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How to build sales capacity plans everyone can get behind

Calculating sales capacity is relatively straightforward, but the stakes are high, and failing to get alignment on a solid sales staffing plan means you’ll be scrambling to match your headcount with top-line targets. And even if you start early (e.g., in Q3 or early Q4 for the next fiscal year), figuring out the right assumptions can take a while, especially if the needs of the business call for significant hiring increases or headcount reallocation.

Calculating sales capacity is relatively straightforward, but the stakes are high, and failing to get alignment on a solid sales staffing plan means you’ll be scrambling to match your headcount with top-line targets. And even if you start early (e.g., in Q3 or early Q4 for the next fiscal year), figuring out the right assumptions can take a while, especially if the needs of the business call for significant hiring increases or headcount reallocation.

You can only get so much productivity out of your sales reps. And if you’ve been in sales ops or sales finance for a while, you probably have a good feel for how to distribute top-line targets across the sales hierarchy. Ideally, aggressive revenue growth assumptions should be supported by appropriate headcount. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Despite best intentions, folks across the organization aren’t always aware of the sales capacity implications of projected 25% revenue growth, for example. Where others outside of the sales operations organization might see two new products launched to capture larger market share, or that selling through a specific channel could increase revenue by 10%, you see territories, quotas, ramp time, hiring plans, and everything else that goes into making sure targets are backed by the right sales resources.

Here’s how you can get everyone in your organization behind your plan:

Integrate and automate

Productivity as a metric is actually not very difficult to calculate. It can be as simple as calculating the bookings of a certain region or district in your sales team and dividing it by the number of quota-carrying sales reps in that space.

The challenge lies in both maintaining accurate sales rep data (when reps join, what role they’re in, what quotas and territory they’re tied to during what time period) and tying that data into assumptions around ramp, projected attrition, and alignment. The goal is to optimize these factors, influence a better distribution of resources, and ultimately drive better rep productivity. When data is managed in one integrated and automated platform, planning your sales capacity is easier, faster, and more accurate.

Collaborate

Hopefully, the sales capacity plan doesn’t happen in isolation. Cross-functional alignment should be part of every high-growth business strategy, ensuring that planned sales resources fit into broader initiatives. Yet as much as sales leadership or executives in your organization trust you, if you can share your reasoning and show why you chose which assumptions, you’ll be better prepared to illustrate your plan with confidence.

With an integrated sales planning platform, you’ll be able to model various scenarios (this commission plan, that new market, those new sales reps) and share those with your stakeholders. And when everyone can share reports and insights back and forth, there’s more visibility into all of those variables and more data behind your plan.

Deploy

Next up, deploy and operationalize your plan. You’ve already planned any headcount changes you need to reach that top-line target. You’ve made sure those assumptions tie into the territories and quotas you’ve distributed. And if you don’t have the capacity to meet those targets, you’ve adjusted your headcount accordingly.

Once you nail down your assumptions around productivity, ramp time, and territories, and align with your stakeholders in finance and HR, you can formulate a winning sales capacity plan. Ultimately, the onus is on sales operations and leadership to ensure that the right resources are aligned with sales targets and quotas. Only you are in the position to know your reps and what they can handle.

Recalibrate

Obviously, it’s not ideal to significantly switch up territories or accounts once the year starts and sales reps have gotten their quota letters, but adding new salespeople to address net new accounts or to support a new market is sometimes necessary. If you have the ability to quickly run some scenarios or see the average ramp time of a new salesperson, you’ll be able to incorporate that data into your plan and justify any increased headcount requests to leadership.

With one source of truth, you can quickly and easily model out different scenarios and address the changes that arise in a typical high-growth organization.

Use insights, not instinct

In today’s fast-moving business world, sales operations teams need to make agile decisions based on evidence, not instinct, to evaluate what their teams need to execute and succeed. If you can easily, accurately, and efficiently incorporate analytics around ramp, productivity, attainment, attrition, and so forth into your annual sales capacity plan, you’re in good shape. Only then can you have confidence that you’re hiring the right types of reps in the right spaces to get the best return on investment.

When you use a sales planning platform that integrates with all of your data sources, you can automate data aggregation and seamlessly and accurately pull your required data points into one place. This in turn enables you to comprehensively and holistically plan for your go-to-market strategy and build scalable, data-driven processes around hiring and ramping reps, balancing territories, setting quotas, and ultimately making your sales team successful.

When you build it using data, they’ll get behind you.

Watch the webcast Sales Planning: Do You Have Enough Sales Capacity?

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