Sales Management Digest

7 Essential Territory Management Tips
Lain Chroust Ehmann
Without a well-considered strategy that takes into account the day-to-day details of territory management, sales are going to be tougher and tougher to land. Here are seven tips for becoming more effective in your territory management efforts.

1. Divide your territory in a way that makes sense

One of the first steps to effective territory management is to have a concrete view of current customers, potential customers, competitors' activity, and the location of all of these. Because time in front of qualified customers is the most productive, it's critical to maximize those moments and minimize the hours spent driving, doing paperwork, and visiting with no- or low-return customers and prospects. The question is, "How are you going to manage your time to make the most of it?" asks Nigel Edelshain, founder of Sales 2.0.

Based on geography and the number of your accounts and prospects, you may divide your territory by area code, by industry, or by product ...as long as you're divvying it up in a logical way. Minimize the amount of time spent on the road, or backtracking from city to city or neighborhood to neighborhood.

2. Create a call rotation plan

At the beginning of your year, look at current customers and targets, and create a plan for servicing each of these accounts. Decide if they need in-person visits, phone calls, emails, or marketing promotions, and how often. For instance, a dormant account may need a phone call per quarter, plus an annual promotional postcard. An active, high-volume account may need a monthly in-person visit, plus regular phone calls.

Once you've assigned frequency, start confirming and slotting in meetings for your top priorities (see #4 below) by quadrant. After you've scheduled your top priority accounts, fill in gaps with lower-priority accounts and prospects. Each day, fill in gaps with phone calls, emails, and spur-of-the-moment meetings.

3. Set priorities

Beyond knowing where you're going to be each day of the week, know how to prioritize your efforts. "Pick the low-hanging fruit" is a typical recommendation. But even when you're grabbing the easy fruit, you want to nab the big apples and skip over the ones that may be right in front of your face but are small, rock-hard, or full of worms.

4. Leverage your relationships

Beyond great customer relationships, Edelshain suggests using your successes internally. For instance, build off of your sale to the company's Division A to make your way into Division B. "Salespeople don't prospect across their own accounts," says Edelshain, possibly because it's not as glamorous as reeling in another "big one," or maybe because they have trouble seeing beyond the next new lead. Granted, going after the next big thing is exciting, "but it's also terrible for your wallet," says Edelshain. His solution is to create case studies to highlight your wins. "Sometimes you have to be a little creative to map the case study over to another application," he says, but the payoff can be huge.

5. Stick to the big-picture view

With each phone call and each lead forwarded to you from the marketing department, it's tempting to lose track of your overall plan and jump immediately on the next thing in your in-box. But losing track of your strategy will, in the long run, result in losing control of your territory.

One way of holding tight is to have a series of qualifying questions so you can determine how critical it is that you drop everything. Consider these three categories to qualify a lead: 1. Do they want what you sell? 2. Do they have the ability to effectively use your product or service? 3. Is there a compelling event with a time deadline? If all three criteria are met, you can consider rearranging your schedule to accommodate theirs. If not, then you can judge the immediacy of the request and slate it in either the next time you're in the quadrant, or if necessary, on your Friday flex day.

6. Do the tough stuff

Paperwork is no fun, but putting it off doesn't make things any easier. Tending to it regularly will keep things from growing to outlandish proportions and will also ensure that you don't miss critical details along the way. Review meeting notes immediately after each client encounter, record action items in the appropriate places, and update contact information. File receipts in a designated spot. Make note of reorders for collateral or samples. Keep it current, and you'll keep it manageable.

7. Make meetings count

When you're covering a large territory, you may see a customer or prospect just a few times a year, and every meeting needs to be memorable (in a good way). Use every resource to learn about your customer. Next, have a plan of attack. Set meeting-specific goals so you know what you're trying to accomplish in each encounter. And finally, make sure you get your daily dose of positivity. If you project positive energy, you increase your chances of having a positive interaction with customers.
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