There is a certain variety of territory dispute that is troubling for a whole host of reasons.
The trouble starts when a salesperson obtains an appointment or something that advances an opportunity with a dream client that isn’t in their territory. The salesperson that is responsible for the territory immediately takes notice and cries foul. They insist that the territory—and every dream client in it—belongs to them, and the dream client is theirs by right.
Let’s Go To the Tape
The sales manager who is called to arbitrate this dispute wants to make the easy decision: the dream client is across the imaginary line that divides the territory, so it belongs to the person responsible for the territory.
But something prevents them from making this decision quickly. Something gnaws at their conscious. They want to look into the matter and they base their decision on the facts, so they turn to the sales force automation, looking for the most recent activity. Almost always, it turns out that there is no record of the complaining salesperson ever calling on the dream client that sits right in the middle of their territory.
The sales manager, unable to resist pointing out the glaring absence of activity on the account, calls to speak with the salesperson, but almost always relents and gives the dream client to the sales rep whose territory it belongs, even though they have done nothing to deserve the opportunity. In some cases they make the salespeople split the deal, even though only one has done anything to deserve the deal.
I have often disagreed with this decision, particularly as it punishes the salesperson that took action while rewarding the salesperson that was not taking action. If the dream client was an important opportunity in their territory, they should have been pursuing it and there should be a long history of communications and attempts.
There will be plenty of sales managers who will disagree with me here, but there will be very few that don’t struggle handing the opportunity to the salesperson that took no action.
If It Is Your Sales Territory
If you want your sales manager and your company to protect your territory and the opportunities within it, then it your responsible for generating the activity that proves you value the territory and you value the opportunities in it.
The arrangement here is reciprocal: You work the territory, and we make it yours exclusively. There is no reason to expect that your company and your sales manager should honor this arrangement after you have breached your part of the bargain.
It is your job to work your territory, not to wait for deals to walk themselves in—especially opportunities that present themselves when another salesperson takes the action you should have long been taking.
If it’s your territory, work it like it is your territory. That means being organized enough to constantly and consistently pursue your dream clients. It means nurturing the relationships over time, all of the time, so that your territory is really your territory. All your dream clients are taken; you need call them anyway.
When one of your peers calls your dream client, even when they are cold, the first thing they should ask is what happened to you and why you aren’t calling them yourself. If your dream client doesn’t know your name, they aren’t yours.
If You Are the Sales Manager, You May Not Be Blameless
The sales manager is not blameless here, either. If you as a sales manager want you’re salespeople winning the dream client targets in their territory, you are responsible for ensuring that those dream clients are being aggressively pursued. You are responsible for inspecting your salespeople generate activity on your biggest, best, opportunities, ensuring that they call on what are your coldest non-opportunities.
You are also responsible for helping to design and execute a value-generating nurture toolkit that provides your salespeople with plenty of opportunities to communicate with your identified dream clients.
You shouldn’t find out that no activity has been taken on the dream clients that mean the most to your future when another one of your salespeople generates an opportunity that isn’t in your territory.
Inspect what you expect . . . and make your expectations clear and well known.
What proves that your territory is really yours?
If there wasn’t an artificial and arbitrary lines drawn on a map, would other salespeople have some other way of recognizing that the territory is yours?
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