The 3 Most Common Territory Design Mistakes

28 May 21

Many companies struggle to get something as fundamental as using sales analysis to properly structure territories.

Balance customer requirements, company revenue expectations and sales rep workload to grow revenues.

Some sales reps only make their revenue objectives by selling to the easy accounts. Others are spending too much time with accounts that do not fit the ideal customer profile. And yet, some sales reps have so many accounts to cover they cannot serve all of them correctly.

Think of each seller as an Olympic swimmer.  The goal of territory alignment is to place each athlete in a position where they have nothing standing in their way of achieving their best time. Avoid these three common missteps when designing 'swim lanes' for your sales reps:

1. Territories based strictly upon historical precedent

All too often, sales leaders make decisions based only upon where sales were derived from historically, and not on how they want to position their company for the future.  Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future sales!   In addition,  most sales mangers are challenged with continuing to grow sales and revenue in order to make their number.  Territories should be aligned based upon a mixture of established customers, combined with immediate opportunities and pure prospects.  In total, a territory should be based upon a complete view of market potential in and out of the immediate sales funnel.   If the entire sales organization is based strictly upon what happened in the past, future success will be difficult to maximize.

2. Territories based upon sales rep location.  

Basing territories strictly upon where your sales people are located is a mistake.  A recent client explained that of twenty two sales reps, only three were willing to relocate and were truly “movable”, basically indicating that much of the organization’s Territory Design is determined by where its employees are willing to live.  This is a huge error.  Don’t be constrained simply by where your reps are willing to live.  If people will not go where they need to be to build the business, it might be time to upgrade some of your sales talent and phase out the lower performers.

3. Undefined hunter territories.

This problem exists in many organizations that have chosen a Sales Structure with selling role specialization.  The thinking behind not defining territorial boundaries for hunters is oftentimes centered around the thinking that any boundaries constrain a rep's ability to grow. This approach enables every rep to go after the largest and juiciest accounts resulting in an aggressive organizational spirit.  This fuels a competitive environment as sales reps compete for the best accounts. However, these benefits are NOT true.  There are three potential pitfalls to this rationale:

  • In these situations,  reps will often compete for a small group of accounts, stepping over each other and potentially confusing the prospect on which sales person is actually the key contact for your firm.  Another undesirable impact is the potential for important areas to not receive the necessary focus and attention, thus damaging the organization’s overall sales because reps are only clustered in several of the prime territories.
  • This is often an extremely expensive solution from the T&E standpoint.   It is important to maximize costs, and this is quite simply a sloppy and inefficient way to deploy a domestic or especially a global sales force.
  • A final fundamental flaw in using undefined hunter territories is that rep talent and expertise is not matched with ideal performance conditions.  Perhaps your prospect and opportunity base are served by sales professionals with a strong local social knowledge base.  Or perhaps a more talented hunting rep might be better equipped to deal with a large multi-national sophisticated based on his or her experience.   As a smart sales leader you will be active in selecting the type and location of prospects your team pursues.

Avoid these common territory design pitfalls through a carefully constructed Territory Alignment framework.

Territory misalignment is a common cause of missed revenue targets. Crack the code to unleash the sales potential in your people.



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