Why data alone can’t fix your sales territory design problems

Hang around salespeople with any regularity and you’ll hear many opinions about sales territories—whether they’re fair, well-distributed, or in line with quotas. After all, a lot rides on getting territories right—livelihoods, corporate objectives, and business growth. It makes sense that savvy sales ops professionals turn to reasoned, data-backed territory design rather than instinct to map out territories and sales plans.

Hang around salespeople with any regularity and you’ll hear many opinions about sales territories—whether they’re fair, well-distributed, or in line with quotas. After all, a lot rides on getting territories right—livelihoods, corporate objectives, and business growth. It makes sense that savvy sales ops professionals turn to reasoned, data-backed territory design rather than instinct to map out territories and sales plans.

But there’s a catch. As data proliferates, it’s harder to wrangle, especially with traditional sales tools like spreadsheets. Whether territories are assigned based on geography, business size, industry, or sales rep type, data is the key. But centralizing and integrating that data so that it’s easy to model various scenarios and report out to distributed teams is what gives successful sales ops teams the edge.

Manual spreadsheets

Have you ever crashed a spreadsheet while trying to build out your territory models? What about emailing headcounts and commission structures to sales leadership and getting a conflicting set of numbers back a week later? Reconciling those changes with what you know about your sales territory plan using spreadsheets can take weeks. And trying to manage huge data files full of thousands of accounts, tens of thousands of opportunities, and planned headcount is too time-consuming and error-prone for today’s fast-moving, competitive world.

And then there are data integrity problems. Let’s say you’re asked to develop sales territories that tie into quotas, which then feed back into corporate revenue targets for the year. You diligently proceed, developing spreadsheets that incorporate relevant headcount, bookings, and quota assumptions. Unbeknownst to you, the CFO has also asked finance and HR for the same calculations. Both departments send out spreadsheets that don’t line up with yours, and now you’re answering questions about projections you didn’t generate.

Out-of-date, unlinked data

Even if you are able to overcome the limitations of spreadsheets to develop a killer sales territory plan using look-ups, pivot tables, formulas, and scenarios, you still have to wrangle the data coming in from your CRM or ERP, or make adjustments to headcount assumptions or revenue targets when they come down from leadership. In short, you need to be able to bring all of that data together into some semblance of order and (hopefully) alignment.

If you want to incorporate changes in commission structures, headcount, or how you segment your accounts, by the time you recalibrate your design, your territory plan is probably irrelevant. Accounts have moved, milestones have passed, and your sales leadership is likely trying to close business at the end of the quarter, leaving planning on the back burner and ultimately pushing out the delivery of territories and quotas.

Siloed sales and finance planning

Creating territories that support sales targets and corporate objectives is easier said than done. It’s nearly impossible to align sales and finance when there are multiple data sources and different assumptions, all with competing timelines and deliverables.

On the other hand, if your sales plan is linked to your corporate strategy through synchronizing bookings targets, headcount plans, and expense data, your sales operations, sales leadership, and finance teams can work together to make sure your territory design supports organization-wide revenue and expense goals and rolls up to accurate budgets.

The solution? Real-time, integrated, and automated sales territory planning

Sales territory plans are a work in progress—always impacted by an ever-changing market, shifting corporate objectives, and other moving targets. Whether your team faces turnover, a new product rollout, or an executive decision to grow the market in a new region, you need to be able to see the impacts of each change in real time and on the fly. You don’t have two weeks to rejigger your spreadsheet, reimport all the data, and then recalibrate your models accordingly. You need to instantly be able to see what will happen if you add five salespeople, restructure commissions, change revenue assumptions, or move your highest-performing sales rep to a new patch.

A single source of integrated data that is automated, user-friendly, and accessible allows you to see these models play out in real time, before you present them as a done deal to your leadership. This also ensures you can monitor territory coverage in real time so that account assignments reflect current information as well as staffing levels and evolving corporate objectives.

When it comes to sales territory design, there’s no doubt that data is critical, but data alone isn’t enough. If it’s not integrated with overall corporate strategy, populated by a single source of truth, or visible to stakeholders, you’ll plan with one hand tied behind your back. It’s time to level up your sales territory planning game with an integrated, collaborative, and holistic approach.

Watch the webcast Hit Sales Targets: Quota Setting & Territory Design

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