Sales Force Sizing - Competitive Advantage


$200M Manufacturer Gets Outflanked by Competitor’s Expansion
Some companies don’t discover that a competitor expanded their sales force until lagging indicators such as increased customer churn rate start to drive reactionary research into the problem.  By then it’s too late, and requires a significant effort to reverse the trend of lost momentum.


A head of sales of a $200M manufacturer recently faced this exact problem and was blind-sided with a competitor who expanded their global sales team into international markets that were previously covered by both companies with channel partners.  The competitive move wasn’t detected until 8-months after the expansion when the head of sales began researching the unexpected churn rate increases among several countries he counted on to hit his sales objectives.  Considerable damage occurred before they could react.


Invest Time Scouting Your Opposition – Know Your Competitor’s Game Plan
In the game of football we consider scouting the competition to be an integral part of the game.  Business competitors are no different.  Be creative and find ethical ways to scout out your competition by using business intelligence methods to stay informed of your competitor’s moves. Challenge your team to think through ways to receive early warning of a competitor’s sales force expansion.  The following are two suggestions that may work for your company:


  • Monitor online sales job postings to provide valuable business intelligence on the efforts of competitors to expand their sales force.  Some companies know to be discrete with job postings, but more often than not companies post their positions online as they leverage the wide distribution for recruiting efficiency.  Imagine what the head of sales of that $200M manufacturer could have done if he had seen his competitor’s job postings for in-country reps 8-months earlier?  He could have matched the move, or worked with his channel partners to increase their competitiveness in those markets.
  • Encourage your sales managers to keep you informed of competitor efforts to hire members of yours sales team.  Top performers make it a habit to let their manager know when they turn down a request to dance with a competitor’s offer.  These are great insights that sales managers can elevate so that trends can be recognized by connecting the dots across territories or across the country to provide valuable early notice of expansion efforts.


The Best Defense is a Great Offense – Out Flank Your Competitor
The most effective way to keep from being blind-sided is to be on the front end of sales force sizing and be one step ahead of your competition.  Great leaders recognize opportunities and exploit competitive advantages that put their competition into a reactionary footing.  The right size sales force is a competitive advantage that delivers maximum revenue to the bottom line. 


Embrace sales force sizing as a competitive advantage and get started today by assembling your team.  My recent article “Don’t Leave Money on the Table; Sales Force Sizing in 2011” provides a helpful strategic outline and key points to help your senior team identify early symptoms of sizing issues. 


Your game plan will need to include due diligence of reviewing World class sales force sizing models that provide the appropriate views to analyze the financial impact. 


There is incredible value in sizing exercises as it prepares your team to keep this topic top-of-mind and you can work to identify market conditions that will trigger updates to your analysis.  Your senior team will be in a position of knowledge and be able to efficiently monitor optimum sizing.