TALKING SALES 132: "Territory Coverage: The #2 Sales Challenge"

John Smibert

Territory coverageImage by    

        "What difference would it make if you could fully cover your territory?" - Interview by John Smibert

Salespeople need to focus on moving qualified opportunities through the pipe - that's what we hire them for. At the same time we expect them to develop and nurture relationships of those customers not currently in the funnel - their territory.

John BedwanyIn this discussion John Bedwany claims that - after 'sales efficiency' which we discussed last time - 'territory coverage' is the number two sales productivity challenge for organisations.

Based on his research John claims that in the average B2B sales territory of 250 contacts 80% are not being adequately covered in any quarter because salespeople focus on the live deals.

John says; "the opportunity here for all of us is how do we optimise our coverage, and the 80% in the territories that the salesman never covers, with a model that's actually respectful to the decision makers".

John submits that; "We need a strategic contact process, which is taking the buyer through a journey, and the salesperson is not doing it".

View or read this interview to begin to get an insight into how some organisations are leapfrogging their competitors in the way they cover their territory.


John Bedwany is the CEO of The Database Dept.  He is a thought leader and a disruptive thinker who helps his clients achieve extraordinary productivity in sales and marketing.


John S: I've got John Bedwany with me again - welcome back, John!

John B: Hi, how are you?

John S: John, we're going through the series of challenges you see in the B2B sales environment, and challenge number two is territory coverage.

John B: Yes.

John S: What do you mean by that and what do you see as a key issue?

John B: Yes, good question. So, at the end of the day, the way the sales model works is you give a salesperson a number and a territory and some assistance at some point in time, usually the assistance is start-stop. But if you really want to see if you've got optimised coverage, you want to be making sure that every contact in that person's territory is adequately covered by the organisation.

John S: And that doesn't necessarily mean the salesperson.

John B: Well, it doesn't, but the reality is as simple as this. When we look at what the salesperson's role is in each territory - based on our research across all our client base they're usually covering - the average territory is about 250 contacts; whether it's a few enterprise accounts with many contacts within, or whether it's many accounts with one or two contacts per, it's around 250 contacts.

Territory coverage 2John S: By contacts you're meaning people.

John B: Decision makers or influencers you'll want to be building relationships with. They're going to make a decision to buy your stuff.

John S: Okay, so you need to cover them.

John B: You need to cover them somehow. So, what we generally do is we generally say, "Salesman, you own the territory, you let us know if you need some help."

John S: And maybe we do a little bit of marketing, a bit of push stuff out there.

John B: And it's stop-start, it's not strategic, and we actually disrupt the marketplace doing that. But the salesman generally tends to say, "Leave it with me - I'll let you know if I need some help."

John S: Yes.

John B: Now, let's look at how they're covering their territory. What we have found is they'll be lucky to cover 50 contacts a quarter, having discussions, making sure they're in the market, etc.

John S: Most salespeople would be pretty busy doing that much.

John B: Absolutely. Imagine doing one new sales call a day. How many salesmen do that?

John S: Yes, good question. In the transactional type sales area probably, but they're not effective sales calls.

John B: Correct, correct. So that's 50 a quarter. If your territory's 250 contacts, it means 200 contacts of the 250 are never covered by the salesperson, 80% of the market. We call it the blind spot; the organisation thinks we've got them covered because we've got a salesman, an expensive salesman, but they're not covered. So, the opportunity here for all of us is how do we optimise our coverage, in the 80% in the territories that the salesman never covers, with a model that's actually respectful to the decision makers.

John S: A lot of organisations have done various things to try and address that, because it's a common problem, everybody understands the problem I think, inside sales and all that sort of stuff. Are you saying they're not good solutions?

John B: They're not ideal solutions, because until you actually start thinking about what's in it for the customer, you're actually intrusive.

John S: Yes, you're annoying them and you'll get a low hit rate and so on and so forth.

Territory coverage 3John B: Correct. So what I'm advocating is building a strategic coverage model, where you're talking to these decision makers on a regular basis, understanding their needs, gaining permission to educate them, and educating until such a point in time when they're ready to engage with the salesperson, and then bring the salesperson in as a subject matter expert. Now we've got all the 250 contacts covered in that territory, and the benefits are to the customer first, to the organisation second.

John S: It sounds like an interesting solution. I guess some people already grapple with trying to do that, so what are some of the things we need to keep in mind to make sure we do that successfully?

John B: I think funding is the most important thing. What stops the organisation from doing it strategically is they're funded quarter by quarter, and therefore what happens is... It's like building a relationship, John. If I promise to call you next quarter and I don't, what does it do to our relationship?

John S: It certainly doesn't progress it.

John B: So, the problem is if I don't have the funding, I can't call you next quarter, and therefore all the good work we've done... We've shown that we're not transparent, we're not authentic, and the relationship starts to fall apart.

John S.: Okay, so you're talking about building a very... You used the word "strategic"...

John B: Correct.

territory coverage 4John S: A strategic contact process, which is taking the buyer through a journey, and the salesperson is not doing it.

John B: Based on the buyer's requirements, not the vendor's requirements.

John S: Good point, good point. Alright, so the bottom line is if you manage to achieve this, you're going to get much more coverage in the marketplace; at the same time, you're going to be freeing your salespeople up to really work on the live ones.

John B: Absolutely. And just as importantly, you're getting the intel of the needs of the market. Seek first to understand, before we speak.

John S: John, that's really interesting advice - I look forward to learning more about it as we go through these series of interviews!

John B: Thank you!

John S: Thanks, John!


More discussions with John Bedwany:



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