The ideal ratio for inside sales to outside sales ranges from 1:1 to around 10:1. To find your ideal ratio, consider the current reality inside your company and that of others in your industry.
First, ask yourself some questions: How are outside salespeople spending their time, what is the value of those activities and how many of those activities are being done? How much of that can you offload to the inside sales team while still meeting customer expectations?
It also helps to look at benchmarking. Most trade associations offer reports that show the staffing ratio in that industry. Just remember that if you are innovating, which means finding ways to add value to customers that they are willing and able to pay for, you don’t necessarily want to copy what’s going on in the industry.
What does all of this translate to? In industries like industrial and construction distribution, the ratio of inside to outside reps may be somewhere between 2:1 or 4:1, depending on the role of counters and how you factor in those counters. In OEM, inside salespeople should often be running the organization, with a ratio of 10 inside salespeople to 1 outside salesperson.
Field sales reps in this 10-1 scenario are hunters that disrupt the competition, but they don’t serve. Because of this driver-style personality they can sometimes be high-maintenance employees, with others in your organization constantly having to support them. So you don’t want to have too many of them.
With inside sales doing so much of the heavy lifting in these scenarios, you may be asking yourself why you even need a field salesperson at all. You need field sales to displace the competition and to make you the distributor of choice, to make the phone ring for inside sales (or digitally, to get customers to visit your website).
Mike Marks is co-founder and president of Indian River Consulting Group.