In previous posts, we have focused on how to drive growth using techniques such as better opportunity management and measuring sales person effectiveness using ratios such as conversion factors. Let’s draw these streams together and focus on Sales Territory Management.
Building a strong account and contact list is critical for any sales organization. It takes work (and cost) to build out a strong portfolio, but it is an ongoing process to keep the portfolio healthy.
What is Sales Territory Management?
Sales territory management is a process that takes the best information about accounts and contacts and combines it with historical information and market data to help sales leaders and account managers configure territories to achieve the best outcomes. This is done by understanding how accounts are likely to purchase from a vendor and matching that to how the sales team can best respond. The best outcomes are achieved when vendors know how and where the customer wants to buy.
The benefit of a system that not only provides the best visibility of complex account hierarchies (this is where upsell comes in) or being able to see which products are being purchased across teams (this is where cross-sell comes in) means we can maximize the chance of sales success, but also better serve the customer.
Build a process
The key trick with territory management is to have a defined process. There needs to be a constant review of the account portfolio, how it is holding up and building plans for each account in a territory. This can be hard and time-consuming work. This is especially true for more complex accounts that operate nationwide or even internationally. This is where metrics and automated systems can help organizations to keep on top of territory management.
Let’s identify some best practices organizations can use to improve territory management.
A healthy account portfolio is critical to regularly deliver sales success. Customer needs evolve for all kinds of reasons. There are numerous ways to classify accounts, but the general principle is that accounts should be classified to match where they are in the investment journey and how mature the sales relationship is with the stakeholders and the type of engagement that can be offered. We want to match efforts appropriately not only from a time/cost perspective but also so the account can be best serviced.
It should also be recognized that accounts will change classification. Sometimes this is an evolution. A good example of this evolution is an account which began as a sales lead and has converted and developed over a period of time. By becoming a trusted partner this allows us to benefit from regular deals as a customer chooses to standardize on our offering. This is an example where an account relationship has been nurtured. Change can sometimes be more rapid. Take for example an account that suddenly has an interest in a product or service that we sell and is triggered by an event within the customers own business such as a merger or big deal. Having previously built brand awareness may allow us to make the shortlist.
Here are some common classifications of accounts:
Opportunistic: Accounts that have the potential to become sales stars. Organizations may choose to engage with these accounts with a quarterly update call and information about new products brought to the market. In more complex accounts, linking territories to identify an opportunistic account purchasing in another territory may present a break-through.
Core: The account has built-up a mature sales relationship and the account is a regular purchaser. It may not be expected to double sales overnight, but there is a definitive benefit from repeat business. There may be an opportunity to explore cross-sell opportunities as new products are offered to the market. Regular perhaps even weekly calls may be appropriate.
Invest: New accounts identified for extra sales focus. A good example is an account that is a ‘Core’ account with a competitor, or a new business experiencing rapid growth.
Divest: This classification may not exist for every business, but it recognizes that while accounts will join the portfolio they will also leave. Sometimes the cost of selling may force organizations to divert sales efforts. Perhaps the true value of the divest classification is to help identify any territory over-weight in these accounts.
Balancing Sales Territories
The classification of accounts not only allows us to a build a plan for each classification, it also allows us to look at the way accounts are distributed across territories. This is where metrics can really help. If there is an expectation that a territory will meet or exceed targets and to grow the territory into the future, then there needs to be a balance of account classification in the territory.
Ideally, there should be a good mix of opportunistic and invest accounts while also having a foundation of core accounts. Too many opportunistic or invest accounts risks “lumpy” sales results; too many core accounts may limit growth. Sales effectiveness also has a role here. Invest accounts will likely take longer to close. Using the best data, information is gathered to fine-tune territory management and ensure salespeople are not handling too many invest accounts with no capacity to service, while at the same time having the right mix of accounts to maximize growth via cross-sell and upsell techniques.
We started this post by discussing the importance of a defined process. Each account classification needs a plan so that sales activity can be effectively tailored, but each account must also be reevaluated at each touch-point. Salespeople must be able to respond quickly to the changing circumstances of accounts in order to drive growth. It is imperative that the process built around territory management allows the sales function to have visibility across accounts and contacts so that territories don’t constrain the defined sales process. Often sales territories are organized geographically. The ability to see across territories and focus on the accounts improves the ability to link sales activity in one territory to opening up a second territory.
In previous posts we have explored numerous techniques to improve the sales process. In many ways, territory management brings these streams together to focus on delivering growth. It is important to link strategy to territory planning and look at what it takes to build a balanced territory using classifications. Using systems to drive process allows organizations to take their territory planning objectives and make a repeatable process using the best information available. In a future post, we will explore in more detail some of the metrics and methods that can be used to measure territory management.
To start the discussion about driving growth in your organization, contact Vortini today.
Alan is the Chief Product Officer at Vortini, and has been working with sales data for many years. He has helped organizations make sense of this data and deliver systems that can make a real difference for sales outcomes through a better understanding of the metrics and processes in many different industries.