How Many Is Too Many?

There is an informal rule of thumb that says a sales manager should not manager any more than eight salespeople-max. I strongly agree with this and here’s why:

  1. More than eight makes it hard for the sales manager to travel with salespeople on a regular basis and develop their skills.
  2. It is guaranteed that a marginal rep (who could have been good) will be lost in the shuffle because the manager does not have enough time for that person. Turnover is the result.
  3. The exceptional reps need time with a sales manager but with more than eight reps the manager will convince herself that this rep does not need anything because they are already good. I’ve seen these reps leave because they feel under appreciated.
  4. A sales manager with eight or more reps will be completely run ragged within six-nine months! Their burn out rate sill be high leading to turnover.
  5. The sneaky rep who loves to get away with the least amount of work will go unnoticed for too long, which could lead to lost customers etc.

Five to seven salespeople, in my opinion, is a perfect number to manage. Obviously, there is this caveat. If all the salespeople are urban and within easy drving distance then a manager could manage eight or more but the burnout rate will still be there although it might take longer to surface. If your reps are remote, requiring air travel then the 5-7 number still stands as the right amount.

And there is one more item to consider. The main role of the sales manager is to develop the skills of the saleperson. You don’t do that in half a day or even a whole day. It happens over a period of time where the sales manager can observe and evaluate the salesperson. Multiply that task by eight or more salespeople and you just don’t have the time to do that effectively. Toss in the other responsibilities that sales managers have like training, meetings, hiring etc. and you have a recipe for disaster.

The Final Thought: There is an enormous number of managers who have retired on the job. Peter Drucker


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