3 Key Aspects of Sales Territory Definition – Accountability, Sharing Data, & Franchising

Defining a territory has become somewhat routine for business mapping software users. It’s easy to simply run a polygon search tool across an area of ZIP codes and grab a selection of ZIP codes and call that a territory.

Similarly, it’s easy to import a sales rep’s list of ZIP codes and define that as a territory. But is sales territory creation really that cut and dry?

It isn’t. Territory management is more complicated than selecting a batch of counties and calling it ‘good.’ There are many considerations in today’s complex business world. Here are three aspects of sales territory definition that repeatedly occur for MapBusinessOnline customers:

  1. Defining sales accountability – Who owns what?
  2. Sharing opportunities and information
  3. Franchise Mapping

A territory manager should consider these three elements as they define their sales territory alignment and assignment details.

Read About Business Expansion Using MapBusinessOnline Territory Planning

Accountability – Who Owns What?

Whether your field-staff are salespeople or support technicians, the assignment of sales territories is a process designed to designate accountability by area. For the most part, if your field reps are assigned an area (ZIP code, county, or other), that area is their responsibility. While shared accountability can occur, it should be the exception.

Shared accountability adds confusion to the marketplace and detracts from a salesperson’s ability to achieve goals. This is largely due to human nature. Salespeople are motivated by earnings, and territory sharing dilutes earnings causing resentment and possibly obsession with the other guy’s accounts and activities. Their focus shifts from earnings to backward glances.

Territory maps provide visual lines of demarcation that define an area of responsibility. If a clearly defined area proves to be more than one salesperson can handle, it may be time to create a new territory. Alternatively, it could be time to find a new salesperson. But that decision is for a sales manager to ponder and not for us to kibitz over.

Regardless of how you measure sales success, keeping territories clearly defined helps focus sales efforts on results. Salespeople are motivated by commission, not by sharing commission.

Legacy account possession is one of the most common reasons for overlapping sales. The old-school workhorse sales guy ‘has a relationship with the papermill’s buyer, and we’re not going to disrupt that for the sake of accountability.’ Really? Instead, you’ll assign overlapping sales territories that will pin the old workhouse against the aggressive young upstart and create several years of animosity until someone retires, has an incident, or there’s a murder. Good luck with that.

Change is good. Smart businesspeople survive in the workplace because they adjust as changes occur. Push past legacy relationships and clearly define areas of accountability for each sales representative. Keep commission structures fair. Don’t solve personal problems by territory assignment. Use territory assignments to determine the organization’s one-to-five-year strategic plan. Your competitors will be busy organizing theirs.

Read about the 6 Top Considerations When Creating a Business Map

Map-based territory assignment logic defines where traveling sales reps should focus their time. Those same territories suggest where inside support services should focus their energy.

Sharing Inquiries by Territory

Incoming service chats or phone calls may or may not require face-to-face sales follow-up. However, it’s vital that incoming calls from customers or prospects are shared with the people responsible for those areas. Shared business maps for inside people should replicate the territory segmentation of the outside sales force. Likewise, inside technical support (as opposed to sales support), staff should view the same maps as traveling technicians.

A routine inquiry about a particular electrical fixture might feel like no-big-deal to a helpful inside salesperson. Still, the outside salesperson may be aware of an upcoming project that involves those specific fixtures. Make sure those territory maps are shared across the organization so any inquiry can be logged and directed to the correct salesperson – who is, after all, held accountable for growing sales in that district. Why would you hold a person accountable for sales by region and not make them aware of all activity in the region?

It’s easy to share sales territory maps across a team’s network. Searches by ZIP code and address accommodate fast identification of territory assignments. These shared sales territory maps can also display nearby resource locations, construction sites, repair stations, cell towers – you name it.

Empowered with shared sales territory maps, a sales team can create more effective solutions for customer care. Inquiries can be tracked and ranked by success and failure. Picture a quarterly review of all prospect inquiries ranked by sales value and color-coded by success or failure. The most successful results can then be reviewed for optimized sales growth while failing opportunities become demonstrated dead ends to avoid.

Franchise Territory Maps

Franchise maps are a special-case sales territory map. Franchise businesses often make sales territory maps the cornerstone of their business model. It’s a natural fit. Franchise areas or territories are sold to and owned by franchisees. Territory areas make up a critical component of the sold franchise. Other components might be customers, intellectual property, product access, or service rights. These territories represent the authorized area where a franchisee can do business.

Franchise territories are usually sized based on a critical demographic or measurable business metrics by area. Example metrics would be population by ZIP code, disposable income by ZIP code, product expenditures by county, or a sales metric like cost-of-goods sold in a ZIP code.

ZIP codes are the most applied map alignment layer for franchise maps. Analysis and planning by ZIP codes are convenient and relatable for franchisee managers. In populated urban areas, ZIP code coverage areas are generally the first franchises sold for new franchising businesses.

Counties come in second for franchise map alignment layering. Counties may be more appropriate for more rural franchise selling, for businesses like homecare agencies that must travel far and wide. Such agencies might sell ZIP code franchises in urban areas and County franchises in outlying areas.

Shared franchise maps can display and track available and sold franchise areas. Team subscriptions can be handy for shared map Franchise analysis. A map administrator creates the franchise territory map and color-codes based on the franchise model requirement:

  • Red and green franchise ZIP code areas of one or more ZIP codes display where franchises are still available or sold
  • Franchise maps include critical demographic or business metrics that define the most lucrative areas
  • Market analysis maps help investigate and plan business expansion for both franchisers and future franchisees

Franchise mapping is a bit of a no-brainer. One of our happy customers once exclaimed, “Maps sell franchises!” And we agree.

Dreaming up new territory schemes for an existing business or a new venture can be both intimidating and exhilarating. But for those wary of stepping off the ledge, you will generally be choosing between ZIP codes and counties for your territory alignment layer.

Think about who will use the territory assignments to gauge metrics, estimate commissions, or communicate opportunities. Avoid overlapping areas and include all the relevant business location and demographic data you can get your hands on. Start there, and your business territory map will follow in short order.


Find out why over 25,000 business users log into www.MapBusinessOnline.com for their business mapping software and advanced sales territory mapping solution. The best replacement for Microsoft MapPoint happens to be the most affordable.

To access MapBusinessOnline, please register and then download the Map App from the website – https://www.mapbusinessonline.com/App-Download.aspx.

After installing the Map App, the MapBusinessOnline launch button will be in the Windows’ Start Menu or Mac Application folder. Find the MapBusinessOnline folder in the Start Menu scrollbar. Click the folder’s dropdown arrow and choose the MapBusinessOnline option.

The Map App includes the Map Viewer app for free non-subscriber map sharing.

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Contact: Geoffrey Ives geoffives@spatialteq.com or Jason Henderson jhenderson@spatialteq.com

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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