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There are several ways you might build and manage a territory as a sales manager or sales leader. You want to make certain that your sales team is pursuing the right prospective clients. With too little coverage, you may fail to capture the new client logos and opportunities.

Some leaders put a single salesperson in a territory, while larger companies with different offerings often have multiple salespeople working in the same territory. When this is true, every sales rep believes they should be included in every meeting. They are competing with one another for the client's time and mindshare. But having a single person in each territory comes with its own problems, which will be the focus here.

There is not one way to view territory management. Different companies will make these decisions based on their strategies and their needs. What follows here will not be the right decision for every sales organization. It will, however, provide a different view of territory management.

Why Territory Management Fails

You may have a salesperson in a target-rich environment. That salesperson is working their territory but cannot get traction with some of the larger prospects. The salesperson isn't a bad salesperson, but they are struggling to create opportunities with the high-value, high-visibility companies.

Years pass with no progress on these highly desirable companies. The salesperson has done their best, but it wasn't enough. The prospective client is missing out on the better results they need. More still, the sales organization is deprived of the client's business. I am reminding you that the salesperson in this scenario is not a bad salesperson. For whatever reason, they are struggling with some of the larger prospects in their territory.

You have designed the territory to ensure you have coverage, especially of the large, difficult prospects. You must displace your competitor to acquire their business, but these highly valuable prospects continue with their existing provider because the salesperson assigned to that territory cannot create an opportunity. Imagine that you have a salesperson across the line that separates one territory from the next. You believe this salesperson could acquire a highly desired prospect that the person currently assigned to that territory cannot. Your territory management rules prevent that salesperson from crossing the street. This is the truth about salesmanship and your results.

A New Rulebook

When you have adjacent territories, you can make a different set of territory rules. I developed this rule because I was frustrated by my own territory rules. The good salesperson in one territory couldn't win certain large companies. The equally good salesperson just over the dividing line also had clients they hadn't been able to win. This situation was detrimental to everyone involved, so I reconsidered my rules.

When your rules prevent you from reaching your goals, it’s time to change the rules. It may seem fair that a salesperson's territory is protected, but if it isn't fair to your company, explore other ways to design and manage your territories. You can do this and still be fair. When one salesperson cannot win a dream client, it shouldn't mean that no one else can give it go.

The 90-Day Rule

After struggling to win large clients, I changed my territory rules. I left the boundaries in place but made an exception for large clients. I started by giving each rep 90 days to secure a meeting and create an opportunity. If they got added to the contact's calendar, they were granted another 90 days to pursue and win the client's business. But if they did not get in front of a decision-maker in the 90 days, they would have to trade their large target client for one that another salesperson was struggling with.

I don’t want you to believe that I am cruel or inhumane. I let every salesperson have a list of five clients they could pursue for a year. This makes sense because it can take a long time to get traction with clients who have long relationships with your competitors. Some of these prospects can take years to acquire.

My team had no trouble trading clients they couldn’t book to get others that hadn’t worked out for their colleagues. Instead of being unhappy about giving up the prospective client, they were happy to see if they would do better with a different client. It also solved my problem of looking at a list of large clients that my company needed.

Soon, my team traded targets on their own. If a salesperson believed another rep might do better, they'd proactively trade company names. I can't promise this will work for you, but it did for me. My strategy was always to win large clients that would find what my company does to be important enough that they would see us as strategic.

More and more, I look at what we do by looking at how it impacts our stakeholders. The salesperson who can't win a client gets no benefit and suffers no loss if another rep wins it. If a client doesn't engage with a salesperson they click with, the client will buy from another salesperson, likely one that doesn't work for you. By being overly strict about territories, you also harm your own company by not winning the clients you need to build your business. Invisible lines should not be allowed to prevent all these stakeholders from better outcomes.

My view of territory management considers that one salesperson may not be right for some of the prospective clients in that geography. Salespeople often know they are not a fit for some of their clients and prospects. If a team is mature and territories border each other, you can improve your sales performance by rotating the prospective clients until you find a match.

Territory management is important, but so is closing the deals you need to reach your goals. If your rules make it more difficult to hit your sales targets, you will be better off changing the rules.

Sales 2022
Post by Anthony Iannarino on December 5, 2022

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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