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The right ratio of sales to service staff

Have you ever sat down to think about the optimal ratio of salespeople to service people in your company?

If you get the ratio wrong, you're liable to have too many people in sales and too few on hand to keep those customers happy, or, conversely, too many people pleasing customers but too few sales to justify their salaries.

There is no standard ratio that I'm aware of, and I think it varies dramatically by industry.

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My first job out of school was at a radio station where we had one sales administrator for eight salespeople, so we had a one to eight ratio of service to sales.

Compare that with the average financial planning practice, where many teams have a one to two ratio featuring one support person for two producers.

At a big law firm, you might have a five to one ratio, with more service people doing the work for every partner doing the selling.

I'd recommend testing different ratios until you find the ideal combination. Many companies just sort of fall into their mix of sales to service people without ever questioning if it is ideal.

Talk to your industry peers and ask about their ratio, and then start testing a few models until you get the mix right for you.

Your sales to service staff ratio can work in concert with your Net Promoter Score, a way of gauging customer satisfaction by asking a single question that is predictive of both repurchase and referral. That question: "On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to refer [insert name of company]to a friend or colleague?"

Essentially, your goal should be to keep increasing the ratio of salespeople to service people until you start seeing it negatively affect your Net Promoter Score. That's when you'll know you've struck the most profitable balance.

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Special to The Globe and Mail

John Warrillow is a writer, speaker and angel investor in a number of start-up companies. He is the author of Built To Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, published by Portfolio Penguin.

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About the Author
Founder, The Sellability Score

John Warrillow is the developer of The Sellability Score software application . Throughout his career as an entrepreneur, John has started and exited four companies. He is the author of Built To Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, published by Penguin in 2011. More

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