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Communicate Performance and Territory Changes

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Communicate changes in the annual plan to sales teams.
  • Explain the six most common territory models.
  • Explain why fairness is important in territory planning.

It’s common that plans change year-to-year. That said, the way in which this change is communicated to the sales team can impact how they perform. Everyone in your organization, from VP to each individual sales rep, has a set of priorities and goals. As a sales operations professional, it’s part of your responsibility to understand these so you can apply empathy in your communications.

Gain Trust and Buy-In from Sales

Whenever there is a change, sales operations should be focused on getting buy-in and gaining trust, explaining how and why the key performance indicators (KPIs)/tools/processes/and so on have been adjusted and improved.

While the changes will vary based on your company’s specific plan, here are a few key things to consider when communicating these changes with sales teams.

  • Make it about earning money. Sales team members are largely motivated by what will earn them their commission. If you can frame the change as a way to make that process easier—easier to hit their numbers, easier to close deals—you’re well on your way to getting buy-in.
  • Present it face-to-face. Sales teams tend to be social by nature. If you can present the changes in the same room, or at least on a conference call where they can ask questions of you and sales leadership, they can process the changes easier than if it was sent via email.

You can check out the Sales Operations Use Cases and Best Practices module for more tips on getting buy-in across your company.

Territory changes can be some of the most drastic changes within a sales organization. The rest of this module focuses specifically on what goes into territory changes and how sales operations plays a part in making these changes in a measured and positive way.

Territory Changes

Sales ops professional presenting metrics and a map to a room of sales leaders

At times, moving sales reps between territories and teams may be needed. 

  • Shuffling sales team members allows them to interact with, and learn from, more people across the organization.
  • It also helps with the spread of sales best practices beyond just one team.
  • Changing territories also benefits sales leadership—they are constantly motivated to work with their team members to find new and innovative ways to succeed.

Territory Models and How They Work

The following models are rarely as cut-and-dried in real life. The takeaway is that not all territories are created equal, even by the most dedicated sales operations team. Depending on what model you go with, there is effort needed in finding a balance.

Territory Model
Description
Geography
Using existing geographic boundaries such as states or zip codes
Vertical
Creating industry-based territories
Revenue
Grouping prospect companies by revenue ranges
Named Accounts
Accounts are directly assigned to each rep by name (subsidiaries fall under their parent company)
Size
Grouping prospect companies by their headcount ranges
Round Robin
Randomly assigning territories

Above All, Make It Fair

Fairness is important when creating territories. Sales teams always share their territories and you don’t want them becoming distracted by an individual or team who may have a big advantage over the others.

For example:

An advantageous territory for a hunting sales team, which is focused on generating new business, is a territory where there is a natural product and market fit as well as a lot of demand. Think back to ice cream sales—a team responsible for a region where it gets really hot and dry will most likely fair very well. Now imagine a rep responsible for a snowy region seeing their colleagues crush their numbers while they’re unable to close a single deal. It’s not a sweet situation at all.

Beware of Midyear Changes

Consistency is important. If midyear changes are made often or haphazardly, it can impact morale, or even make sales operations seem disorganized. Frequent territory and incentive changes create disruptions that lower productivity—“who is responsible for the western territory again?”—and, as a result, lower revenue. 

If a midyear change is needed, sales operations, sales leadership, and finance need to agree that it is vital, and they must share the work of communicating it to the organization in a clear and transparent way.

This does not guarantee that the entire sales organization will take the change well, even with appropriate planning, messaging, and timing. But with a plan that has buy-in across sales and finance, you can be assured that any issues that do come up will be handled in a measured way by a team.

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