Sales Managers’ Responsibilities Fall into Three Different Areas:
During the peak of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, many organizations thinned sales manager positions as part of the effort to cut costs. From the perspective of clients and prospects we’ve worked with for the past ten years, the sales leader’s span of control has almost doubled to 10-12 reps. Of course, there’s variation by industry, product, type of sales, and company size.
Business leaders often overlook the sales leader’s span of control, yet they push to add salespeople as a means to grow sales. The more salespeople added the more challenging the sales manager jobs become.
Now a point of contrast to emphasize my point — let’s consider our colleagues in operations. If a factory’s performance and production were below expectations or declining, would you focus on adding more factory workers on the floor? I doubt it. You would likely start with the plant manager and front-line manager.
When a sales manager’s span of control is over 5-6 reps, the math doesn’t work for them to allocate enough time to manage, coach, and support each rep. Sure, sales reps have uneven skill sets and experience, so they don’t all need the same amount of time from the sales manager to succeed.
Sales managers also struggle to engage key customers and prospects as often as needed, nor can they assist with account planning or opportunity strategy.
The best way to figure out the optimal sales leader span of control is to understand what sales managers should be doing and how long it takes to execute well.
A sales manager’s responsibilities fall into three explicit areas:
1. Performance Management
Performance Management activities include the traditional HR lifecycle activities, account planning, territory planning, pipeline management, opportunity management, forecasting, and performance reviews. To optimize sales performance, even with a tenured sales team, we estimate that a sales manager should allocate at least 3 hours per sales rep per week to these activities. With 10-12 sales reps, that’s at least 30-36 hours per week.
2. Client Relations
Client Relations activities include customer and prospect meetings, related travel, and assisting sales and support teams to execute customer relationship plans and resolve issues. We estimate that client relations consume 12-16 sales managed hours per week during “normal times.” If your organization is in growth or trouble mode, 20 hours or more may be required.
3. Administrative & Corporate
Administrative and Corporate activities include non-sales or non-customer-related meetings, annual budgeting, forecasting calls, expense reporting, sales operations, and other headquarters-field interactions. We estimate at least 10-15 hours per week for a typical sales leader.
Understanding how sales managers should allocate their time can help organizations assess what a sales manager’s span of control should be. If a sales manager requires 60 hours or more to fulfill her responsibilities, the chances are that not everything is getting done that needs to be
In our experience, the magic number for sales manager span of control is 5-6 salespeople. The incremental cost of a few more sales leaders pays off quickly if the sales teams’ performance improves.
If half or more of your salespeople don’t achieve their annual quota, that’s an indicator that sales leaders are struggling with performance management activities.
If your CRM system isn’t well, the sales manager likely doesn’t have the reports and dashboards they need to improve performance.
If your organization needs to accelerate sales growth, now is the time to consider hiring more sales leaders.
For more Tips on Sales Execution, Click Here to Subscribe to Two-Bullet-Tuesday