Running a business is all about trial and error, which makes mistakes inevitable. Still, some mistakes can cost you more than others. When it comes to territory management, many managers do not realize what they are doing wrong and how to improve.
If sales are lagging or your reps are falling short of their duties, it can often be difficult to identify exactly what the source of the problem is. In order to identify your problem areas, we’ve listed out four common mistakes territory managers make, and what you can do to improve your territory management strategy.
Mistake #1: You Rely On Your Reps to Hold Themselves Accountable
While your team may be stellar and you feel you can trust them to do their work correctly, it never hurts to have readily available guidelines to hold reps accountable and standardize your territory management process. Leaving reps to their own devices may seem like a good idea on the surface -- no one likes a micromanager, and you can’t possibly stay on top of each rep individually -- but just like you, reps can make mistakes in their roles as well.
You need consistency in your team’s approach to retailers and the highest quality feedback you can get. Having a framework for field reps to refer to simplifies your job by providing them with a set of standards for quick reference at any time to help them avoid misstep.
How to fix it:
- Make a playbook. A playbook is the easiest way to put all of your expectations into one centralized document. In it, you can equip reps with instructions for how to approach different retailers, information about a certain segment, and rules for reporting any data collected during retailer visits. Make this available both in print and online, so your team can access it anytime, anywhere.
- Focus on timeline. The fast-paced business world waits for no one, and making sure your field team stays on schedule allows the rest of your business to run smoothly. Ser expectations by assigning tasks to them and telling them when you need each one completed. If reps are not keeping up with their work, you’ll have an easier time assessing and addressing the situation.
- Use standardized forms. When reps are conducting visits, randomly taking notes doesn’t produce the same results as standardized forms can. Forms make it easier for reps to know what they are looking for and gives them an easy to follow framework for recording that information. Using a mobile CRM, the team can upload data quickly while on the road, streamlining your reporting process and improving your workflow.
Mistake #2: You Aren’t Experimenting With Segmentation
One of the most important parts of category management is segmentation. How you choose to segment your target market significantly impacts the quality of your retailer relationships and customers’ overall perception of your brand. Many managers segment their reps solely by geography, which doesn’t always produce the best results.
Experimenting with different types of segmentation helps you find what works best for your customers and for your reps. Like we said before, some mistakes are worse than others, and it’s a bigger mistake not to try new things than it is to try something, realize it doesn’t work, and adjust your strategy from there.
How to fix it:
- Consider more than just geography. Look at demography, account size, business type, etc. and match those accounts with reps that will provide the best service for that segment. If you know that one rep has a lot more experience working with larger accounts, it makes sense to assign those accounts to that rep rather than rely on the convenience of divvying up accounts by location. When you start incorporating some of these factors, remember that none of them are mutually exclusive -- each has an influence on how you can categorize accounts.
- Understand your customers and their priorities. How often are they reordering? Are they interested in product updates and upgrades? Has their spending been frugal or generous? Analyzing the deeper trends of your customers’ behavior not only gives you a better idea of how to categorize them, but also gives you insight on how to approach similar buyers in the future.
- Create subsegments. Maybe after you restructure your segmentation, you find that you have far too many segments that would be difficult to keep track of. Find a common theme among some of them and divide them up into a few larger groups based on their similarities. Still, maintain subsegments that can help reps pay attention to differences and further tailor their approach to the accounts.
Mistake #3: You Only Use Email to Communicate
While having consistent email discussions are important, it is possible you’re not taking advantage of the many other virtual communication methods that can enhance your workflow. Email works for formal, lengthy correspondence, but try out different forms of communication with your team and see if they make it easier for you to stay in touch. The most successful brands are ones that have a well connected team that can maintain strong relationships with you and with each other.
How to fix it:
- Keep things casual. Formality is important when necessary, but if you have a quick question for a rep or vice versa, it’s much easier to send a quick text or have a brief phone conversation. Establish more casual lines of communication and make sure your reps feel comfortable approaching you and each other in a direct, informal manner. You’ll get to the point much quicker and build closer relationships among team members.
- Use video calling. Services like Skype, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts provide businesses with a great opportunity to get the team together when working remotely. Having regular team video check-ins is a lot simpler than a never ending email chain that paints a disjointed picture of the state of your field team.
Check out this tip from our Field Team Academy, where Mike Volpe dives into his favorite communication tips for field teams!
Mistake #4: Your Approach to Territory Management is Rigid
We all like consistency, but as a manager, you need to be sure not to get too set in your ways. The term agility currently carries a lot of weight when it comes to business management, and for good reason. Without an agile business mindset, you can’t respond quickly to market changes no matter how quality your analytics are.
Being agile means taking (reasonable) risks based on data, seeing how things play out, and then using that information to tell you what needs tweaking. Agility is important so you can learn from mistakes and make proper adjustments. Analytics are important because that’s what informs what adjustments you make. Finding balance between the two makes both a lot easier.
How to fix it:
- Don’t be afraid to make frequent changes. If you constantly implement small changes in your processes, you can then measure their success and gain insight. Try implementing one change at a time, then setting a time period -- say, a week -- to give it a test run. Analyze the results, and use your findings to decide whether or not you should leave things the same or try something else.
- Standardize your approach. Any data you are collecting holds power. The better your data, the more well informed your decisions will be. Ideally, your reps will be collecting hundreds of data points a day, and having a standardized plan of how to record and interpret your data (think back to the solutions for mistake #1) gives you the power to analyze it quickly and find a rhythm to your analytic approach.
Adjusting your approach to territory management isn’t as bad as it sounds if you use the tips above. You can not only identify your problem areas, but now have the tools you need to get your business back on track.
Melissa is a recent graduate of Northeastern University and a content marketing specialist at Repsly, Inc. She is committed to applying her skills in order to bring value to Repsly readers and customers. Outside of work, Melissa enjoys practicing yoga, making music, and anything dog-related.