Define Your Sales Territories by County, State or Zip Code


The purpose of using sales territories is to assign sales accountability and to measure sales progress. A sales organization can choose to make this a simple process or a complex process. I am sure some organizations require, for a good reason, many layers of management and measurement that can make the territory process somewhat tricky. My vote is for keeping it simple. Build sales territory maps using map layers such as counties, states, and zip codes.

Sales territory creation organizes your sales force. In most cases, sales managers want their salespeople separated into clearly defined sales areas. Assigned territories help salespeople understand and achieve their own unique set of goals. These area-based assignments help drive accountability.

Know Your Field Sales Facts

Sales territory alignment also anchors the salesperson’s selling tasks; territory assignments often reflect travel realities. For example, one sales territory may have certain accounts assigned based on geographic objects that hinder face-to-face selling, like mountains or rivers. Another example could be a skillset requirement at specific accounts mandates that specific sales reps attend to these accounts.

One key aspect of sales territories is the concept of sales territory overlap. Each company handles sales overlap differently. Sometimes sales managers allow salespeople to share territories; others do not. Allowing overlap could be due to legacy relationships, workload, or training realities. Typically franchise sales organizations do not let sales territory overlap. The best sales territory software will include the ability to show territory overlap as an option.

Field sales facts can be multifaceted. Sales volumes often vary by region, and balancing the sales load, as well as sales compensation, only makes sense. A sales territory could be assigned based on historical sales data. Contributing factors towards sales territory assignment based on sales histories might include the number of salespeople available for work, how geographically spread out your target area is, and where most of the sales are concentrated.

Field sales facts often tie directly to demographic analysis. The sales assignment justification may use population, median income, and household levels per zip code as its basis. Or some companies may choose to import additional demographics such as health or real estate statistics that may be relevant to the industry. All statistical additions should contain a location component (ZIP code, county) to connect to territory assignment logic.

Still, further factual justification may be based on customers’ location and available prospects. This is especially important where sales and service rep travel significantly impacts expenses. A visual analysis of crucial customer locations viewed against a business map informs the sales manager of obvious territory assignment needs and a proper focus on critical customer areas. Add to this map view an imported set of home locations representing where your salespeople start their day (office or home) and even where all your competitors are. Now you have a complete picture of your business network – your field sales theater.

Create and Share Sales Territory Maps

Most business mapping software applications provide an easy way to build sales territories by applying standard administrative districts, e.g., counties, states, and zip codes. These traditional geographic segments simplify and organize sales territory management.

Having a shared map sales discussion regarding territory demographic makeup, travel requirements, and potential accounts is healthy, and business maps are the perfect platform to encourage these discussions. For the most part, the physical boundaries of these areas are well known and agreed upon. This can come in handy when attempting to negotiate sales responsibilities between two or three aggressive and commissioned sales reps; all sales professionals can decide on a boundary and an account location.

Population, household, income, or other demographic data categories are routinely published in geographic segments, enabling informative map views that can help define and quantify a territory. A ZIP code, county, or state map layer is often used to build demographic maps. Especially when selling consumer products, a demographic/geographic perspective will clearly illustrate the market potential.

Geographic Map Layers vs. Physical Objects

When drafting boundary lines for territories, it just makes sense to follow existing administrative boundary lines instead of creating arbitrary ones. Here’s a partial list of reasons why:
• Arbitrary lines have no basis in the real world. Random lines create gray areas, sometimes overlapping, which can decrease accountability and gaps in sales coverage. How does a salesperson adhere to an imaginary arbitrary line?
• Arbitrary lines are a lot more work to create, requiring advanced drawing tools and techniques that take time away from the business of selling.
• Because arbitrary lines require more work, sales managers are reluctant to change them, which can impede territory management, territory adjustments, and process measurement.
• Arbitrary areas cannot be as effectively associated with published Census demographics and imported sales and customer data, leading to holes in business analysis and impaired decision-making.

Simple administrative districts, such as ZIP codes, cities, or counties, are used as a basis for sales territories. This allows managers to create higher-level territory tiers or regions that provide overall sales management districts for handling groups of sales associates. These regions distribute the management load while providing sensible geographic segmentation to the sales process.

Your critical account base and target prospect accounts are associated with sales territories, the fundamental criteria for sales territory accountability. Developing sales territories based on administrative districts allows map users to build spatial queries that relate and display account and prospect business data to sales territories. Armed with a map-based sales database, a sales manager can drill up or down to view sales results and responsibilities at various levels within the sales organization. Monthly or quarterly measurements will provide all the detail necessary to improve outcomes.

A Sales Territory Map

Maps are for Sharing

Share these map views with your sales teams to encourage adherence to strategies and awareness of progress toward goals. As a result, sales planning, travel, and measurements will improve. Sales results will fall into line and start outpacing goals.

Export those results and expectations into your sales funnel analysis and begin to control your future.

In review, Sales territory software assignments drive sales decision-making, develop sales goals, and help salespeople monitor their progress. Use a web-based business mapping software to help you build sales territories. It should be easy and affordable and improve your business workflow. If it’s not, find another one.


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Contact: Geoffrey Ives at or Jason Henderson at

About Geoffrey Ives

Geoffrey Ives lives and works in southwestern Maine. He grew up in Rockport, MA and graduated from Colby College. Located in Maine since 1986, Geoff joined DeLorme Publishing in the late 1990's and has since logged twenty-five years in the geospatial software industry. In addition to business mapping, he enjoys playing classical & jazz piano, gardening, and taking walks in the Maine mountains with his Yorkshire Terrier named Skye.
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