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Every month I receive a variety of questions from salespeople and their managers. These come from a variety of sources - my live seminars, the monthly phone seminars, questions that are sent into my newsletter, and issues that arise in the course of my consulting work. Out of all of these, I select those that I think have the most universal application, and respond to them here.


Informative practical answers to tough sales questions - sound advise and tips to help you win more sales!


Transforming Your Sales Force

Transforming Your Sales Force for the 21st Century
The book, written for sales managers and executives in the distribution industry, provides a blue print for executives to transform their sales forces into highly directable, effective, focused performers.
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How to Creat a Win/Win Sales Compensation Plan

How to Create a Win/Win Sales Compensation Plan
Make use of this program to guide you through the process of creating a winning sales compensation plan, reduce your risks, and ensure that you make the best decisions. Let Dave show you how to create a win/win formula.
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Best of Dave

What is the ideal number of sales representatives that a sales manager should manage?

Good question. As is commonly the case, my answer begins with "it depends..."

It depends, first, on the type of compensation plan that is used to pay the sales force. I often confront this issue in our work with sales compensation plans. One of my rules is this, "The nature and type of compensation plan directly impacts the quantity of sales management." For example, if you have a 100 percent variable plan, where the salespeople are paid purely on some formula for their results, then you can go with less extensive sales management. The idea is that a well-crafted, 100 percent variable plan will, to some degree, step into the gap and influence the salespeople to manage themselves. In such a case, I can see one sales manager for every 15 - 20 salespeople.
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On the other hand, if you have a sales compensation plan with a relatively high percentage of fixed income (i.e. salary or draw), then you need to fill the management gap with people. In these cases, one sales manager for every seven or eight salespeople is an appropriate ratio.

But that's only one variable. There are others that impact this ratio. The "touch" component of the situation is another important variable. The "touch" component refers to the degree to which the salesperson and sales manager actually see one another and work together. The lower the "touch" ratio, the lower the ratio of sales manager to salespeople.

Take for example, an inside sales situation with a group of people on the phone, supervised by someone there with them, and contrast that to the same number of salespeople, spread geographically around the country. The inside situation is relatively "high touch," and the outside relatively "low touch." With everything else being equal, the high touch manager could supervise 12 - 16 salespeople, while with the low touch manager, the ratio would be half of that.

Here's another variable: The degree to which the company is able to measure the salesperson's activity and performance. The greater and more detailed is the measurement, the more salespeople to sales manager. The less measurement, the more salespeople to sales manager. For example, let's contrast two situations. In one, the salespeople are only measured by the total dollars of gross sales coming out of their territories on a monthly basis. In the other situation, the company uses an Internet-enabled, PDA managed ERP solution which requires every salesperson to load notes following every sales call. The company, therefore, has the ability to examine every call, every account, every opportunity, etc.

With the low-tech, no-tech first situation, the sales manager should handle fewer salespeople. With the high-tech situation, the sales manager can handle relatively more salespeople.

The variables that influence this number go on and on. Some other things to take into account include:
  1. The training, or lack thereof, of the sales force. The expectations for the sales force. The expectations for the sales manager. The relative experience, or lack thereof, of the sales force. The length of the sales cycle. The sophistication of the sales process. The relative pay scales of the sales force.
  2. The training, or lack thereof, of the sales manager.
If you are gaining the idea that there are so many variables that impact this decision that it is impossible to legislate a specific number, good for you.

Anyone who gives you an off-the-cuff answer is coming from a perspective that lacks a depth of experience. Your answer is going to come from a detailed understanding of the variables listed above, and the way that they impact your selling situation.

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If you have any comments or questions, email them to me. I do, of course, reserve the right to edit

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Here are a few articles by Dave
that you might be interested in reading:

  • What's the Best Way to Find a Good Salesperson... Good question! It seems that everyone has a favorite response. Some people only use recruiters, and others swear by networking. But classified ads continue to be the most common choice. Almost everyone who hires salespeople will, at some time, search for prospects via the "help wanted" section.... {Read More}

  • Is it Time to Revise Your Sales Compensation Plan?... If you're paying your sales reps straight commission, you're using an obsolete formula. If you're paying your sales reps a straight salary, you're also using an obsolete formula. Read this article to find out a much more effective way to compensate your sales staff.... {Read More}

  • How to Deal with the Salesperson Who Has Leveled Off... Every manager has, or will, confront this troublesome issue. It's arisen in every workshop for sales managers or branch managers I've done. One or more of your salespeople has leveled off. Their performance hasn't improved much in the last few years. Where before you were able to count on significant increases each year, now you can not. You know that these experienced salespeople can do better, but they seem unable or unwilling to break out of a certain level of performance. You are scratching your head, frustrated, and loosing sleep at night wondering how to improve the situation. What do you do?... {Read More}
There are also many other action-packed articles for sales professionals that offer how-to solutions to every day sales problems that you can read online at www.davekahle.com/article.htm.


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