It’s 2017. If your company runs on what I will call “Salesforce Time,” with a January 31st year end, you have another month to go – good luck! If it’s a new fiscal year at your company and you’re a rep, you’re waiting to see which accounts fall in and out of your territory, and are likely ready to fight for key accounts. As a manager kicking off a new year, you’re probably knee deep in spreadsheets carving up territories. If you’re really on your game and reps already have their territories and are off to the races, congratulations! This is a tough feat to pull off.
No matter what, once territories are determined, there’s no time to lose. Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” I love plans: making them, tracking against them, executing on them, changing them, and reflecting on them. But, they can be a lot of work, so it’s worth outlining why we do territory planning.
Why do we do territory planning?
- Revenue is a lagging indicator, activity is a leading indicator. It can take weeks or months to see the deals you generate make it into the forecast. Sometimes it can seem like nothing is happening. By creating a strategy for hitting quota, including concrete plans for developing relationships and pipeline from a variety of channels, you’ll be able to measure your efforts and see what is effective and ineffective for generating pipeline and closing deals.
- Leverage your resources. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so ask for marketing, sales development, product, partners and sales leadership support early and often. Determine where you can connect the dots so that you aren’t wasting time making cold calls. Make the company work for you & make your asks specific: outline accounts, contacts and messages you want delivered.
- Be held & hold others accountable. Demonstrate to sales leadership and yourself that you have a plan to be successful and show progress against that plan. Make sure you and others are doing what everyone committed to. If you are promised pipeline support, but aren’t getting what you expected, revisit the plan with your manager. Ultimately, as a rep, you are on the hook to deliver on your number and determining expectations early on will make it easier to adjust as things change.
An effective plan will mean increased pipeline, sales effectiveness and deal size by finding & using the information. It will allow you to identify white-space to target new cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
Ok, so what’s in a territory plan? If you’ve ever worked at a large or bureaucratic company, you are probably picturing long documents, spreadsheets, green sheets, gold sheets, blue sheets or database fields to fill out. If you’re new to territory planning or your company isn’t providing a formal template, don’t worry, you can build your own and share it internally to demonstrate your leadership and commitment. Either way, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Great territory plans have six parts:
A territory summary.
This is tricky if you have a set of named accounts, but if you are covering a vertical or a region:
- Outline where your prospects are: the major urban areas you’re covering, publications that your prospects read, tradeshows, events and networking groups that are important, etc.
- Determine who your prospects are: number of accounts, key industries or sub-verticals, key trends or insights into your buyers
- List key customers in the territory
- Summarize what the market landscape is like in your territory: key partners, competitors, and analysts or thought leaders
Reflection of past performance.
Dig into the data so you don’t make the same mistakes that were made the previous year and capitalize on things that were successful. Overall, you want to answer the question: how did the territory do last year? By summarizing what you know about the territory including:
- What was the breakdown between upsell/cross-sell and net new customers?
- For existing customers, what white-space exists for you to sell other products?
- What was the average deal size? Product and service mix?
- What types of companies are most likely to buy in your territory?
- Which deals didn’t get done? What are those customers doing now? Could there be a deal to pursue here this year?
Good goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound:
- Start with pipeline. Conventional wisdom when I started selling is that you needed 3x your quota in pipeline to end up at your number. When I dig into the numbers at a lot of startups, that coverage ratio is often much higher. Also, it’s not just about initial pipeline, you also need to learn about how much coverage you need at each stage.
- Determine your pipeline gap. How much are you missing? Depending on your sales cycle length, you might tackle this 1 or 2 quarters at a time, or you might plan out the whole year.
- Breakdown where you expect the pipeline to come from: marketing, sales development, partners, and self-generated.
- Add additional goals that will make this quarter or year a success like key new logos you want to add, closing one or more deals over $X, developing specific partnerships in your territory or getting promoted.
Account Tiering & Top Account Plans.
Now, let’s further breakdown how you will achieve your pipeline generation goals, beginning with your own pipeline generation efforts. Ideally, your company or your analysis of past territory performance will tell you which types of accounts in your territory are most likely to be a good fit. If not, identifying a few industries, the size of company and likelihood that they are making changes will help you prioritize your accounts.
- Tiering: If you cover 100+ accounts, break your territory into A, B, C and possibly D tiers. These can include current customers with potential for upsell or net new prospects. If you cover just a few accounts, you’ll create account plans for all of your accounts.
- Top Account Plans: For your A accounts, at least the top 5, create a more detailed account plan, for lower tier accounts, give your sales development rep a crack at creating a plan and coach them on the output. The plans should include:
- Org chart that shows which divisions you are in, who you have relationships with & how strong they are, which relationships you need to develop, who your network has connections with and what executives you want to connect.
- Current state: Existing strategies that align to your message? Stated initiatives we can capitalize on? Key partners they work with? What competitive solutions do they invest in? Why have/haven’t we been able to sell into them before?
- Strategy, messages & solutions: What is your strategy for getting into the account/divisions? What messages will you be delivering? Products or solutions you will position?
- Activity/events plan: What events will you invite the account to? Can you do an internal roadshow? A happy hour? Meet them at a tradeshow? Are you going to be calling your rolodex to make connections and get referred in? Map our your activity sequence with the account.
Plan pipeline generation for other channels
When you broke down the pipeline you needed, you assigned specific amounts to channels like sales development, partners, and marketing. Create a plan for how you will work with each group to generate pipeline and revenue.
- Are there particular accounts in your patch that you want them to target? Which contacts should they go after and what messages should they deliver?
- What events are happening in your territory that you can all work to drive attendance to? What events can you plan with partners, marketing or with a specific client?
- How often will you meet with each counterpart to review progress?
- Will you agree on specific activity metrics with your sales development rep and partners?
- Based on past conversion rates, do you know you need to hit a particular number of events or attendees to drive pipeline?
Calendar & Metrics
Map out your quarter. How many calls and events is it going to take to get to your pipeline goals at each stage. Are you going to meet your activity goals? Do you have events planned that you can invite accounts to in addition to your top tier?
Great. I’ve made my plan. How do I know it is working? Most reps build their plan at the beginning of the year and never look at it again. Don’t be that guy/girl! Schedule time each month or quarter to review your plan and your progress. Create a dashboard for pipeline and make sure that pipeline generation is on the agenda for 1:1s with your manager and in team meetings. Don’t wait till the end of the quarter to panic, by then it is too late.