Territories are a huge part of your sales plan, but it’s not easy to get them right. To get planning off on the right foot, many companies turn to territory templates. Sales territory templates act as a foundation for mapping areas with your market and ensuring you have the right amount of resources assigned to each.
When used correctly, sales territory templates help you organize your performance data for more effective planning and maximize seller opportunities. But first, let’s talk about why territories play such a critical role in the success of your organization.
Why are sales territories so important?
In one of my many past lives, I consulted for a company that had no sales territories at all. They relied 100% on outbound sales under a round-robin system. When a new lead was picked up, it was sent to the next available rep. If that lead sat untouched for 60 days, the opportunity went into a free-for-all pool and was up for any rep to take on. The problem was reps were constantly grabbing and stealing accounts—even if the original rep had made contact and started establishing a relationship.
This made a great case for updating and maintaining an organized CRM, but it ultimately left huge holes and missed white space opportunities in their target market. Even with a steady stream of outbound leads, they weren’t doing the additional research to make sure they were covering all of their opportunities. So long story short, they were leaving a ton of money on the table, and they didn’t even know it.
I think we can all agree that your sales territories are important. When you can see all of your potential opportunities clearly, it helps you determine your sales capacity needs more accurately and design more strategic quota and incentive compensation plans.
When they’re not designed properly, sales territories can lead to a slew of problems, including:
- Poor morale, which leads to increased turnover
- Large numbers of missed opportunities
- High, inefficient travel costs
- And of course, lower overall performance
What makes a strong sales territory?
The best sales territories fit three criteria and are balanced, fair, and well-informed.
- Balanced: Every territory has an equal amount of sales opportunities (whether that be new business or customer accounts), and there is adequate sales capacity and coverage in each area.
- Fair: Each sales rep, regardless of their territory assignment, has an equivalent amount of opportunities and resources (tools, accounts, etc.) to hit and/or exceed their quota and goals.
- Well-informed (aka data-driven): Your entire sales territory map is designed from a combination of the most recent internal and third-party data sources, and that data is being cross-referenced to map out the most strategic territory design.
Again, this is where sales territory templates can be extremely helpful, alongside territory best practices. While I always advise tweaking templates to fit your organizations’ unique market and industry, they are a great foundation to ensure your territories are data-driven, balanced, and set your sales team up to succeed.
4 Sales Territory Template to Guide Planning
As the most successful enterprises grow, their sales territory planning tends to scale and become more extensive, complex, and data-driven. Here are four sales territory templates you can use to cover the most ground in your target areas and easily scale as you grow into new markets and verticals.
Level 1: Capturing the Biggest Market Potential
This is the most simplified and classic sales territory template to follow. Traditionally, it involves mapping your target market out by the largest cities that are home to an NFL, MLB, NHL, or other professional sports teams. The logic behind this is that these areas will be more densely populated and contain more business opportunities.
The Advantage: This is a quick rule-of-thumb metric and will put you in the hot-spot metropolises, where there are likely to be large numbers of potential buyers and opportunities.
The Disadvantage: It can be difficult to get the spread right using this sales territory template. For example, if you’re basing off of NFL teams, San Diego’s team recently relocated to Los Angeles. Do you keep San Diego as its own area, lump it in with somewhere else, or completely write it off? On the same note, Oakland’s team recently took up residency in Las Vegas, which previously had no NFL team. How do you pick up in that area, or how do you know if it’s even worth it?
Related Resource: Mythbusters: Sales Territory Management Edition
Level 2: Using Internal Data for Territory Mapping
This sales territory template uses your internal historical data to guide territory mapping. This typically includes geolocation data that you can gather from your customer and prospect accounts to inform the areas you want to target with your sales territories, such as:
- Where your existing customers are located
- Where your current opportunities are in pipeline
- Where all of your accounts are in your CRM system
The key with this sales territory template is that you’re starting to explore data-driven planning. Using this data will help you expand and reach new prospects in areas where you’re already seeing success.
The Advantage: If you build upon the previous sales territory template, adding your internal data will help you identify where you sell into more frequently and successfully. With at least three data points to go off of, you can create a heat map and design territories in a more balanced way.
The Disadvantage: Unfortunately, because you’re only using your own data, this can create myopia of your company. Your territories will only be centered around where your company’s customer base is—and you could be missing out on additional opportunities in other areas.
Related Resource: The Guide to Fair and Productive Sales Territories
Level 3: Adding in Industry Data
Building off of the past two sales territory templates, this strategy adds in third-party data from your industry, verticals, and marketplace. This helps you identify new opportunities in your hot-spot target areas more easily.
For example, consider a business selling parts for corporate office buildouts (e.g., desks, chairs, etc.). Your territory planning data might include:
- New Business developments: keep track of new construction and watch for retail, commercial, or other building developments related to your industry that are popping up
- Permits at the state/city level: where are organizations looking to build or set up shop
- Articles of incorporation at the state level: where are new companies beginning their business journey
You can take this one step further by combining your data with a third-party database like Xactly Insights, which shows how hundreds of thousands of enterprises are designing incentive compensation. You can examine your company, compare it to your industry, and analyze the industries you hire from. The same is true for your sales territories.
The Advantage: This sales territory template allows you to maintain a steadier flow of new accounts in your hot-spot (and often, highly-saturated) target markets. It also allows you to get a head start on newer business opportunities because you’re identifying them from the latest, up-to-date information.
The Disadvantage: While you are finding additional prospects, this strategy only focuses on areas that you have already identified as good areas to sell into. You could still be missing out on white space opportunities in areas that you are overlooking or have deemed “not marketable.”
Related Resource: Proven Practices for Effective Sales Territory Mapping
Level 4: Combining Multiple Data Sources
Out of all of the sales territory templates, this is the most sophisticated and data-driven. This expands your third-party data beyond your established target areas and existing customer base. At this level of sales territory planning, you should consider data sources such as:
- Census data: watch where people are located and what cities/states are seeing the largest growth in population that could indicate increased business activity
- Economic changes: see how economic scenarios could impact different areas and verticals and consider if all of your customers/prospects would be affected the same way
- Buyer and consumer trends: keep track of how individuals and businesses are buying, their preferences, and how they’re interacting with sellers
It can also be helpful to track corporate changes. For example, if you’re in the motor vehicle industry, Toyota’s decision to relocate its headquarters from Southern California to Dallas, Texas is extremely valuable insight. You can begin to preemptively ramp up sales in that marketplace and watch for additional businesses that buy or sell with Toyota to pop up in that same area.
The Advantage: This opens the door to explore places normally outside your target markets and take advantage of previously overlooked white space areas. Plus, it gives you a head start to move into newly emerging market areas.
The Disadvantage: The only disadvantage here is that you might not be using technology to apply this type of data-driven strategy to the entirety of your sales planning. (Learn more about that here).
Related Resource: When the World Changes and the Territories Have to Adjust
Get More Out of Your Sales Territory Planning
When designed well, your sales territories can truly uplevel your sales performance. But I’ll be honest, it’s really hard to do that with static, manual planning. You need to equip your team with the right tools and technology to ensure you have adequate coverage and aren’t missing any whitespace opportunities.
Sales territory templates are a great place to start—especially when you pair them with territory design tools. In fact, companies that use sales territory mapping software ultimately see up to 30% higher sales goal achievement, according to the Sales Management Association.
This is a business process overhaul that every company needs in today’s world. Without data-driven planning across the entire sales planning process, you’re already behind. Discover more ways data helps improve your planning and performance in Forrester’s latest research, Unleash Your Growth Potential With Continuous Planning.