Territory planning sales performance management


- 3 min read

More Sales Rockstars with Smarter Territory Planning

Inefficiently mapped territories have long been a headache for most sales organizations worldwide. But with the latest trends and tools, it’s easier than you might think to turn this challenge into your sales force’s competitive advantage. In fact, (dare I say it) territory planning doesn’t have to suck. It can be a real opportunity to reimagine your sales strategy—and revitalize your team. Here’s how…

Old-school territory mapping just doesn’t cut it

Having spent decades in this industry, I can speak to the challenges around this with a wealth of experience. In the past, many sales leaders often found themselves manually drawing the boundaries of their territories, leading to disparities that left reps overwhelmed with accounts and struggling to meet quotas. The result? Missed opportunities, attrition, and frustration all around.

What does performance look like if we visualize it? It’s the dreaded inverted bell curve. Ideally, performance would have a normal bell-shaped curve. Instead, sales leaders all too often see a high number of outliers on both the high and low ends of the performance spectrum; with many reps going above and beyond their quotas, many reps not coming near their quotas, and very few in the middle.

This could be caused by a poor incentive compensation plan, inefficient target marketing, or even company culture. But, most likely, it’s due to inefficient territory mapping—and it leads to a high cost of sales and a high turnover rate in your sales organization if not resolved.  

The logical question then presents itself: why don’t we just divide territories equally? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Anyone who has gone through the process of territory mapping knows that it is an arduous and time-consuming task to divide up opportunity equally among your sales reps. It involves multiple tools and a precise valuation system. No wonder some organizations default to geographic location when distributing accounts, ignoring the critical factor of account value. But this is a band-aid solution to a problem that requires a more data-driven approach.

The roadmap to better planning starts here

To create truly equitable and efficient territories, sales leaders need to compile a comprehensive dataset on their customers and prospects and use this information to build a sophisticated scoring algorithm. This algorithm should consider various factors like demographics, firmographics, geography, and revenue potential to accurately assess account value. From there, with the right information, each account can be scored based on their value and divided up evenly, so each territory provides an equal opportunity for all sales reps to make money (and everyone gets a fair shot at being a rockstar).

Getting there takes a solution that goes beyond conventional tools—because while Excel and CRM tools are valuable, they’re no longer sufficient for modern territory planning. Relying on Excel spreadsheets (which over 82% of organizations do) can lead to inefficiencies as they become unwieldy, offer limited visualization capabilities, and lack real-time scalability. Today’s sales leaders need to invest in dedicated territory planning software to automate and optimize these processes.

But we can’t stop innovating there. Another challenge to consider in territory planning is the de facto shift to inside selling, brought about by the pandemic. The traditional geographical aspect of territory design is no longer as relevant, and the overlap among various roles like SDRs, BDRs, Field Reps, Specialists, and Major Account Managers can be confusing when everyone is “inside.” What’s needed is a fresh approach, and I have a couple of suggestions for you to consider as possible next moves…

The way forward: Agility, technology, and the promise of AI

Now’s the time to get creative. Ditch conventional models and consider these strategies as you assess how to best adapt. After all, any one of these has the potential to make an outsized positive impact on your team’s success.

  • Rethink dimensions: Expand your focus beyond geography to consider factors like customer segments or product lines. This could help create more specialized territories that could be a better fit when catering to your unique customer needs.
  • Redefine roles: Embrace flexibility in sales roles, because as mentioned above, most of us are dealing with an inside sales environment. Lines of role responsibility aren’t as clearly defined as they once were, so reps can take on multiple roles as needed when responding to customer demands.
  • Mature your data culture: This is a no-brainer. Everyone needs to leverage more data (more often) to identify emerging trends and opportunities. Understand where your customers are spending their time and adjust your strategies accordingly (or risk falling behind).
  • Find the right tech: Invest in video conferencing, digital marketing, and a planning solution that can aggregate data from disparate sources and present it in a meaningful way. With an end-to-end solution, you’ll see the big picture and stay ahead of the trends that make or break your quarter.
  • Make time to explore AI: It’s not too early to ask yourself, what can AI do to enhance planning? How do I go beyond simply creating a shiny object (that’s likely more of a distraction) and instead focus on building an integration that yields real business value.

What steps is your organization taking to realize smarter territory planning? I’d welcome hearing from everyone in this field working to make an impact.

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