When you’re growing a startup successfully, there comes a point when sales leadership needs to begin thinking about scaling your sales team. When you’re ready to scale, you’ll have already figured out how to sell your product or service effectively at the unit level. 

For example, maybe you’ve just built your first small sales team with a sales development rep, two account executives, and a customer success rep. You’ve succeeded there and know the winning recipe. Since there are only so many hours in the day for your sales rep to do discovery calls, demos, follow-ups, emails, and closing calls with prospects, you need to add more people to the mix in order to increase your revenue.

But how exactly do you determine when the right time to scale is? Before we answer that question, let’s briefly examine the wrong times to begin ramping up your salesforce.

Scale Anti-Patterns and Know When to Hit the Gas

Generally, there are two anti-patterns that many startups are guilty of when it comes to scaling sales:

  • Premature scaling occurs when you add more people to your sales team before you’ve demonstrated whether your current selling processes are actually effective.
  • Lagged scaling occurs when founders or founding sales leaders are so good at selling their products that they don’t realize that they need to add more people to crank out more deals—“packaging” their proven ability so it can be scaled out across multiple sales reps—which is the key to scaling a B2B sales organization’s revenue acquisition.

So, when is the perfect time to scale? The answer can be found in your sales performance metrics.

If your company is a B2B startup that is with sales productivity metrics turning anywhere between 15-30 percent of opportunities into closed-won deals—or, of course, more than that—it may be a good signal that it’s time to bring new blood into the mix to see if they can replicate your success.

Consider Abstraction and Specialization of Sales Roles

As you begin thinking about scaling your sales team, it’s important to remember that the most effective sales teams are made up of several different distinct roles. For the best results, look to hire a team that includes:

  • Sales development representatives (SDRs) that are responsible for setting up appointments with new prospects
  • Account executives (AEs) that pitch and run deals
  • Customer success managers (CSMs) that are responsible for figuring out how to ensure your clients succeed with your products and services

All this said, it’s not as if you need to hire a number of people when you’re just beginning to scale your sales function. To give you a better idea of what the scaling process might look like, let’s take a look at the general stages of nascent sales teams:

  • The founder doing it all
  • The founder plus an SDR or CSM
  • The founder plus an SDR and two AEs
  • The first “sales pod,” which consists of the founder, an SDR, two AEs, and a CSM 
  • The initial phase of scaling sales pods, with three SDRs, six AEs, and three CSMs, led by the founder or a VP of sales
  • The final phase: a fully scaled sales team of teams led by a VP of sales and success

By now, you have a decent understanding of when you should begin scaling your sales team and what the various iterations of that growth might look like. The key to successfully scaling is validating sales performance metrics and sales efficiency benchmarks, hitting the mark as you go, and always making constant progress. The motivation behind these efficiency metrics is to have an efficient sales organization where the total cost of your AE, SDR, and sales engineer—if you have one—should not add up to more than 20 or 25 percent of the amount of revenue they close, as a rule of thumb.

Having a “good” win rate coupled with a good average contract value and a reliable and consistent deal cycle is a good leading indicator of being ready to scale up to that first step. Up next, we’ll explore what early sales leadership looks like.

The Role of a Sales Manager and How to Win

Once you’ve scaled your sales team, you can’t just leave them on their own and expect them to perform at the highest levels. 

It may be tempting to continue selling alongside your team. You are super-efficient and your sales performance metrics kill it. Why would you risk that revenue to focus solely on leading? Because the best sales teams are driven by talented sales leaders who are expert forecasters and use productivity metrics to continuously optimize their sales processes and team performance. 

Check out how this could scale: You close 30 percent of the first demos you take and do so at a $50K average deal size. And your reps, they’re not as good as you. They only close deals at a 20 percent rate, and their deal sizes are only $30K. So you should be running deals, right? Wrong. That incremental $80K you book per month—$30K over your other reps’ $50k per month—is nothing compared to adding four more reps, each of whom becomes a machine pumping out $50K a month. 

So what should you be spending your time on? As a sales leader, you should spend time helping your team sell their products, creating high-leverage things that have a recurring impact: building systems, playbooks, processes, and materials. This task is much easier when the right hiring decisions are made up front, and reps are onboarded, trained, monitored, and coached effectively.

And the easiest way to do that is by using a robust data-driven sales management platform that enables you to easily collect sales performance metrics to gauge team performance and productivity metrics, identify areas of improvement, and train your team for success. 

Request a demo of Atrium today to get insights and learn how to successfully scale your sales team.