Optimizing PreSales Staffing Ratios: Debunking the 1:4 Myth for B2B Success

Jarod Greene Avatar photo

In B2B sales, the conventional wisdom of staffing PreSales teams at a 1:4 (Sales Engineer to Account Executive ratio has been widely embraced. However, a closer examination reveals that this industry norm is not only flawed, but can also hinder go-to-market success.

The Origin of the 1:4 Ratio

Gartner’s insight, expressed in “Tech CEOs Must Leverage Sales Engineers to Improve Sales Effectiveness,” suggests a ratio ranging from 1:1 to 1:6, depending on the complexity of the solution and sales process. Benchmarking reports echo this range, with 1:4 being the mode. Yet, determining the right ratio for your business requires a critical evaluation.

Strategic Headcount Planning

As we approach the fiscal year-end, a crucial discussion on the viability of the 1:4 model should be on your CFO’s calendar. This conversation should explore whether this staffing ratio truly aligns with the unique needs of your business.

  • Buyer Preferences: Recent research from Forrester underscores the growing demand for Sales Engineers, with 2 out of 5 millennial buyers seeking early access to B2B product experts. As buyers ages 25 to 44 form the majority of business buying teams, personal interactions with Sales Engineers hold greater significance than other in-person activities.
  • Accelerating Product Feedback Loops: In 2023, Sales Engineers have become more involved in customer-focused activities, aiming to reduce churn and drive revenue growth. Their increased exposure to product gaps has accelerated the feedback loop to Product & Engineering teams, critical for product enhancement, especially in consumption-based pricing models.
  • Increasing Attainment: Sales Engineer attainment, as reported by RepVue, is down 15% YoY, but should take into account that Sales Engineering attainment is pinned to Account Executive attainment. When Sales Engineers are understaffed and stretched thin, they may struggle to deliver the level of support and technical expertise their sales peers need, leading to missed opportunities, frustrated customers, and ultimately, lost revenue.

Arm Yourself with Metrics that Matter

Metrics like Attach Rate, Deal Lift, and Days to Close offer a clearer picture of PreSales impact. 

  • Attach Rate: What % of opportunities have PreSales attached to them?
  • Deal Lift: What is the difference in deal size when PreSales is attached?
  • Days to Close: What is the difference in days to close when PreSales is attached?

Take the example of an organization where PreSales is only attached to only 35% of opportunities, but in those opportunities saw a 17% deal lift and closed 20 days faster.

Rethinking the 1:4 Ratio

It’s evident that having more Sales Engineers attached to opportunities enhances the likelihood of closing larger deals faster. Challenging the 1:4 ratio is a strategic move to align with the unique needs of your sales process, products, and customers.

Take Action

PreSales leaders, it’s time to proactively challenge the 1:4 myth. Strive for a balance that meets your unique requirements, ensuring your team is well-equipped to drive sales success. This approach safeguards your PreSales team and contributes to the overall success and growth of your organization.

Explore more about PreSales value demonstration in “The Definitive Guide to PreSales KPIs“.

Jarod Greene Avatar photo November 13, 2023