Why do most sales people struggle with territory development? There are several reasons behind this but it starts with the fact that sales management doesn’t typically convey clear guidelines around territory development expectations during the recruiting process. In fact, prospecting is an area that is generally glossed over by both the sales candidates and sales management during the recruiting process. Why is it glossed over? Because the sales candidate wants to show themselves in the best light and tend to embellish how strong they are at building a territory/prospecting and how hard they will work their Rolodex.
While sales management wants to make the job appealing and doesn’t want to harp on what is considered to be the drudgery of territory development/prospecting by the sales rep. The problem is then perpetuated when the newly hired sales rep is “ramping up” (a future blog post) their territory and pipeline without a clear delineation of territory development/pipeline building accountability. Most companies will assign an annual sales quota but don’t provide more granular guidance around what the expectations are for the first 90-120 days on the job. This is precisely why a territory development plan and methodology is vitally important. During the recruiting process, the hiring sales manager needs to actively look for evidence that the sales candidate possesses the territory development and prospecting traits necessary for the position. The hiring sales manager also needs to clearly communicate what the sales rep’s responsibility is with respect to territory development and building the pipeline.
The sales rep should plan on presenting to sales management within the first 30 days on board a territory development plan that delineates the activities that they will undertake to build their territory. How will they leverage partnerships or alliances? What professional groups do they belong to or do they need to join? What are the best conferences to participate in to meet industry thought leaders and influencers for your particular solution or products? How many introductory calls and meetings per week and what are the corresponding conversion ratios (i.e., discovery, demos, POCs, proposals, and ultimately closed customers)? What are the pipeline rules of engagement? What does the pipeline need to look like at various intervals-30 days, 90 days, 120 days, etc.? How is sales management checking to ensure that the territory is being developed incrementally and properly? What are the feedback mechanisms?
What isn’t measured doesn’t get done in the business world. Measure early and often the territory development efforts of your sales people. Provide immediate feedback when you identify a pipeline shortfall before it is too late. Sales rep attrition is incredibly costly to companies and there are some simple things that you can do as a sales manager to reduce your sales rep turnover.