Organize the Sales Pipeline by Geography

Many businesses invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems that store customer contact data and compile customer sales potential into a sales pipeline. If your business has installed a CRM that now feeds a robust sales pipeline you are to be congratulated. However, you may be surprised to find that a CRM and a sales pipeline do not always drive the sales results you had imagined. This essay suggests you that take the next step in the sales process and connect that sales pipeline to geography through sales territory mapping. Connecting your sales pipeline to a business map plants the seeds your future sales in fertile soil.

Dividing your organization’s sales coverage into sales territories may seem a daunting challenge to the uninitiated. Especially considering the myriad of software products business managers have to evaluate, install, and master these days. The good news is that there are business-mapping options available that make it easy and fast for you to institute geographic sales territory management within your organization. You will find that the benefits of establishing sales territories by geography can be significant:

Accountability – Sales territory management helps define and direct sales accountability
Shared Objectives & Results – Use sales territories to display team objectives, and results
Fight Chaos – Lack of a sales territory map invites chaos and infighting, a deadly distraction to sales growth
Visualize Customers & Prospects – Sales territories are a platform for customer and prospect visualizations
Agent for Change – Sales territories act as guides that can be adjusted to redirect and hone the sales effort

Drive Accountability
A well-defined sales territory management scheme defines the rules of the game for your sales team. It tells them where they can and can’t go, and when they get credit for the sale. It can display areas of allowable overlap or define clear boundary lines that can’t be crossed. It helps the sales team clearly understand who is running the show – hint: it’s not the sales team. Armed with this critical information the sales reps can focus on planning their month and selling.
Sales territories can provide template-maps for navigation planning. Each rep should be able to access their territory map and divvy up their business according to their unique style and their specific job description. Clear guidelines and planning tools promote accountability and accountability drives results.

Share Results
Clear sales objectives with quarterly results postings are critical to the success of your sales team. Your sales territory map can provide a public place to post sales objectives for all to view. With a clear objective in place, monthly or quarterly postings of sales results by territory will naturally establish the pace of success for your sales team. Sales accountability is now defined on this shared sales map where performance will be fairly measured. Posted results are anxiously awaited by all sales teams. Ritualize this activity.

There is no better way to communicate results than by posting a clearly defined territory map showing each sales rep’s quarterly results in sales dollars by region. And believe it or not, posting this information can take less than a minute. A sales pipeline with posted results married to geography defines accountability, driving results. This is your sales plan in action.

Have the Wisdom to Change
Sales objectives are not easily defined. It takes preparation, data, and thought; and it takes buy-off from your sales team. That’s why you want to apply visual controls that enforce rules and encourage performance. With territories clearly established, if Salesperson A’s territory doesn’t perform close to goals set for Q1, you have clear evidence defining the problem and the tools to quickly adjust A’s area of responsibility for Q2. Sales territories aren’t etched in polished granite. If sales aren’t happening after a period of clear effort, have the wisdom and the courage to change things. Good leadership has the ability to recognize the need for change and to appropriately apply it. Address inefficiencies, obstacles, and unfair assignments based on clear evidence. Your reps will thank you. Territory mapping creates order and order enables change when and where necessary. Your sales plan is now flexible.

From Chaos to Visual Accountability
Even if your sales team is made up of inside sales, non-traveling representatives, your sales pipeline can benefit from geographic based territory planning.

I once worked for a sales organization that should have applied geographic territory tools to help manage their sales pipeline. They hired Gurus, invested in, and regularly screamed at us. Monthly sales meetings were held to review pipeline opportunities with no visual accountability. Account lists existed as random assignments with no basis in geography at all. Progress toward goals was slow and ultimately tanked. Leadership tended to focus on a few larger opportunities, quickly polling the group for status and next steps. Lower tier opportunities were never reviewed in detail. They forgot that lower tier opportunities, filled with painful objections and obstacles, are the beginning of tomorrow’s outstanding sales achievements.

By restructuring sales opportunities into geographic territories, sales objectives are displayed by region and sales person. Individual opportunities can be classified and color coded by type or even by blocking issue, facilitating a more helpful discussion, reinforcing accountability and driving results. Shared views of sales territories naturally promote sales accountability. Again, visual sales accountability drives results.

Without sales territory management your sales team may be adrift. The visual aid of territory maps expands personal accountability, informing daily sales activities. When you eliminate doubt about who gets credit for sales efforts productivity and sales numbers naturally go up. The focus returns to assigned accounts and prospects and how to convert them into sales achievements.

Frankly, you are going to spend more time selecting a business mapping software then you are setting it up. Your preparation for sales territory management includes the following:

• Decide which geographic segments best represent your territories and regions – state, county or zip code. There are additional options but those are the most common.
• An accurate list of your current customers and prospects by location is helpful. These can be used as a guide for territory set-up and later for activity planning. I recommend customer map locations by address, city, state and zip. Why not be as accurate as possible?
• If you have a spreadsheet of current assigned territories, by all means use it. If you already have a spreadsheet that lists zip codes and territory names you can immediately import this list to create territories

Your process for set-up involves importing spreadsheets to automatically create territories and conducting polygon queries of administrative districts (usually zip codes) to create territories. You should be able to define areas of overlap, which may or may not be allowed in your business. Once those base level sales territories are established you can begin posting sales results by territory on a periodic basis.
Consider adding demographic data to help standardize or optimize territory sizes. Add other map layers to your territory map like city and highway layers. Adjust all labels on the territory map to reflect messages that resonate with your team. A great business mapping software will help you customize your map message to your map audience.

Now you can also share your territory map views with your constituents. Get feedback from your sales team, your management group and your peers.

Now post those results and help your sale pipeline grow.

For more information on using Map Business Online for sales territory management see these posts:
Map Business Online Sales Territory Manual
Sales Territory Map for Elvis
Five Ways Territory Mapping Software will Improve Your Business
Sales Territory Mapping Where Do I Start

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Contact: Geoffrey Ives (800) 425-9035, (207) 939-6866

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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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