How Many Sales People Should I Have?

Scaling out your sales team can be an intimidating prospect. On one hand, each additional employee increases your organisation's vulnerability to a down season by adding payroll liabilities, but on the other hand, on an upswing, sales people are the backbone of any competitive organisation, and often the single greatest determinant of the success of any B2B endeavour. Suffice it to say, this decision is important.

Sales people will need some time to ramp up, so you won't be able to assess their performance without at least a few months on payroll. If you grow your sales team too slowly, you might be leaving customers out for your more-aggressive competitors to claim before you do, yet if you grow your team too fast you risk saturation, and may take on more liability than you can handle.

In such situations, it's sensible to take a brutally pragmatic approach to estimate your ideal sales team's size. We've provided a little widget below that should help you walk through making an assessment of how many sales people you need.

Factor I : Your High-level Objective

By this point, you should have a good handle on your typical conversion rate, and be able to calculate how many customers your want your team to approach in a given year.

I want my team to approach customers per year.

Factor II : Sales Friction

Your product and market have a lot to do with deciding the level of effort necessary to close a deal, or drop a lead. In a typical email campaign, your customers are as likely to respond to your eighth email as they are to respond to you first. YMMV. How many interactions are typically needed to close a customer?

My team will need to make calls on average, to close a customer.

So in aggregate, my team will have to make 4000 calls per year.

Factor III : How Hard you Drive your Sales Team

Be conservative with these numbers. It's tempting to assume your team will work 8 hours a day and 250 days a year, but remember that you need to take account of vacation, sick days, lunch hours, travel time, and a little unwinding time between calls. Sales is hard.

Each member of my team works days per year.

And I expect my sales team to work a(n) hour day.

So in aggregate, I have 1680 working hours available per sales person per year.

Factor IV : Your Expectations

I expect each salesperson to spend minutes on a each sales call,

so each salesperson can make 2520 calls per year.

I will need 3 salespeople.

A word of caution.

This calculator will be most useful if you've already taken a fairly analytical approach to managing your sales team. The number of sales people you require is exquisitely sensitive to their compensation structure and your organisation's immediate tactical goals. If you don't have a firm handle on the performance and incentive structure of your sales teams, you're practicing a dangerous, dark art, and should seriously consider a sales performance management tool. (Not coincidentally, we think ours is perfect!). Get in touch with us if you'd like to know more!

And a word of praise.

If you're actually taking an even vaguely-similar approach to this with your comp plans, congratulations. Despite the mysticism some may see in the field, sales is and should always be as quantifiable as possible, and your decision to do it the right way makes the world a better place. If you've got any questions or comments, hit us up at