RevOps Co-op Weekly #49 - Headcount Planning: Building a Model

This article covers the second step of the headcount process: building headcount models. We’ll cover why and how people should build more than one model.

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Headcount Planning: Building a Model

In our last article in this series, we covered the first step of any headcount plan.

Revenue goals.

To understand how many people you need, you’ll also need to know:

  • What’s the company’s long-term goal? Sell, IPO, other?

  • What’s your CAC? What should it be?

  • What was the growth in previous periods?

  • How long does it take for a salesperson to be productive?

  • How many accounts does a salesperson need in their territory to be successful?

  • What is our addressable market?

  • Are there product developments coming that will make selling into more markets possible?

Once you know these things, you can start working on your headcount plan and build a case for hiring several supporting roles. We’ll use the example from last time to look at a few different ways to build out planning models that start with known metrics (bottoms-up) and models that go from the revenue goal back down. We’ll also talk about why it’s essential to build out worst-case and best-case scenario plans.

The Models

Before we dig into the models, let’s look at our example from last time and call out some key data points:

  • The leadership goal is to maintain 1.5X growth and increase the net margin from 40% to 75%--so our goal is to increase efficiency while maintaining prior growth.

  • Product is releasing new features that are projected to reduce costs by 25% by the beginning of the year.

  • Your current cost of customer acquisition is $2,414.77.

  • We have nine full-cycle sellers, and two are underperformers.

  • With all nine sellers, the average number of deals closed per month is eight at $3,693 average sales price. The average is ten units sold per salesperson per month with a $3,800 average sales price if we drop our two unproductive salespeople out of the calculation.

  • The ramp schedule for salespeople is $0 in month one, 50% of quota in month 2, and fully scaled in month three.

  • The current sales quota is $44,000 per month.

Currently, the total addressable market is 21,000 accounts, with 46% broken out into Tier 1 (4X more likely to buy), Tier 2 (2X more likely to buy, Tier 3 (1.5X more likely to buy), and “Other.” With nine full-cycle sellers, their current account distribution is 2300 accounts.


The bottoms-up headcount planning approach looks at what each department can produce and then adjusts variables to project growth. I've always viewed the bottom-up approach as a bit saner because you're looking at capacity and account potential rather than starting with a goal and then projecting how many people are needed. In addition, it prepares you to argue for additional resources your team and others will need to make scaling possible.

First, we build out what we currently have in a spreadsheet:

Next, we apply the 25% reduction in cost to the CAC calculation ($2,125,000-($2,125,000*.25)) / 880). Your growth is flat, but you’ve had a big spike in margin thanks to that reduction in cost:

Sales management has decided to let go of the least productive sales reps and backfill their positions immediately. They think they'll have some trouble getting new people in January and project their second hire will fall in February. To increase sales, we have to increase headcount, which also increases cost, which can increase the cost of goods sold while salespeople are ramping.

If we consider that management wants to reduce costs of goods sold while maintaining a 1.5X growth rate, we can look at hiring additional salespeople. Management doesn’t want to hire the number of reps necessary to ramp up all at once. They want to stagger hiring so that they don’t have to train everyone at once. They think they can get some added efficiency and get everyone up to the higher performance averages if they hire a CRM expert and enablement professional to scale sales processes, freeing the VP up to help coach his team and close key deals.

After looking at the hiring plan, sales management has decided they’d like to group the new hires in H2 as much as possible. They feel that with an enablement manager, it would be good to cluster groups together so everyone can learn at once, and these learnings can be applied by sales enablement to future classes and get a headstart on next year’s growth plans:

Now we have a strong start.

Wait. Did I just say start?

The thing is, not every salesperson will be fully productive. You'll need to plan for a percentage of salespeople to fail (there isn't a nice way of saying it). Historically, we've had a 22% fail rate. It takes at least five months for management to see if someone is going to work out, but one of the KPIs assigned to the sales enablement manager is to decrease that fail rate by 50%. So our hiring plan will look a little more like below with adjustments for low performers where needed…‍‍

…There’s more! Read the full blog post here 👉 Headcount Planning: Building a Model

For more on building a business case, click here, and for more on what your revenue operations department should look like, including early hires, click here.

NEXT TIME: Developing a Marketing Budget & Headcount Plan

🗣 From the Community


9/7/21: Do we have a curated list of resources for entry level Revops ? We have some interns joining us, would be really helpful for their ramp up. Read 4 Responses.


9/7/21: Hi All - Does anyone have a project intake template that they feel passionate about?  I've used some previously that are quite robust so curious if any Rev Ops all stars have an example of one that has worked well in their org. Read 5 Responses.


9/8/21: Has anyone had a great experience with a data tool that provides company tech stack information? we use zoominfo and haven’t seen great accuracy in the technographic information, looking for an alternative. Thanks! Read 4 Responses.

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