How your sales team can survive — and thrive — in these times

Heather McLean by Heather McLean on June 9, 2021
Try for free

This is part two in a multi-article series exploring how you can help your sales team cope with an unpredictable pandemic recovery period. Read part one.

In the first entry of this blog series, we examined the major effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the sales environment during 2020. We concluded that while the crisis wasn't devastating to sales across the board, it still led organizations to deal with considerable changes, including large-scale shifts to remote operations.

The evolutionary shifts in the sales process that were prompted by the pandemic will continue to have lasting effects, even as some outside sales reps return to the field. This hybrid model comes with both upsides and downsides. Consider these strategies and practices going to get the most out of your team going forward:

1. Reconsider segments and call frequencies

Most organizations assign sales teams based on certain criteria. For example, some reps may focus on small and medium businesses (SMB), while another team pursues multinational corporations. It may also be divided by industry or some other metric.

Each of your organization's teams may need to reconsider how they approach their primary customer vertical. For example, SMB clients might need fewer face-to-face meetings because you're having more regular video or email contact with them. This frees up time for reps to spend on other accounts.

Along similar lines, it's no longer entirely necessary to think of sales reps using the inside/outside binary. After more than a year of experience working from home, many outside sales reps will be comfortable splitting their time between inside and field work, saving travel for the most valuable clients.

In a nutshell, as confusing as all these adjustments are at first, they can ultimately make your sales team much more versatile and effective.

Re-examining white spaces can reveal missed sales potential.

Re-examining white spaces can reveal missed sales potential.

2. Finding new value in whitespaces

Since you're rethinking many of your processes, it's worthwhile to consider the value of your untapped and/or long-dormant “whitespace” sales territories. These are areas with low or non-existent customer and opportunity density.

Start by thinking about why certain areas became whitespaces in the first place. Why did, say, Pocatello, Idaho become a whitespace? TSL Marketing noted that when a metro area's demand for your product or service tapers off and then ends, it often gets slotted into the whitespace category. If that's what happened with Pocatello, it's understandable.

However, many whitespaces are caused by territory circumstances, not actual demand. For example, let's say you have a sales rep that's covering a large city as well as a significant portion of the surrounding area. If the territory wasn't properly balanced, that sales rep may have had enough opportunity in their immediate city that they never needed to visit the surrounding areas to hit quota. In that case, there may be lost opportunities in that whitespace because the rep has never needed to pay attention to them.

Doing some market research about the whitespace area or assigning an inside sales rep to try and generate appointments can help you determine whether you're missing out on opportunities.

3. Consider territories by opportunity as well as workload

Your sales resources are finite. That's why it's critical to know the frequency, duration and travel time of outside sales trips – especially if you plan to have a hybrid team that sells on the road and remotely.

When dealing with a hybrid model, you have more flexibility to balance territories on opportunity, not just workload and geography. Making things more equitable helps give sales reps a better chance to succeed and also helps you more easily identify strong reps and those who need more coaching.

It may not be possible to segment territories by opportunity in every situation, but it's always worth considering. (eSpatial will come in handy when looking to reorganize territories.)

Building territories from the bottom level first helps give you the flexibility needed to create equitable alignments.

Building territories from the bottom level first helps give you the flexibility needed to create equitable alignments.

4. Build territories from the ground up

The territories you create for your sales or service personnel will always make more sense if you start from the ground up. Begin by balancing your territory alignment at the smallest unit you plan to use, like ZIP codes. From there you can group lower territories into regions, areas and so on, depending on your sales organization's structure.

Taking the opposite approach – i.e., building from the top down – can lead to issues as you get to the bottom level. Once you have limited the areas you can work in, it becomes more difficult to create equitable, balanced territories.

5. Focus on hard data when things are up in the air

A certain degree of speculation is unavoidable in sales. Reps often refer to it as “hunches.” There's nothing wrong with acting on a hunch or making an educated guess, but it can be a problem in sales, especially during somewhat uncertain economic times like these.

According to Forbes senior contributor John Hall, certain sales data points can keep your planning reliably grounded even when other departmental metrics are fluctuating. These include the number of leads generated, lead-to-sale conversion rate, revenue percentages of new and existing customers, average sale amount, cost to close a sale and overall revenue growth.

eSpatial can be fundamental to your sales teams' efforts to thrive in this new economic paradigm. Contact us today to learn more or start a 7-day free trial.

Heather McLean Written by

Heather McLean

Manager Heather is eSpatial's Customer Communications Manager. With a background in journalism and communications, she specializes in making technical topics more approachable. Her articles dig deep into how businesses can use mapping software to achieve their goals.

Read more from Heather McLean