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It’s Sales Territory Planning Season. Here’s How To Do It in Record Time

Sales leaders need to collect data now and take other steps to create a dynamic territory plan in January that meets their needs.

3d astro map sales territory planning

It’s that time of year again: territory planning season — when you map out all the accounts your sales reps will go after in the next year.

It’s a process that can make or break your revenue forecast. And one that’s complicated, where you have to connect the dots between disparate data, strategies, and teams in order to create a plan that delivers growth. And after you’ve finally finished trudging through all the data and administrative work involved, months have gone by.

As someone who has overseen this process from both ends of the spectrum (having run both a global sales and sales operations team at Salesforce), I’ve learned firsthand that time is of the essence, especially now. The pandemic has brought on the kind of market volatility that requires quick decision making about who you target, what you sell, and how you sell it. All of which ties directly back to your bottom line. You don’t want to be stuck with an irrelevant territory plan before you even put it into action.

By now, you’ve probably heard repeatedly that you need to adapt. Your territory planning process is not exempt. The question is: how do you do it fast, so you can scale up your team? Where can you find the efficiencies that will free your team up to capitalize on new opportunities? Check out our full e-book on how to build territories that deliver growth or read on for some ideas.

Ditch your spreadsheets

Say it with me: single source of truth. You need one. Traditionally, territory planning is often a tedious process that takes place across multiple spreadsheets siloed across different teams. Data about customers is often manually exported for territory modeling, a process that’s time consuming and prone to error. Teams end up working with different models and come back to the proverbial planning table with different ideas on how to carve your territories.

At PagerDuty, they call this spreadsheet purgatory. “You have to unify these different interpretations of the data, while trying to beat the clock as the data starts to go stale,” said Michele Prashaw, senior director of Sales Strategy at the cloud computing company. “That’s not a good recipe for building equitable territories.”

The insights from that data are also difficult to scale, only visible within pivot tables hidden in spreadsheets, Prashaw added.

To get around this, centralize your data in a CRM. (Read: What is CRM?) It puts all the information you have about your customer in one place and ensures everyone comes to the territory planning process with the same starting point. A CRM can also become the foundation for other tools that help you carve territories and plan for different scenarios within minutes (see next section on automation for details).

(Bonus: Salesforce has some nifty tools that even makes inputting data much faster too.)

Automate, automate, automate

After all the data gathering and stakeholder wrangling, you’re finally ready to draw your territories. Congratulations. Time to lock yourself in a windowless room. Just kidding.

“The team was sitting in a conference room every day of the week for two quarters, doing things like outlining state lines of Texas,” PagerDuty’s Territory Analyst Adam Boone said. “They were drawing geographic maps of what a regional territory could look like, and figuring out how many different ways we could carve that dependent on multiple metrics.”

With the automation of Salesforce Maps Territory Planning, we’re going to be able to shorten our planning cycle this year by 50%.

Michele Prashaw, senior director of Sales Strategy at PagerDuty

For a company that updates its territory plan on a quarterly basis, this was downright painful. The practice carried on until May, when the team implemented Salesforce Maps Territory Planning, a tool that automatically optimizes territories based on the most important criteria for the business – all with a few clicks of a button.

That function came in handy when one of PagerDuty’s regional vice presidents was challenged to rapidly expand her team. “We were able to really quickly iterate and add territories across different regions,” Prashaw said. “In just a few working sessions totaling four hours, we doubled her territories.”

During those working sessions, the team used Salesforce Maps Territory Planning to model multiple territory scenarios based on leadership-approved success metrics. They ultimately found a mix of boundaries that not only fit their overall strategy, but also accounted for equity between reps.

“With the automation of Salesforce Maps Territory Planning, we’re going to be able to shorten our planning cycle this year by 50% – to six to eight weeks,” Prashaw said.

Watch the video above for a demo of Salesforce Maps Territory Planning.

Eliminate the planning burden

As your organization grows, so often do your inefficiencies. Too many teams end up doing the same operational work. Best practices are lost. And you end up with a disjointed go-to-market approach that doesn’t scale.

Salesforce was guilty of this too. We grew from a startup to 150,000 customers in the span of two decades. We had a territory planning approach that worked, but it wasn’t perfect. For example, territory carving, where we split up territories and assigned them to reps, was done by siloed teams of sales strategy analysts — all with their own way of doing things.

“They would create their own way to value an account or their own guidelines on what constitutes an equal balance of territories,” said Justin Trana, a senior analyst for go-to-market programs at Salesforce. “It unintentionally created these silos in how the process was run.”

By shortening the planning cycle, we’re able to allow our sales reps do what they do best: sell.

Michele Prashaw, senior director of Sales Strategy at PagerDuty

That’s why we are creating a Center of Excellence, a small group of analysts partnering with data scientists charged with sifting through data, standardizing the way we carve territories, and creating the tools and templates to support sales teams across the company. Instead of 100 people charged with figuring out the entire process independently, four or five people do the bulk of the work for everyone. 

“It takes a huge burden off individual teams,” said Trana, who expects the change to streamline the territory planning process by months and allow leaders to make changes in real -time. “They’re able to focus on higher value activities at the end of the year, instead of data lifting.”

What do I do now with all the time I’ve saved?

Start planning ahead! Your territory plan is a living and breathing entity. While this time of year may be dedicated to the process, it’s never too early to review your current road map or prep for the next cycle.

Think about how nice it’ll feel to have time to talk to your sales leaders about their goals and success metrics, gather buy-in across multiple levels, and conduct in-depth analysis before you ever get to the drawing board.

Take it from Prashaw at PagerDuty: “By shortening the planning cycle, we’re able to allow our sales reps do what they do best: sell.”

And if all else fails: take a vacation. You deserve it.


Sean is senior vice president, Transformation and Sales at Salesforce. He is a go-to-market executive with experience leading teams across sales, marketing, operations, and customer success functions. Sean has demonstrated leadership in scaling technology businesses to achieve rapid growth.

More by Sean

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