall time, quality or cost to do a task?
Sure, a Senior Account Executive (AE) might be better than a Senior Sales Development Rep (SDR), however if you're paying an AE twice the amount of salary as an SDR, where does it make sense getting an AE to do work that could be done by an SDR?
Let's give an example:

You pay an AE $2,000 a week

You pay an SDR $1,000 a week
To generate 2 opportunities

It takes the AE 2 days

It takes the SDR 2.5 days
That means that per opportunity it costs

$333 for the AE

$200 for the SDR
Are the leads from the AE really worth the 65% premium? Especially when it reduces how many concurrent opportunities they are able to handle?
Even worse...
An AE carries a $700K quota, and they had an SDR supporting them (generating 4 opportunities a week). The SDR team were laid off as they weren't quota carrying, on the basis that the AE teams could prospect.
To achieve the same volume of leads (4 a week) the AE will need to spend 4/5 days of their time prospecting, leaving one day to managing pipeline.
Based on the old quota of $700k, each working day was equivalent to being able to handle $700K/5 of quota, so with one day left for handling and closing revenue, their new capacity is worth $140K of quota...
OK it's way more complex and nuanced than that, however the overall premise is hard to argue.
Going back to hiring for sales capacity in the right areas, it means understanding the following:

How many opportunities do we need to generate to hit company target?

How many of these opportunities should come from marketing?

How many of these opportunities should come from AEs?

How many SDRs do we need for the remaining gap?

How many opportunities can an AE handle concurrently?

How many AE's do we need throughout the year to hit goal?
From here you then design your roles to cover each of the capacities, and then calculate how many of each role you need throughout the year.
Calculating Sales Capacity
Breaking down the maths of sales capacity and quota isn't difficult, however it involves looking at the maths of your business completely differently to how you've done so previously.
This is not about calculating targets  This is about understanding how much revenue can be generated, and the definition is very simple:
Sales Capacity is the volume of sales activities that a sales person is capable of carrying out as part of their usual duties
Whilst for quota bearing reps it's typically represented as their quota  It is actually a calculation of the end output of doing all of the activities that can be achieved at capacity, at average performance.
What this means:
Sales Capacity  Activities

Lead generation

Lead qualification

Opportunity managing

Opportunity closing
All of these are handled by the business, and will carry an average performance across the team generating the following data points:
Sales Capacity  Activity Data Points

Average Conversion Rates

Average Deal Lengths

Average Deal Sizes
These then stack up to give the equivalent revenue, from doing all of these activities.
Sales Capacity Formulas
It's time to get technical so don't worry if it doesn't click first time round (and if you struggle reach out to me), here are some new formulas that don't seem to have been put to paper before, so we'll take the time to explain how it's all derived.
Because sales capacity and quota setting are inherently linked, and quotas are set to cover a whole year of revenue, the maths is designed to cover a year period, or the annual sales capacity of reps.
Calculating Annual Number of Sales Cycles
This is the number of sales cycles that can occur within a year, based on the time it takes to open and close a deal. If you had a 12 month sales cycle, this would mean that you could only work through one sales cycle per year. If you had a 6 month sales cycle you could run through 2 cycles back to back.
The maths for this is simple:
Number of Sales Cycles = Working Weeks (Annually) / Average Deal Length (Weeks)
Example:
Number of Sales Cycles = 48 Working Weeks / 12 Week Average Deal Length = 4 Sales Cycles
There's a few things that you need to take into account however:
Working Weeks are the total number of weeks that a sales rep is available for work, and so is likely to be:
Working Weeks (Annually) = 52 Weeks (Annually)  [ Holidays (Weeks) + Other Absences (Weeks) ]
Example:
Working Weeks (Annually) = 52 Weeks Per Year  [ 4 Holiday Weeks  0 Other ) = 48 Working Weeks
Calculating Sales Rep Capacity per Cycle
We've calculated how many cycles a sales rep can go through per year, now you need to calculate how many opportunities they can handle concurrently in each cycle.
Again, the maths for this is simple:
Sales Capacity = Sales Working Hours (Weekly) / Weekly time spent per opportunity (Hours)
It's important to note that the unit of measurement for sales capacity in this formula is opportunities.
Let's look at some example maths:
Sales Capacity (Opps per Week) = 33 sales hours / 1.5 hours per opportunity = 22 Opportunities
This maths is looking at how many hours a rep has that they can dedicate to activity that turns opportunities into revenue, covering everything like:

Discovery calls

Demo calls

Proposal writing

Follow up

All other deal linked activity
Where we define sales working hours, we're meaning the weekly working hours less any hours lost to non opportunity handling work, this means you should exclude pipeline generation from this.
Sales Working Hours = Working Hours  [ Time in nonsales meetings + Prospecting + Other Admin ]
Example maths:
Sales working hours = 40 hours  ( 2 hours of meetings + 4 hours prospecting + 1 other ) = 33 sales hours
Calculating capacity (and subsequently quota) means that you can put a dollar cost on internal meetings (like 1:1's, standups etc.) as well as on prospecting.
When using our calculator you can see how increasing the requirement for a rep to prospect decreases their capacity to handle pipeline opportunities. This means that there's a real business case to not having your best reps handle prospecting, and instead using SDRs.
Calculating Total Annual Sales Rep Capacity
We've calculated how many cycles a sales rep can go through per year, now you need to calculate how many opportunities they can handle concurrently in each cycle.
Again, the maths for this is simple:
Sales Capacity (Annual) = Sales Capacity (Weekly Opps) X Number of annual Sales Cycles
The unit of measurement for sales capacity in this formula is annual opportunities.
Example maths:
Sales Capacity (Annual) = 22 Opps Weekly X 4 Annual Sales Cycles = 88 Opportunities Annually
So now you have a capacity figure for how many sales opportunities can be handled throughout the year. It's worth recognising that this is maximum capacity  Having the rep handle more than their ongoing capacity of 22 opportunities will require them to find more hours in the week, or reduce the time spent on each opportunity.
This means that running reps overcapacity will result in either burnout, or a decrease in quality of work, likely leading to decreases in the sales performance of the rep. In turn, it can lead to a decrease in sales conversion rates and deal sizes.
Like we say  Capacity really does matter!
Calculating Sales Quota
Now that you have the sales capacity as a function of opportunities, you can calculate what that equates to in terms of revenue. To do this, we simply bring in a couple of deal averages:
Sales Quota (Annual) = Sales Capacity (Annual Opps) X Average Conversion Rate X Average Deal Size
Example maths:
Sales Quota (Annual) = 88 Annual Opps. X 23% Conversion Rate X $35,000 Deal Size = $708,400
Remember  This is based on the rep being at 100% capacity throughout the year, and so would carry a 100% utilisation also.
Put into non maths terms:
Sales Quota is the sum of producible revenue, based on handling the average number of opportunities at average capacity, for the average length of time, won at the average closed won rate
Sales capacity dictates the volume of opportunities that can be managed at any one point in time, however it's all based upon the averages.
What this means is that if the volume of opportunities generated, is not equal to the capacity used to calculate quota, revenue will be less than quota.
In real world terms, if any proportion of a sales quota comes from lead flow that is out of a sales reps control, that is lower than the amount used to calculate quota, that sales rep will not achieve target without additional work on their part to close the shortfall  This will in return work to reduce their capacity to effectively handle opportunities.
It also means that when increasing overall targets, it should only be done off the back of increasing opportunity flow. If not, all it serves to achieve is widening the attainment gap from goal, which is to the detriment of team morale & culture.
Overall Sales Quota and Capacity Formula
Stitched back together, the formula for capacity isn't particularly difficult to use, however it does require an understanding of the work involved with the sales role, and current sales performance  This is a good thing as given that the earnings of the reps stems from the quota, whoever is calculating it should have an appreciation for the amount of work that is involved to achieve it.
The full revenue formula is as follows:
The above approach is naturally a very different way of looking at capacity and quota, compared to the typical target derived quotas that work topdown from a company or market target.
Using this approach provides a fairer route to creating goals and commission plans, with targets set in a more realistic realm.
As we'll cover in the Revenue Modeling Section, it does not however represent projected revenue attainment, and is only a measure of what is achievable at capacity, provided that there is a sufficient flow of leads.
Revenue Modeling
Modeling out revenue as part of your sales planning & progress monitoring and you're (almost) guaranteed to need a tonne of different spreadsheets (we have a bunch of templates to get you started).
Now that you understand how to calculate the sales capacity of your reps, there's some additional concepts that you need to understand before building your models.
These then stack up to give the equivalent revenue, from doing all of these activities.
Sales Capacity ≠ Sales Attainment
Ok, this should probably have been one of the Golden Rules, however we already had "Quota Coverage ≠ Sales Capacity", this rule takes things one step further however:
When you're calculating sales capacity, it's on the basis that opportunity is provided to the level of available capacity.
In simple terms  That capacity of 88 opportunities will turn to the $700K of revenue, on the basis that not only is the average deal size and conversion rate is achieved, but all 88 of the required opportunities are provided.
Sales people are not magicians, and despite the illusion of finding money at the end of a year or quarter, revenue does not just appear.
The volume of revenue generated can be assumed to be directly proportional to the volume of leads provided to a rep, versus the volume of leads that they need to achieve full capacity.
What this means is that your sales capacity models really need to be a model of how you generate leads, who manages them, and their capacity to handle them  This is where BottomUp Planning comes into play.
Bottomup modeling of revenue is actually counterintuitive namewise as it refers to modeling from the top of the revenue funnel, all the way through to sale. It's the namesake however of TopDown modeling, which is the approach of working down from target.
TopDown modeling is a natural starting point for most businesses, however there's a fundamental issue with the using approach, even when it's a topsdown bottomsup:

Overall Target is handed to you

Overall Budget is handed to you
Remember the car fuel tank analogy from the Golden Rules? Tops down bottoms up is equivalent to:
Please drive this car from New York to San Francisco, we're only giving you half a tank of fuel. Please use the map to show us exactly how you're going to get there.
Sounds stupid, right?
This is how businesses accept targets that are unachievable, only to kick the problem of missing them further down the road.
This is why the bottom up model is critical.
Building a BottomUp Revenue Model
Building a bottom up model requires several different components, and you can either build it in a spreadsheet, use a template or connect your data with a dedicated planning platform.
You're going to need data covering:

Marketing lead volumes

Inbound Capacity

Outbound volumes by role

Sales Capacity by role

Average Deal Sizes

Average Sales Cycles

Average Conversion Rates
Where you have multiple markets or segments, you'll need the data for this separately for each market and segment.
We run down the maths of building a bottom up model in our Revenue Academy Basics lesson, you can watch the video explainer for it below:
Modeling sales attainment & opportunities
When building up a bottoms up model, there needs to be something at the top that you're working up towards, and this typically is the gross target, or company target.
This target is made up of the sum of all individual targets, with the purpose of the model being to work out what is needed to achieve 100% of that gross target. You'll probably want to build in a cushion, however however this is almost always incorrectly applied, however we'll come onto that in a moment.
As we've already mentioned:
The volume of revenue generated can be assumed to be directly proportional to the volume of leads provided to a rep, versus the volume of leads that they need to achieve full capacity.
And given that the maths for calculating sales attainment is:
Sales Attainment = Revenue Target / Achieved Revenue
We can easily build a formula for calculating it, based on the volume of leads and the sales capacity. The assumption that we're going to make here is that the sales target is equal to the calculated sales capacity (and not any more!)
Remember, the formula for calculating revenue is:
Achieved Revenue = Opportunities X Opportunity Conversion Rate X Average Deal Size
This gives us the following formula for calculating attainment:
You'll note how because the opportunity conversion rate and average deal size feature at both sides of the division, that they cancel each other out. This means that you can simply calculate attainment by dividing the opportunities at capacity, by the volume of opportunities that are actually received & generated by the sales rep.
This means that simply by creating a model of the flow of leads through the business, you can model out the attainment of reps, on the basis that their revenue target is no larger than their capacity.
Don't forget:
Running reps at overcapacity will result in either burnout, or a decrease in quality of work, likely leading to decreases in the sales performance of the rep. In turn, it can lead to a decrease in overall sales conversion rates and deal sizes.
This is why it's so important to get capacity modeling right.
Top down modeling from target
Even when building a bottom up model, there's an aspect of tops down that has to happen, this is why it's frequently referred to as a top down bottoms up model. This aspect of it however is limited and typically stems from the target, and when done correctly it's fine as a practice.
Naturally, there's going to be a company revenue or growth target, and so the end revenue output of the plan is going to be a known figure that you're aiming for. Modeling this isn't simply about taking a revenue target and dividing by quotas, however it's reasonably related as an approach.
The purpose of this top down part of the model is not to calculate how many reps you need, but to calculate how many opportunities you need.
So what does this look like:
Total Number of Opportunities = Company Target / ( Opportunity Conversion Rate X Average Deal Size )
Example maths:
Total Number of Opportunities = $2,880,000 / ( 23% X $35,000 ) = 358 Opportunities
Now that you have the total number of opportunities that are required to reach overall target, you can use this figure to calculate how many sales reps you need, based on the sales capacity per rep that you've already calculated. Remember, this is on the basis that sales quotas are equal to 100% sales capacity:
Required Number of Sales Reps = Total Opportunities / Sales Capacity Per Rep
Example maths:
Required Number of Sales Reps = 358 Opportunities / 88 Opportunities = 4.1 Sales Reps
Sales Overassigment / Target Cushions
Let's be realistic: You're not going to set your company targets at exactly what you're reps are capable of achieving and are likely to want to add a safety cushion to them  this is often termed as overassignment.
The problem with it historically is that it's built in by assuming that reps hit 80% of quota, which is actually a self fulfilling prophecy. As you'll have seen from the above, the volume of leads that you deliver to a team is proportional to attainment, and so when your plans are built to deliver 80% of what is required, you can pretty much guarantee what the outcome is.
So how do you build in a target cushion to your plans, without ending up with an unhappy sales team who have no path to goal, without having to resort to working 7 days a week to get there?
It's simple, you add your cushion over the main target, and work backwards the same as before. Let's use the previous example, but build in a 20% cushion:
Cushioned Target = Company Target / ( 100%  Cushion (%) )
Example maths:
Cushioned Target = $2,880,000 / ( 100%  20% ) ≈ $3,600,000
Now going back and calculating it as a volume of opportunities, and the reps required to handle them:
Total Number of Sales Reps = ( $3,600,000 / ( 23% X $35,000 ) ) / 88 = 5.1 Sales Reps
But isn't that the same mathematically as simply adding my cushion onto the number of required sales reps? Yes it is! However you're still going to need the total number of leads as that is going to be used to calculate the rest of your sales and resource needed to hit target.
N.B  When most people talk about a X% cushion, they aren't mathematically referring to adding it on. Instead, it's usually about being able to fall that short, hence why the math is this way round.
I.e. Hitting 80% of a 100 target gets you to 80, and but if 80 is the minimum number, adding 20% on as a buffer only gets you to 96 (and so setting that as a target would leave you at 76.8 at 80% which is enough of a difference to be a problem...)
Modeling sales lead generation, marketing & SDRs
This one is a biggie, so repeat after me:
The impact of an SDR should not be modeled as a ratio of the number of quota carrying reps
This is where almost every sales capacity plan that we've ever seen falls down, and when businesses make cuts their inability to model this vital part of the revenue model leads them to cut in the complete wrong way, often cutting off their outbound lead gen efforts in an effort to retain quota carrying capacity.
Spoiler alert: There's no point in retaining quotabearing sales reps if they have no opportunity
Let's go back to our model of opportunities that are required to reach target. We have a total figure for the volume of leads that are required for the company, including a cushion. Our running example works out as having 4 sales periods, so we're going to treat them as quarters, and our annual target is going to ramp through the year.
Using formula from above, we translate the revenue target into an equivalent number of opportunities that are needed to reach target:
Now we have the number of opportunities, it's time to revert back to a bottom up approach to calculating. We now need to find out if we have enough resource to fulfil our pipeline / opportunity needs. This example uses a very generalised marketing plan, however you can (and should) get granular here.
We're using overall MQL volumes by quarter, and an MQL to Opportunity conversion rate:
You'll note that the volume of opportunities generated by marketing are less than what are required to reach target, this leaves a shortfall which you can use to calculate how many SDR's you need to be hiring into the business (or how much extra marketing spend is needed).
We calculate using the following:
Lead Shortfall = Total Required Opportunities  Marketing Derived Opportunities
As a full formula:
Lead Shortfall = Total Required Opportunities  ( Number of MQLs X MQL to Opp Conversion Rate )
Using the first quarter, it looks like this:
Lead Shortfall = 75 Opportunities  ( 150 MQLs X 33% Opp Conversion Rate ) = 50 Opportunities
Now that we know the shortfall from target, we can create a plan to close the gap, through either additional marketing spend (adding additional MQLs) or through sales hiring of outbound sales reps (typically called Sales Development Reps or Business Development Reps)
To calculate this, you need to set an outbound lead target for these reps, which should be based off current team performance (if you have existing SDRs) or benchmarks from your industry.
In this example, our SDRs are targeted to generate 6 opportunities per month, equivalent to 18 opportunities per quarter. We then use this along with the shortfall to calculate what that equates to in terms of headcount:
SDR Headcount Required = Lead Shortfall / SDR Target
Running the maths for the first Quarter:
SDR Headcount Required = 25 Lead Shortfall / 18 Leads per Quarter = 1.4 SDRs Needed
So you should hopefully have spotted a huge flaw in the above model: Time
The model doesn't account for a couple of critical factors that have a significant impact on the efficacy and accuracy of your revenue plan: Sales Cycles & Sales Rep Ramping / Onboarding.
Let's go even deeper into the model.
Accounting for time lag in Sales Modeling
The time lag throughout sales is has a huge impact not only on end revenue, but on how you time your decisions, and how you build your models. You might think that it's easy to handle, however as I'll explain, the more accurately that you want to model, the mode difficult it becomes (one of the many reasons that by now you should be considering a platform to do all of this)
As alluded to above, there's two main areas where lag is introduced, however even the way that people approach some of these concepts is fundamentally wrong, and understanding it requires understanding sales, people and looking at it with a fresh view of how sales works.
Let me explain:
Sales Cycle Lengths & Deal Lag
After:
Notice how in all of the models so far, opportunities seem to convert to revenue in the exact same period that they are required?
When you start to break your model down by month, it would be assuming that you can generate & close revenue in the same month  Unless your sales cycles are under 30 days it's not just wholly inaccurate, it's dangerously wrong.
This is where your models need to introduce a lag, or the time it takes for an opportunity to be worked from opportunity to closed won revenue, and this time is called a Sales Cycle Length.
The Sales Cycle Length is the time it takes for an opportunity to turn into closed won revenue
This is typically measured through tracking the timestamps of an opportunity in a sales funnel, and comparing the duration between entering the sales stage that signifies being an opportunity and the sales stage at which it closes.
Let's go back to our ongoing example, you'll see that we've split out our revenue targets, as well as our MQL volumes by month. Because of this, we're now calculating the SDR headcount using their monthly target of 6 (previously it was 18 a quarter)
As you can see, in the example revenue ramps in a reasonably linear fashion, as do the MQLS, howev