Hey Sales Pro, Be the CEO!

by Amy McDonald, Adjunct Faculty, Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development
October 17, 2017

(The CEO of your territory, that is.)

It’s that time of year: budgets, expenses, strategies, planning for next year while still trying to finish the current year strong. Each week feels more time-crunched than the last, and you aren’t sure how you’ll ever get it all done. The clock is ticking, and Dec. 31 is just around the corner. Pressed for time, most sales professionals struggle to keep their head above water this time of year. While this pressure might seem like an unfortunate necessity, it’s likely that you’re not, in fact, setting the path for a more successful future. So, how can you stop running in place? Taking a few small steps in the direction of tighter territory targeting can set your GPS on the path for a new year characterized by enhanced growth.

Amy McDonald, Adjunct Faculty, Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development

Why tighter targeting?

It comes down to simple math. It’s no surprise that quotas are increasing with each year. So, too, are the costs associated with selling. Salesforce costs are a significant line item on the expense ledger, and higher contribution per person to cover these costs is now the norm. Return on investment (ROI) is key, and few investments are as costly as, or as independently managed as a sales territory. Lack of ROI often leads to consolidation or replacement — and no one wants to be the one whose name is associated with that trend. Simple steps in targeting can change the trajectory of a territory and set it on the path for sustainable ROI.

3 simple ways to increase ROI

Be the CEO of your territory. Your company is busy with strategies and plans, and your manager is busy crunching numbers. Typically, you’re on your own to write the script for which accounts you plan to spend time on and what energy you invest where. Too often, though, we get caught in the day-to-day response demands and fall into the trap of being reactive when success relies on taking control.

Successful CEOs have a vision. Decide where to spend your energy and your company’s resources. Decide where the growth will come from, and where it won’t. Focus on return on investment accordingly.

CEOs are proactive by nature. They steer the ship. It’s time you do the same. Steer the ship of your territory by developing a targeting plan, even when no one else is asking for it. Start a plan. Seek the patterns. Make choices. Own it.

CEOs call their shots. Call yours with this roadmap. Lead. Your decisive action will help you and will guide others, aligning the team that supports you and your customers. Tighter targeting will save you time, help you make better business decisions and focus resources where it matters the most.

So, where do you start? Whether you are a sales manager responsible for others, or an individual contributor with your territory, now is the time to commit to tighter targeting. Start simple. Pick customer attributes that are meaningful to your company and business. Consider attributes like a current business; overall potential; access to decision makers; complexity; customization; alignment of buying values; price sensitivity; loyalty — truly, the list is endless. Pick a few attributes focused on revenue potential and probability of success, then, map them. Yes, write them down. List your top 10 accounts and then class the rest in “other” and map your territory.

Consider these sales attributes

  • Revenue history: Consider the last two-to-three years of sales history, assigning a column for each.
  • Revenue plan: What are your projections next year and at least two years ahead? Again, write it down, one column for each year. What do you think is possible?
  • The probability of success: Create a scale and force rank. Force ranking is tough but necessary. It requires choices. If you have ten accounts listed, and you plan to score on a scale of one to five, with five as the highest ranking. You can only assign two “fives,” two “fours,” three “threes,” and there must be two “twos” and at least one “one.” As tempting as it may be, they all cannot be fours and fives.
  • Overall attractiveness: Again, your scale, but your scale with differentiation.
  • And finally, time: How much time do you need to dedicate in days per month or quarter to achieve the revenue plan you laid out in prior columns. Time should include all time associated with that customer – planning to meet them, meeting them, following up.
  • Now add it all up, and look for the patterns. You might be amazed!

The practice of writing this down can be eye-opening, even shocking. Some patterns to check for:

  • Do you have a legacy account that is not growing, yet still takes a significant amount — or an increasing amount of your and your colleagues’ time?
  • Are you spending less than one day per month on an important prospect that could grow if you invested more time?
  • Is 80 percent of your energy going toward where the growth is?
  • Add up the revenue plans — are they in alignment with the corporate quotas you are expected to achieve?
  • Add up the time. There are 20 work days per month, 60 per quarter. Are you planning to do more work than is possible in a month’s time? Or, do you have lots of time that isn’t accounted for in your top accounts?

Note the patterns. But importantly, as the CEO of your territory, decide what you are going to do differently and start the change.

Keep it alive. Customers change. Attractiveness and market forces are in constant flux. As the CEO, you are seeking the path of least resistance to grow fastest.

Post this roadmap near your desk and check it often. What’s changed? Potential? Does the revenue plan have hiccups or acceleration points? Does the time estimate per account match the reality of the last three months? Update it — keep an eye open to patterns.

Territory targeting creates discipline and drives decisions, getting you out of a reactive mode and into the driver’s seat. Be the CEO of your territory. Dare yourself to plan and plan to grow.

Amy McDonald is the president of FONA International and teaches High Performance Sales and Effective Sales Management at the Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development. For more information about short courses and certificates, contact us [email protected]