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Always Be Optimizing: Salesforce Territory Management Best Practices

The head coach of a championship NBA team doesn’t send their players into the NBA Finals without a well-thought strategy.

Having a sales territory plan in place creates a strategy for your team, targeting the ideal prospects and outlining different sales objectives to be reached throughout a period of time. Strategy is key, but it doesn’t stop at the bench.

How the game is played, how many points you get, who plays where — it matters.

Territory management needs to be optimized throughout the year to make sure that a winning strategy, or plan, is prioritized and managed effectively.

But while the coaches and players playing in the NBA Finals are breaking a sweat, you don’t have to be.

What is Territory Planning and Management?

Hoops and metaphors aside — it’s clear that territory planning and territory management are two separate beasts, but also very much related.

Territory planning is the design or mapping of your territories. Effective territory planning calls on sales leaders to create a level playing field where every rep has an equal opportunity to meet or exceed their quota. However, top performers occasionally take on partial territories when there are gaps in the sales team.

The term territory planning might suggest that they’re only ever divided by a geographical region. And in fact, the majority of companies (76%) assign territories strictly by geography.

But for a successful enterprise sales team, it can go much further than that. In addition to region, a sales territory can target a specific industry, account type, opportunity, or customer.

Here are criteria that are often used to segment sales territories:

  • Geography
  • Company size (e.g. SMB, Mid-Market, ENT)
  • Named account
  • Corporate family trees (e.g. parent and child accounts)

For reps, having a clear design, plan, or structure for territories means:

  • They have a proper understanding of the territories they’re responsible for
  • There’s a cohesive picture of how teams will target and approach prospects, leads, and existing customers
  • Sales reps are able to build relationships with prospects

Sounds good, right?

According to Gartner, 57% of sellers only review account plans once or twice a year.

Wait a second. All of that work that goes into planning territories and when the season arrives, you don’t even look at the whiteboard again?

That’s where Salesforce territory management comes in. Optimizing territory management means looking at every stage of the go-to-market journey – from the territory plan itself to the friction that can occur along the way, to the technology used to enable sales and operations teams.

Why is optimizing Salesforce territory management so important? Simply put, reps live and breathe it every day – and so does every sales ops leader out there. Getting it right has an overwhelming impact on your day-to-day selling motions, and heavily influences your sales performance. Getting it wrong slows you down, causes friction in the process, and causes account conflict.

So, where do you start?

Best Practices to Optimize Salesforce Territory Management

Assess the value of an account

What’s a slam dunk worth to you? If you’re looking to optimize your territories, start by assessing the value of your accounts within your segments.

For example, within a geographic territory, not all accounts will be weighted the same. Accounts could have varying recurring revenue, wallet share, or customer lifetime value. The factors that define your largest customers as “accounts” go much deeper.

Just how deep? When you take into consideration parent-child accounts in Salesforce, your data is likely not an accurate representation of the entire corporate family tree. In native Salesforce, account relationships are not immediately known and have no enterprise-level data stamped on the subsidiary account. Firmographic segmentation, the number of employees, and the address are based on the sole subsidiary in question. This means you could have equitably distributed your accounts in planning but missed the true value of the account at the roll-up enterprise level.

Automate account hierarchies and make sure you understand where an account sits in a hierarchy if you’re going to accurately assess the value, score and balance territories based on the true value of an account.

Experiment with territories as you scale

Businesses riding a wave of growth will need to adjust their territory approach. As companies expand, depending on scale, sales teams might diversify with segmented territories based on company size. The going rule is that if you’re selling into large enterprise businesses, you need to be using a named or strategic account strategy.

70% of your sales come from 20% of your customers.

Named or strategic accounts are important because your biggest opportunities to sell are waiting within your existing customer accounts. Start by focusing on those customers and build strong relationships with multiple contacts at the account to lock in the buying committee. Start select key enterprise reps on named accounts, and over time, you can move your entire team to a named account strategy if it suits your go-to-market.

Here’s a look at what strategic account filters could look like:

  • Revenue
  • Product fit
  • Cultural fit
  • Solvency (financial health)
  • Existing or potential relationships
  • Potential channel partnerships
  • Sales cycles and churn rates

Leverage the strengths of your sales team

A big part of Salesforce territory management is making sure that your sales reps are able to do their best work.

A Sales Ops leader should assign territories to suit the strengths and background of a sales rep.

For example, a sales rep who’s proven to be successful at closing larger-sized deals might be best suited to handle a territory that sells to enterprise-level corporations.

On the flip side, you wouldn’t want a junior sales rep to have the Amazon or Goliath of your target accounts – this doesn’t set them up for success or give them the tools they need to properly navigate trickier deals.

A way to set any sales rep up for success and give them an edge is to make key account-based selling data readily accessible on the account record so they have a crutch – or secret weapon depending on how you look at it.

Moreover:

  • Are reps able to see or visualize their territories?
  • Are accounts enriched with data and customer insights that can help reps close a deal?
  • Can reps see products sold across an entire corporate tree?
  • Where are the ‘whitespace’ opportunities?
  • The list goes on

Another way to leverage your team is bringing sales in at an early stage so they have input over the territories. Plans are often designed based on input from sales executives, sales teams, and the marketing organization. However, a well-conceived sales plan requires input from other customer-facing functions.

How many are too many accounts in a portfolio? Are some being neglected? Why are some being pursued over others?

This will help give sales a voice in planning and set them up for success.

Address friction from territory disputes

Every sales leader dreads dealing with territory disputes and sales rep conflicts. These conflicts occur when one sales rep begins to work on an opportunity that’s owned by another seller or is outside of their sales territory.

But if you’re not managing these conflicts, then you’re not effectively managing your territories.

Not to mention, these conflicts rarely have a happy ending. Typically, it leads to commission splits, time wasted trying to resolve the process, unhappy sales reps, and even the risk of having sales reps leave because of how disputes were handled.

These conflicts can also have a negative impact on the customer. If a sales rep starts working on a lead or account that doesn’t belong to them or is outside their territory, it could cause customer confusion (in addition to the internal conflict).

Oftentimes, this leads to a poor customer experience and loss of trust in the process. And if a deal is already in play, there’s risk involved when going from one sales rep to another.

So what’s the best way to address territory disputes and sales rep conflicts? Address them before they even occur. In fact, for Sales Ops leaders, this should always be a top priority.

Use automation technology to surpass the competition

Companies that digitize their territory alignment process increase revenue by up to 15%.

If you are living in spreadsheets, and doing territory planning manually, this can take weeks or months to conduct a planning exercise. Then, all is for naught if you have to deal with the time it takes to resolve account conflicts, and all your hard work isn’t a slam dunk as it truly deserves to be.

If you’re looking to get an edge on your competition, you need to automate account hierarchies to help optimize territory management and support go-to-market planning.

This allows for a broad brush so you can assess the value of your accounts, balance territories, build and visualize account hierarchies, and automate manual processes in order to enable your reps to sell more effectively within agreed-on territories.

It doesn’t stop there. While current accounts might be enticing, if you’re not actively pursuing inbound leads that may not fit into your given named account territories this is a missed – or many missed opportunities.

Enable your sales team with an automated process for pursuing new leads.

Automate lead routing in order to ensure accounts are assigned to the right rep according to the decided territory. This prevents leads from sitting in a queue and being cherry-picked based on what looks like the best opportunity without doing due diligence on account ownership or territory distribution.

Thomsons Online Benefits, a global benefits management company, manages accounts in North America, Europe, and Asia. They needed to ensure any leads, opportunities, and international subsidiaries were assigned to the designated sales rep in the region where the corporate headquarters is located.

Thomsons was able to reduce territory assignment time from three weeks to only three days!

Track performance over time

Whatever territory methodology you choose, make sure you’re tracking its success.

Having insight such as the cost of customer acquisition, customer churn rate, monthly and annual recurring revenue, and win rates also makes it easier for a Sales Ops team to replicate success, taking out any sort of guesswork. Measurement is optimization’s best friend, after all.

Ask yourself, are you tracking:

  • Total dollars sold?
  • The number of accounts reps have sold to?
  • How many products are sold within the family tree vs accounts?

Pro Tip: Take your performance tracking to the next level by using roll-up reporting across parent-child accounts so you get data points across the entire corporate family tree.

At the end of the day, make sure your sales and customer success teams make it a habit to document all of their customer and prospect activities in your CRM. It will make account handoffs seamless, and leave a paper trail to dig into account insights that can anecdotally support your measures of success.

Territory management without breaking a sweat

The last thing you want is to have your sales reps operating at anything less than their fullest potential or leaving revenue on the table. Optimizing your territory planning will positively impact your team’s day-to-day selling motion and long-term performance.

Want to learn more about the Top 5 Tactics to Avoid Territory Conflicts?

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