Are Your Sales People Focused on the Right Number of Accounts?

The accurate and yet disappointing answer to this question is “it depends”. Assigning too many accounts often results in reactionary, unfocused selling. Too few accounts may starve your reps. So what is the right number? What does it depend on? And what are some general guidelines to follow?

The range in terms of the number of accounts that a single rep may cover is immense, from as little as one account in the case of a Global Account Manager to several hundred accounts in the case of a territory rep or inside sales rep. So how do you determine the right amount? A sales leader faced with determining the right “account loading” must balance two competing objectives – covering the most “ground” with each sales headcount while maintaining the necessary focus to achieve optimal sales results.

While there are several factors that influence this decision, the decision rests primarily on three things:

  1. The nature of the buying process. Think in terms of length and complexity. How long is the typical process? A few days, several months, or several years? How complex is it? Is there a single buyer, or several influencers and layers of approval? Is the process more characterized by a one-time purchase, or on-going purchases?
  2. The nature of the offering(s). Think in terms of importance of your offering(s) to the customer. Is it a “nice to have” or is it mission critical? Is it fairly commoditized, or is it a differentiated solution?
  3. The breadth of offerings. Think in terms of the size of the seller’s “bag”. Does she sell primarily one product, or does she represent a broad array of products and solutions to the customer, requiring more selling time to the same account in order to appropriately represent them all?

The table below illustrates the range of selling types and common corresponding roles and account assignments:

Most sales leaders will err on the side of assigning too many accounts to an individual sales person. This occurs because they want to maximize coverage.  And sales representatives, if given the choice, generally prefer more accounts (or more territory) and not less.

However, as a company grows and sales force expands with it, sales leaders usually must reduce account loads in order to achieve the necessary customer focus. And this must typically be done while either maintaining or even raising sales quotas.

Are your sales reps focused on the right number of accounts? To answer this question begin by analyzing how sales reps spend their time by customer type, product type, and sales activity. Then compare these results internally based on sales performance as well as externally against market benchmarks. This will inform the amount of bandwidth your reps have by role. Remember that more is not always better. Focus increases effectiveness.

Learn more about analyzing sales time. Visit Alexander Group’s Sales Analytics page.

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