Sales Territory Management: Tips reps and managers can use to build more productive sales teams.
Get the most out of your reps by helping them get the most out of their sales territories.
If you’re in the sales business, you already know that sales territory is sacred ground. Territory is where you mine new customers and generate repeat sales. It’s where you show your competitors who’s boss. Sales territory planning is how you divide and conquer as a sales team to maximize individual performance, overall sales, and long-term growth as a company.
Whether you’re a sales territory manager or a rep looking to get the most out of a specific territory, the plan you follow should align with an over-arching strategy designed to make sure the right salespeople get in front of the right prospects. Every sales rep is different. Effective sales territory planning takes this into account, striving to connect each sales rep with a territory boasting a customer base that will be receptive to that rep’s personality and individual sales approach.
Sales territory management comes down to giving field sales teams the opportunities they need to be the most effective sales representatives they can be out there in the field. Developing a territory management process is part tactical strategizing. It’s part resource management. It’s part being an impartial advocate, so that every rep feels supported and fairly positioned in a territory that’s filled with legitimate sales targets.
So, what are the best practices to developing an effective sales territory process? In large part, that depends on the products or services being sold and the customers and prospects being targeted. However, there are a few common threads that weave through most solid sales territory plans. Before we get into them, let’s define sales territory management as it works into today’s field sales industry.
What is Sales Territory Management?
A sales territory was once defined as a specific geographic region or area to which a sales rep or sales reps were assigned. In turn, territory management was defined as the process of dividing up these territories, assigning reps to them, overseeing sales performance, and making any necessary personnel and territory adjustments in order to optimize sales.
Sounds simple enough. However, sales territory management works quite a bit differently these days thanks to the information superhighway, the emergence of the email address, and the boom in e-commerce. Today, different territories are divvied up in a number of ways:
The blurring of geographic boundaries has led some “territories” to be segmented by account type – size, business model, etc.
Industry or Market
Some companies are now assigning sales reps to territories using an industry-centric approach. Reps sell to a specific market that purchase a product or service.
The Numbers Game
Some companies have adopted a management strategy that distinguishes each territory not by geographic area, but by a given number of sales targets assigned to each rep.
Regardless, of how a company decides to create its sales territories, there are some general best practices to formulating an effective territory management plan.
Know your customers
Exactly, who are your customers and prospects? Where do they operate? How do they operate? What advantage does your product or service deliver. Can you identify any untapped or underserved markets among your customer base? Are there any customer needs that aren’t being fulfilled that, perhaps, your company can answer? Is there any compelling data that might provide deeper insights into these needs?
The more you know about how your customer base, the more effectively and efficiently you can segment sales territory and guide your sales reps to success.
Create territories that make sense
One of the most important components of sales territory management is efficiency. You don’t want your reps to spend more time driving and less time selling. You don’t want them to waste time trying to sell to low-return new leads. Build your sales territories in ways that maximize time and energy, while giving your reps a fair shake at closing the deal. That might be dividing sales territory by geography. But it also might be by industry or even by product. Doing what works very well might mean thinking beyond geographic borders.
Develop a specific customer engagement rotation
This one relates back to understanding your customer because you need a good plan on how to properly engage them. Do they prefer chatting by phone or being contacted through an email address? Do they like doing business face to face? Do they respond to marketing and promotional efforts? How often should you actively reach out? After all, one account might enjoy regular contact, while other accounts might find that a nuisance.
Once you’ve determined the best ways to engage, create a strategic plan for your field sales reps to follow. It should include which fish to go after, the frequency of contact, and how to engage prospects in their territories.
Set customer priorities
Successfully mining a territory requires a clear list of top-priority prospects. After all, you don’t want to waste a good sales team on low-volume sales targets. A good list will include leads you’re confident can be closed, as well as a few aspirational big fish that would equate to a huge win for your company. It’s just as important to avoid quick and easy sales that end up being more work than profit.
Know your reps and be a fair and equitable manager
Sales is an inherently competitive business, and sales reps are inherently competitive individuals. There’s always the possibility that some form of conflict might arise among reps. It’s your job as a manager to help minimize that risk and resolve any conflict should one occur. Of course, it’s best to avoid conflict altogether, and that starts with understanding your team.
For instance, some reps might be great at closing smaller accounts, while others have an eye out for the bigger players. Some might sell well to a specific industry or market. Some might be strong with a long-term sales strategy, while others might be great at closing quick and moving on to the next customer.
Get to know your reps’ strengths and weaknesses and use that to decide on the right sales territory for each team member. Make sure everyone on your team has a territory that suits their strengths, because when they do it doesn’t just equate to added sales. It leads to happier, motivated sales reps and fewer conflicts.
Encourage reps to prospect across accounts
A good field sales rep will leverage existing accounts in order to gain inroads to different divisions, departments or locations of the same account. It might seem obvious, however, it’s an area of field sales that is often underplayed. In sales, it’s natural to want to move on to the next big deal, but sometimes it’s more productive to grow business with the accounts you already have on the books.
Try not to lose sight of those big picture goals
Sales is a business that’s full of ups and downs. That’s just the nature of the beast. Be sure to remember that the reason you put together a sales territory management plan was to reach those long-term sales goals and continually move your company forward. There certainly will be times when you may need to adjust tactically, however, don’t abandon your sales territory strategy just because you hit a bumpy patch. If your strategy is failing, then it’s time to change. Just don’t do it at every bump in the road.
Track performance with the help of technology
New advancements in management software and data technology make it easier than ever to track and record daily tasks, scheduling compliance, meeting notes, and overall sales performance. It’s important that management knows exactly how each sales rep is performing, which territories are showing sales, what aspects of the territory plan are working, and which ones are falling short. By tracking key sales metrics, you can adjust and adapt strategies more effectively, provide support where it’s needed, and ensure sales continue to trend in the right direction.
There’s no such thing as a foolproof sales territory management plan. There’s no set process you can employ to ensure sales goals are met. However, there are some critical considerations you can add to the territory planning process that will help guide you and your sales reps toward long-term success. Sometimes applying a few core best practices can have a big impact on sales.
If you found this post helpful, check out other important articles related to sales performance, the retail industry and data technology here.
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