Struggling to measure sales capacity? Here's how to figure it out

Eoin Comerford by Eoin Comerford on October 27, 2021
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Generally speaking, too much or too little of anything is not good. This maxim is true throughout many areas of both life and business, so it makes sense that it applies to sales — specifically, to the idea of sales capacity.

You'll quickly find that capacity may not be as much of a cut-and-dried concept in the post-pandemic era. This doesn't mean, however, that it can't be measured and optimized. It's just a matter of embracing the most effective practices and territory optimization tools to set your sales team up for ongoing success.

Conventional measurements may not work

The traditional formula for capacity is as follows:

work = frequency x (duration + travel)

Working an average of 30-35 hours per week across 49 selling weeks, a manager might reasonably expect each of their sales reps to handle four appointments per day. At 20 meetings per week, that leaves you with an annual capacity of 980 meetings per rep. (For a more detailed and customized breakdown, try the eSpatial Sales Rep Capacity Calculator for free!)

Using these baseline measurements to account for 2020 would, of course, be a fool's errand: Things changed so much and so quickly that to expect 20 meetings in a typical week — even accounting for more than a few of those appointments being remote, which reduces travel time — would've been unreasonable.

With things changing due to ongoing vaccinations and the reopening of business at large, it may not be as difficult to measure capacity as it was during the pandemic. But it also won't be as simple as it was pre-pandemic. Field sales are still limited, and the ease with which many organizations adapted to remote operations means they could well remain constrained for some time.

"Do we have too much capacity?" No easy answer

Beyond upending conventional-wisdom measurements of sales capacity, the pandemic may also have created unrealistic expectations among team leaders and the C-suite.

Consider your team of reps: Since mid-March 2020, they've handled the majority of their calls over the phone or via video conferencing. With travel time cut largely or entirely out of the equation, sales managers might have believed this meant reps could handle more calls per day, bringing in new business and upselling to existing customers at a greater pace. But this idea is dangerous as an across-the-board assumption

For one thing, reps and customers being spread out means the quality of the internet may be different in their locations. Technical difficulties might have stretched calls longer than they otherwise would have gone, an issue all of us can relate to from spending the past year-and-a-half intermittently yelling at our video conferencing tools. Also, research from Robert Half found 70% of employees who'd transitioned to remote started working weekends and covering more than 40 weekday hours. In some cases, this could mean reps used that time to take more calls and close more deals, but given the evidence of burnout that other studies of remote workers have shown, that's hardly a guarantee. Simply put, you can't assume capacity expanded; it's more likely that it changed.

Focusing on territory optimization for better workload distribution

Capacity can still be a useful benchmark in the right context. But in this changed sales environment, it's best to distribute customers and leads across the sales team in a way that gives everyone an equal chance for success.

Territory optimization is ideal for this purpose. With the element of travel time minimized greatly, you can focus more on assigning each rep a territory with equal money-making potential, regardless of how many existing and potential customers are in it. Reps who consistently move through deals quickly can take on a greater quantity, whereas those who need to work a little more slowly but are proven to close lucrative deals can handle fewer (but perhaps higher-stakes) calls.

Revolutionary mapping and data visualization software from eSpatial allows for accurate and equitable territory optimization. To learn more about it firsthand, sign up today for a seven-day free trial.

Eoin Comerford Written by

Eoin Comerford

Eoin is an eSpatial mapping expert with more than 10 years of experience in the field. He specializes in using mapping to help sales and marketing professionals target revenue growth, make cost reductions and improve customer service.

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