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How To Organize Your Sales Territory

The correct organization, management, and exploitation, of your territory (also called patch) is one of the key sales skills. It ranks right up there along with your soft skills, your relationship building, and your discovery or qualification. Territory management is as much an art as it is a science, and is best learned through practice. In order to guide this, you'll need a strategic context and framework to work from. Here, I hope to provide you with both, albeit in a high-level form, in the technique of clustering.

You're probably already familiar with your territory, and know your top accounts from the rest. If you decide to follow along, I'd like to ask you to let go of any preconceptions you might have in this regard. You'll get a fresh look at your patch, and it may help you come up with new ideas.

Analysis.

Let's take a look at the wood before we delve into the trees. The first thing you want to do with your territory is something you've probably already done: rank it according to revenue, company size, industry. You should also look at how companies do what they do, and how their business models differ. If your territory is large, this becomes impractical; focus on the top 10% of companies in each industry instead.

Once you have this information, you'll have a good idea of which companies are good candidates for your product. You'll also know which ones are your competitor's most likely targets; you'll have to decide whether you'd prefer to build your strategy towards or around those. You'll also know where their business models overlap and where they differ.

High level needs assessment.

Now that you have this information, you'll be in a better position to look at your territory in a strategic way. Take a step back from the information, and think about the high-level needs that drive companies to purchase your product. Map them to the business model, and you can begin categorizing companies.

The questions you should ask yourself here are:

  • Who has what needs?
  • Why do they have those needs?
  • Can these needs be abstracted to multiple companies?

Similarities in their business models will generally mean they have similar needs. You'll be able to discover more in your calls, but for now this assumption should be enough to structure your accounts in a meaningful manner.

A first clustering.

I use a clustering approach when looking at my account base. By this, I mean splitting the accounts not by top-tier and others, but rather by their similarities. The top-tier grouping comes later.

Here we're looking for accounts that have similar needs; this usually means they have similar business models. They may not be in the same industry, but if they face the same (or similar) challenges, you can bet that they'll be responsive if you approach them with a solution.

In this clustering, then, the first task is to place the top 10% you selected earlier into buckets focussed on how they do what they do. Don't spend much time on the rest of the accounts yet – quickly look them up (or take your best guess if that takes longer than a few minutes), and divide them accordingly. Then, within each cluster, perform your usual break-down by revenue, company size, and so forth.

Congratulations! You've now created your first cluster. For this one, the focus was business models and needs. You don't necessarily have to limit yourself to this, of course. You can, for example, choose the companies where you'd like to speak with the CEO, the CIO, and so forth.

The strategic advantage of clustering.

A cluster such as this will provide you with an efficient way to approach your market. Any campaigns you do can be targeted with more precision than before. With a little care (specifically in keeping the language general), you'll be able to bring them down to all levels in this cluster, not only targeting the top companies.

You'll also be able to reason about the company's needs, their industry, and their trends more effectively. This will allow you to tailor your communications as you go from one account to the next. By considering a company's business model with regard to their needs, you're more likely to find business, and will waste less time when preparing campaigns.

Finally, clustering when prospecting allows you to spend a few days or weeks in a given head-space. The companies work in similar ways, and you'll quickly discover who the people are you'll always want to speak with, which challenges you can lead with, and how you can best solve their problems. Your campaigns can be more specifically targeted and honed as time goes by.

Final thoughts.

Clustering is a tool that's meant to help you, so feel free to change it up as you need it. My goal here is to show you that there's more than one way to look at a territory, and to get your creativity flowing. The more ways you look at one thing, the more you understand it; this is as true of accounts and territories as it is of anything else.

By using a technique like clustering you're expanding not only your way of looking at a territory, but also the ways you have of approaching it. Ignoring industry (for example) and going by common challenges as outlines above will allow you to specialize your campaigns. You can choose to approach it by industry, of course, if you notice there are trends that need to be addressed. You can also approach the territory by role or by any other metric you choose.

Regardless of the approach you ultimately pick (try a couple, and have a few at hand), you'll find you can approach a territory more quickly and with a greater degree of strategy. Doing so will increase your chances of closing deals, and will help you explode your number.

As ever, I wish you all the best and hope this has been useful to you.

Do you agree with what I wrote here? Disagree? Did I miss something? Could I have done something better? Please let me know in the comments!

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