Most consumer goods companies understand the importance of an effective sales territory management plan - it can prevent territory overlap between field reps, which causes confusion and wastes time. By clearly defining territories, you can create a strategy that ensures field reps will not compete against one another for the same customers or visit a customer twice. Effective territory management can also save you time and money. Below, we discuss why territory management is so important, and give you five steps to help you create a territory management plan that will lead your business to success:
As an example, we’ll see how Matt’s Snacks, a Boston-based company, devised a territory management plan to increase their efficiency.
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What Most Territory Management Strategies Miss
When your reps are in the field, you aren’t there to monitor their every move and make sure they are on top of their game. With territory management, managers are able to create an organized system for their reps that empowers them to perform to the best of their ability in the field. Having this organized system matters for more reasons than just avoiding account crossover -- reps who are part of a well managed territory system are able to provide their managers with quality data that puts brands ahead of their competition.
For example, a rep that is well-organized and data-driven knows exactly what his accounts are and what he has to do to keep them happy is going to be a lot better at his job than one that feels constantly confused and frustrated by the uncertainty of his territory. The well-organized rep will be better equipped to catch out-of-stocks before they happen, build strong retailer relationships that allow you to vouch for more facings, and execute successful promotions that are specifically tailored to each location.
When we talk about data, we mean more than just sales velocity and SKUs (though these are still extremely important!). Top performing field teams go beyond the basics and work to get real time data from the field constantly flowing. Throughout this post, we emphasize the importance of quality data as the backbone of your territory management strategy.
Step 1: Segment your customers
Place your clients into different categories for easier organization and divide the territories accordingly. Each territory should have good potential, be of reasonable size, and have minimal obstacles. A good way to segment clients is by buyer personas- group clients have the same product and similar needs all together. Some people also segment according the size of the retailer. Once categorized, you can sort and filter clients by territory, making it easier to draw territory lines and redistribute field rep assignments as needed.
Matt’s Snacks segmented its customers by geography because the clients were in dispersed locations. Matt figured this would make it easier to divide up a large territory.
Step 2: Commit to territory planning
By looking at your retail execution strategy, you can devise a plan based around your core objectives, but you should also define your objectives by client as well. By breaking down your objectives by customer, you can construct a more detailed plan of how much time you should allocate to each client. It will be helpful if you include your field reps in this process- if they helped to develop the plan, then they will be more likely to follow it. While creating a strategy, you should be keeping three things in mind- you want to maintain current clients, reach out to potential clients, and obtain new clients from your competitors. Your plan should help you accomplish each of these three things.
Matt had growing demand from small to medium retailers, so his objective was to be able handle all of the demand and have his field reps visit each client regularly to avoid out of stock instances and maintain client relationships. He then looked at how to achieve these objectives. He found that some customers were more important than others, and created a plan to ensure that they were given more time than other less important retailers.
Step 3: Schedule your visits and plan your route
Once you’ve decided how much time you want to spend on each client visit, schedule your visits so that you can plan the most effective route from one client to another based on proximity. Again, using data points here can help you create a realistic schedule for your reps. If you know that visits to one specific location tend to take up more time than others, you’ll know to assign that rep fewer visits in a day so they are able to do their job well without feeling rushed.
Matt then called each retailer and created a schedule so that he could begin planning the routes for each field rep to take.
Step 4: Delegate
Assign each field rep a territory to cover. By making this very clear, you can avoid territory overlap. Take into consideration the specific capabilities of the reps you have and try and match them to the territory you believe would be most suitable. For instance, if one rep is able to visit more clients in a day than most of your other reps, then you can assign this rep a territory that has more clients. Be sure to consider your reps’ personal connections and strengths as well. If they have built strong relationships with one client, then you should keep them in that client’s territory.
After scheduling all of the visits, Matt called together this team of field reps and began to delegate territories to each one. For example, he gave Phil, his top performer, the territory with the most clients because he knew that Phil would be able to handle it. He gave Jack the territory with mostly rural areas because he knew Jack was skilled at covering long distances quickly.
Step 5: Implement and evaluate
Implementation and evaluation are key to running a better business. As you implement your territory management strategy based on data-backed decisions, you will create new data points to help you refine your approach over time. See what issues come up, evaluate how to best overcome them, and address them accordingly. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little- try different things and evaluate the results of each change. You may find that an idea that seems a little bizarre at first may actually be the most effective one.
After implementing his plan, Matt began to see that there were territories that had not yet been fully expanded into. He gave Jamie the task of opening new outlets- since Jamie was already in the territory that had the fewest clients, Jamie could then locate and target retailers that could potentially carry Matt’s Snacks products.
Through a well-thought out territory management plan, you can ensure that you are maximizing the efficiency of your field reps’ client visits. Good territory management practices will not only save you time, but it should improve your field reps’ coverage, build deeper relationships between clients and field reps, and add revenue. It can also give you a leg up on the competition if you are more efficient than they are. By decreasing travel time and other transportation expenses, each visit will cost you less. Your field reps will ultimately be happier - they can now be at their most productive, especially with an even distribution of clients in each territory.
Nancy Chen is a Content Marketing Intern at Repsly, Inc. and is currently completing a Marketing degree at Northeastern University. A contributor to the national online publication Spoon University, she is experienced in delivering knowledgable, quality material to readers.