A U.S. Marine Corps rifle platoon is typically comprised three squads of 13 men — three fire teams of four men each, plus a squad leader. Every Marine (from pilot to artillery to quartermaster) is first trained in infantry, receiving a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on practical application, similar to the way all reps are trained in sales. The organization and hierarchy of a platoon is carefully designed to meet goals, while also ensuring the success and survival of each member of the team.
If you aren’t putting as much thought into structuring your sales teams as the Marines do, perhaps you should. According to Gallup Organization research, businesses “have decimated the numbers of front-line sales managers, often without any real understanding of how this will affect employee engagement and productivity. We have seen “span of control” ratios climb from 7-8 representatives per sales manager to 15-20 reps per manager.”
How Does Team Structure Affect Employee Engagement and Productivity?
When managers are in charge of too many front-line reps, those reps stop getting the attention they need to succeed. Effective coaching and training is reduced, and so is performance.
There is no one-size-fits all answer when it comes to the structure and organization of sales teams, so how do you know when you have too many marines and not enough squad leaders? Use your sales data to answer the following questions:
- Are mid-level performers stagnating? Leaders distracted by too many reps fail to give mid-level performers the level of coaching and training they need to improve.
- Has turnover among top performers increased? Overloaded managers are unable to invest a lot of time in top performers. When the link between managers and top reps erodes, engagement and productivity suffer. Top reps are likely to look elsewhere to be more successful.
- Has sales declined overall? If good managers aren’t pulling typical numbers from their teams, their span of control may be out of control. While increasing the number of sales reps per manager might sometimes seem like a good idea, it rarely makes financial sense.
If you want your sales teams to be as efficient and effective as a Marine platoon, pay close attention to their size and structure. Use your sales data to determine the optimal number of reps your managers can handle before distraction sets in.
For more best practices around efficiency and motivation, read: “Timing is Everything: Why It Pays to Measure Performance Frequently.”Image by justasc/Shutterstock.com