Hi John,

On the dubious advice of an external consulting organization we are going to radically reorganize our Global Sales Engineering teams in 2020. Looking at the current plans I have concerns over both span of control and the workload for individual SEs. So two questions here:

1. What do you see as a normal span of control for a first line SE Manager? (i.e number of direct reports)
2. How many opportunities can an SE realistically handle per quarter?

I know those are both very vague open questions, so assume we are a medium sized software company in the enterprise market.

How can I restore the natural balance of things?


Thank You


Hi Robin,

Thanks for the question.

Tackling those questions in order:

1. The average span of control we see in SE organizations is 6.7 for field based SE teams and 9.8 for inside SE teams. Those numbers vary quite significantly, especially outside of North America when you take language, culture and distance into account. Interestingly enough, every study we’ve seen and/or conducted has shown the SE org has about a 10% wider span of control (i.e. 6.1 for sales vs 6.7 for SEs) on headcount than sales. Read your own conclusions into that ..

2. There is a two part answer to opportunity count, looking at active opportunities in the current 3-month period and total opportunities up to 12 months out. For as-a-service type companies focused on monthly recurring revenue (MRR), the number of active opportunities for a field SE is between 7 and 9 for current period and 14 to 18 for total active pipeline. For an inside SE the ranges are 9 to 12 for current period and 18 to 25 for total active pipeline.

As a side note, for “old-style” classic software and hardware sales vs MRR consumption, the active numbers were 15 to 20% lower.

After I wrote this I then conducted some third part research and discovered this post by Dave Kellogg
(my former CMO at Business Objects and someone I’d consider an expert on the sales side of this question)

His salesrep numbers correspond quite well to my SE answers when you consider ratios and engagement model.


Good luck with implementing the consultants recommendations .. they usually end in tears.



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