13 December 2023 |

To hire or not to hire

By Gabrielle "GB" Blackwell

I was chatting with a sales manager the other day about 2024 headcount planning and the expectations their VP and CRO were passing down.

“They want me to hire more reps, but hardly anyone on my team is hitting their numbers. I’d rather stick with the folks I have and get them over performing rather than bring someone on who might not even work out. I’m not sure what to do though.”

Listen, we’ve likely all been in this situation before – we know the last thing our team needs is another rep but senior leadership is dead set in their belief that more reps will convert into higher team attainment. 

If only it were possible to tell senior leadership to kindly f*ck off without being reported to HR – wouldn’t that be nice?

While telling a Senior Leader off isn’t something I would recommend as a first step, there are ways to silently protest challenge how senior leadership goes about hitting their objectives..

To do this, you’ll want to look at senior leadership’s logic for headcount and then see where you can offer up any missing, but important perspectives!

Let’s break this down…

The logic

Anytime senior leadership passes down a headcount and hiring mandate, there’s usually – but not always – some kind of spreadsheet math they’ve used to justify adding in more headcount.

Maybe there are variables such as win rate, time to ramp, average deal size, and deal velocity senior leaders are looking at to come up with final head count numbers.

If you can identify what logic your senior leadership team is using to come to their headcount number, you’ll stand a better chance of challenging their assumptions.

The opportunity

Oftentimes, senior leaders just don’t know any better, so their natural default to driving higher productivity is to hire more reps. 

Yuck, I know.

But check it, when senior leadership doesn’t know any better, this is when you have an opportunity to show off a little bit in problem solving and value realization for the organization.

But this requires you to really know what factors – outside of the number of people in seat – influence performance and productivity the most. Think:

  • Talent profile and hiring processes
  • Onboarding and talent development effectiveness
  • Sales process efficiency

As you start to dig into these different areas, this is a great time to reflect on where and how efficiency and/or effectiveness gains can be realized:

  • [Talent profile] What patterns or trends are you seeing with top performing reps on your team that should be accounted for in talent acquisition practices?
  • [Talent profile / sales process] Where in our process are we seeing the biggest drop off in conversion? What’s contributing to that?
  • [Onboarding] Are there opportunities in onboarding to speed up time to ramp?
  • [Sales process] Think about the best deals your people have closed – what attributes made these deals so good? Where should you be doubling down on to get more of them in?

These are by no means a comprehensive list of questions to reflect on, but hoping these start to inspire more critical thinking (*cough* because senior leadership might not be thinking this way *cough*).

The presentation

If you know what senior leadership is trying to accomplish…

And you know a better, more efficient and/or more effective way to hit these objectives…

The only thing left is to present your recommendation(s).

One of my favorite frameworks to use when delivering a recommendation is the SCQA – situation, complication, question, answer – framework.

  • Situation: Provides the background info to set the stage for the problem.
    • Example: In 2023, the sales team generated $5M in revenue with 10 reps and in 2024, the revenue goal will increase to $8M. Senior leadership has approved additional headcount to hit the increased revenue goal.
  • Complication: This should be a straightforward statement to introduce a problem or challenge.
    • Example: Given current attainment of in seat reps, time to ramp, and lead flow, the additional headcount alone would not make up the gap to $8M.
  • Question: Pose thee question to provoke deeper, critical thinking from your audience.
    • Example: How can we drive efficiency and effectiveness gains to increase productivity per rep?
  • Answer: Provide the solution.
    • Example: There are three recommendations where, if tackled in the first half of the year, would result in the team hitting the $8M goal without the need to additional headcount. 

Things to keep in mind

While the situation inspired by this newsletter had to do with headcount planning, you can always use the SCQA framework whenever you’re about to make a recommendation. 

Maybe you want to implement a new tactic,  get funds for a SPIF, or ask to bring in a speaker to hype the team up. 

Whatever it is you want to see more of, remember the first part of it all is presenting your ask (or recommendation) in a way which makes it easy for higher ups to be bought into your approach.

Visual of the Week

I’m pretty sure this is a screenshot from The Pattern, an application created to help people feel more seen and understood through astrological insights tailored to you.

I’m loving this reflection prompt The Pattern offered and feel like it’s super in line with today’s topic!