The way you define, design and dispense your sales territory management is what will make or break your global expansion. Good sales territory planning is the framework for your success, particularly if you are looking to expand to a new vertical or geographical market. It is your north star that your team aligns around to find the right prospects, take the right actions, and measure the right metrics to turn them into repeat customers.
Sales territory management focuses on sales performance optimization, at the sales rep or sales team level that services a particular geographical region, vertical or even larger accounts. It takes really understanding who your local sales representatives are and how they can be best routed to a specific territory or account. It’s sales management that gets the best out of your team to get the best results.
Traditionally a sales territory is broken down by geography. We say that’s a fine starting point, but you can go finer grained also breaking into industry, customer profile, and sales potential or scoring. This all allows your sales team to focus on the who, what, when, where, and why that leads to the biggest return on investment. It also clarifies who on your team does what, aligning individual goals around shared objectives.
Strong sales territory management allows you to increase sales momentum through better team alignment. Since this is how we’ve worked since 2003, we thought we'd share insights into how you can leverage the territory model too.
It all starts with the right numbers
Territory sales management, especially, when looking to sell abroad, comes down to the right reflection, planning and metrics. Any tech startup has gone through its exploration phase, looking for the right blend of product, price, and vertical. When you've found that perfect fit, it's time to look at what makes your best customers the best, and then answer for new markets: Who is your target customer role? Why are they buying?
Then you need to understand where your competition lands in new markets and verticals. You can get a clue into how much market is up for grabs before you even head there.
And then it’s time to prioritize the markets you’re going to launch to first. This is a mix of target countries, verticals, personals and products.
By pausing to reflect on your previous sales, you are more able to set a budget to know how many sales reps and business development reps you’ll need. The sophistication of the new market and the technical specialization of your tool will decide how much to invest and where.
From there, our CRO and UK sales director Gavin Page says what he calls the "farming algorithm" is crucial, no matter the size of the deal or where it's being made. He describes this as "the basic rate of conversion from initial activity to lead to proposal to close — it dictates the baseline for success and performance management."
Of course, senior enterprise reps require a different perspective than junior or volume-based sales reps. For the latter, where sales cycles may be very short or even instant, the focus should be on activity volumes across the relevant channels and focus on the up front activities with them will lead to results based on the algorithm.
"For senior sales reps, where fewer deals are managed at any one time, I tend to focus on the desired end result in the number of deals needed to hit the target. Using the algorithm in reverse then defines the mid and top of funnel activity needed, but, rather than a major focus on that activity per se, I focus more on new meetings held and overall pipeline health at each pipeline stage," Gavin explained.
In the end, everything comes with ample balance and measurement.
Despite the obvious benefits, sales territory alignment and the proper customer coverage it enables is an often overlooked productivity tool. Studies have found that millions are left on the table because of territory imbalance, when too much effort is invested in lower ticket or less-qualified leads, while too little is invested into high potential customers. This can leave your customer forgotten and your sales reps burnt out.
By pursuing an outsourced sales model, under a single contract, you’re more flexible to move sales representatives around in response quickly to market demand. That way you can go all in hiring several sales reps to form a full presence in one country, while only dipping your toe in with a sales rep dedicating half-time in another country where you have yet to gain traction.
Similarly, your target vertical may vary by country. You may have longer, higher sales in one market that requires account-based field sales outsourcing, and a lot of quicker, yet smaller deals in another that can be best serviced with a less expensive lead gen and inside sales team. Recognize that territories need to be realigned around local adjustments.
Sales territory alignment also allows you to pursue a fully global team, without the cost and time of travel. By focusing on local, tech-focused sales reps, you can then get on the ground with a local presence faster. Save the cost of getting there and redirect it towards closing deals.
Many poor sales alignments continue because sales managers think there’s too much risk in reassigning accounts. We disagree. By using the flexibility of a sales outsourcing contract, you can then more easily move someone around. We have highly qualified local sales reps, but we know not everyone’s a good fit for each tech product. So we are quick to change the sales rep in place if things don’t work out. You embraced iteration and agility in building your technology — you need to do it more in your territory sales management. And just like you should be building your products with rapid customer feedback, your territory alignment needs to include a lot of customer input. The smaller the deal size, the less disruptive these changes are, but don’t hesitate to make a change, no matter the price tag, if a customer is dissatisfied. But, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Frequent changes in sales reps can be disruptive for customers and affect team morale. Follow your gut.
Nothing is done in isolation. We cannot emphasize enough the power of a strong regional sales management structure, no matter the level of your sales reps’ experience.
Sales productivity techniques range from automation and sales training to account-based sales and lead generation. But how does that work when you’re working with really senior sales representatives like we do?
For this we talked to our regional manager for Italy Stefano Barbieri. He says successful sales territory management starts with hiring the right people. The Italian market calls for more experienced sales reps — usually with more than ten years’ experience — with deep tech knowledge that allows them to ask the right qualifying questions and to give persuasive demos. This also means they have a tech buyers’ network already in place for the target audience, vertical and market. Especially when working with technology, broadcast or telecommunication buyers, this existing networking is essential.
“This makes us faster than starting activities from scratch,” Stefano said.
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to hire someone at this level — in fact, it’s harder. That much experience usually has them in VP roles or starting their own sales outsourcing agency. What we offer may not be high enough in terms of salary, but is usually double in terms of commission — the good sales reps understand that value.
So Stefano relies on his own network to help him find the specific profile with contacts in the precise vertical, locally. He did this recently with client Verimatrix, a security software targeting the Italian broadcasting market. He talked to 20 of his close senior sales contacts, and one suggested the perfect person, who he and our CEO Rick qualified in an interview. We’re now ten months into that engagement and building success in the market with the happy customer.
Similarly, you can’t coach a senior sales rep the same way you can a junior one. You certainly cannot demand they call X amount of prospects a day. Instead, Stefano chooses to influence them with weekly one-to-ones. They start by reviewing their own territory sales plan and how everyone’s doing. Then they talk about the customer, what’s happened that week, what’s difficult and what’s the opportunity.
“You’ve got to provide information if you want to have information. It’s not to say ‘What have you done in the last week?’ No, you have to share something that's happening in the market,” Stefano said, like, ‘this carrier has started to sell this kind of device’.”
He is looking to create a peer-to-peer conversation.
“We can't influence the day-to-day, but we have to drive in a direction,” he said, offering help if needed.
And then the senior sales rep, and their regional manager when needed, has a weekly meeting with the tech client, making sure they are kept abreast on everything.
When you have more junior SDRs, BDRs and inside sales reps, you are really closely mentoring and coaching them, often side-by-side. For these more senior sales reps, you are providing as-needed support and developing metrics together for longer sales cycles. This takes true strategic collaboration over setting metrics, usually kicked off by lead generation and understanding the prospects’ needs, followed by demos and strategic sales negation.
In order to measure progression, Stefano recommends dividing the process, finding the right steps and then measuring each of them.
Plus it moves faster “usually, because we are talking about senior sales reps and really know the customers, they already have a list to work from, and then we have a CRM system with more information with target companies, where we personally know the buyers."
Successful sales territory management is a mix of managing, coaching and influence — and a lot of transparency over everything.
“It's clear we have to achieve results, but they are not alone. We as a salesforce are here to help them if they need more help.”