SDRs can do a lot of calls.
But for AEs: it depends on what the point of the calls are.
AEs at startups with (x) very low ACVs (and fast closes) and (y) tons of inbound leads can actually function on the classic “50 calls a day”. For this to work in a modern SaaS environment, it really means you have to have a torrent of inbound leads that only take 1–2 calls to close on average. Otherwise, the follow-up is too much to handle. You can’t do 50 calls a day as an AE if each call needs 5 demos, a plane flight, contract negotiation, etc. Then each of those 50 calls leads to 250 subsequent, time consuming interactions. This falls down a few months later — not enough time in the day. But if you can close fast, this works.
50-closing-calls-a-day only works in a very hyper-transactional model. It can work, but only in a very fast close, and very organized process. You likely do not have this. You don’t have the leads, and you don’t have the tools and processes in place for your AEs to efficiently do so many calls. But you can get there if the close rate is close to 1 call, and your tools line the calls up almost automatically for the reps.
AEs at $10k-$20k+ ACVs can usually do 2–4 demos a day — that’s all the time they’ll have. The structural challenge with bigger deals is demos. They take a while to set up, create a lot of questions, and almost always result in more calls and more discussion and often a second and third demo. A good demo probably takes an hour of your day with a buffer, and requires an additional 30–60 minutes to prep for. That’s great, but it starts to limit how many demos you can really do. 4 a day is close to the max, and even for that, an AE will need SDR or administrative help to do that many efficiently. 2–3 is more common without more organizational help.
So these are your rate limiters. Back solve into a practical model from there.
What we’ve all learned the last few years is that specialization really helps here. If AEs walk into work with 4 demos already on their calendar, without even having to set them up themselves — 4 a day is easy. If they have to do all the admin work and setup themselves — 4 is way too many.
Similarly, asking AEs to qualify all their own leads at higher ACVs is a relatively bad use of time. It may make sense perhaps at the 50 calls, 1-call-close type deals. But not really for a $20k or $40k deal. Let closers close, openers open, and qualifiers qualify.