alt text image of the final piece being inserted into a puzzle

It Starts with Headcount (A Note to the Sales Leader)

Imagine an American football team. Now imagine that team starting a football game with only nine players on the field. It doesn’t matter who wins the coin toss, the team with too few players is going to get rolled over. It doesn’t matter what their strategy is, it doesn’t matter what plays they run, and it doesn’t matter how good their coach is, they don’t have the right number of players to play the game and win.

Imagine a sales team with 11 players, each of which has a quota of $2,000,000 annually. If they’re short 2 players, everyone making quota (however likely or unlikely that may be) leaves you $4,000,000 short.

You can’t add $450,000 to each of the other team member’s numbers, and you can’t hope that a couple of them win enough to make up the difference. Your top producers will carry part of your poorest performing salespeople’s number, but you can’t rely on them to carry double their quota in addition to that. There also isn’t anything you can reasonably rely on to help you overcome a headcount deficit. There’s no sales process or methodology, no shiny object, and hope isn’t going to be enough.

What To Do Now

Fielding the team you need is the first of all problems. You need to make sure you have the headcount you need going into the year. If you’re shorthanded, attack this problem with the greatest of urgency.

Outside of taking care of your team, clear your plate of anything that isn’t interviewing, screening, and spending time with candidates. Ask for help from your human resources department, your management team, and anyone else who might be able to  help you field the team you need as quickly and responsibly as possible.

But don’t hire the first person that walks through the door. That’s not a shortcut. Repeating this exercise in two months isn’t going to help you produce the results you need. Just work with urgency to field your team.

The first key to making your number as a sales manager is to ensure you have the headcount you need to make your number. You can work on improving that team throughout the year, but you can’t make your number without having the players you need on the field.


What do you do if you start the year short of headcount?

How do you hire with urgency without making mistakes?

Who can offer you the most help in the way of hiring quickly and effectively?

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  • Mike Kunkle

    There’s solid logic in this post, like all of yours, but your example raises some interesting points on it’s own, and highlights, inadvertently, another issue I see all too often. So, I hope you won’t mind a sidestep into a topic you probably didn’t intend to address here.

    Why would 11 reps all have the same goal? (I realize you just used this as a quick example for demonstration purposes, so this isn’t a criticism… just making a point.)

    I guess in some industries, especially B2C cases where everyone who moves and breathes is a prospect, this could be sensible. But in most businesses, especially B2B with vertical market or even geographical account segmentation, there is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of inequals. ;-)

    So, I wholeheartedly agree that you need the right number of reps and you can’t hire in a panic to just put a warm body in the role, because that won’t move you closer the the goal, either. But let’s not forget that the sensible setting of goals, and realistic distribution of those goals based on market and territory potential, also play an absolutely critical part in making the number. If you screw that up, not only do you risk missing your revenue targets, you risk losing your to producers and key B players, in the process.

    My two cents for the week

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Why do all reps have the same goal? Easy math! Your point is a good post by itself though, Mike. Why do all reps have the same goal? Because we think it’s fair. Because we’re too lazy to do the work. Because we reverse engineer their individual goals from our main goal. None of these are as thoughtful as the approach you might recommend, but I believe that’s why you see reps with the same goal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, brother!