Open territories can devastate a year for a sales manager, but sometimes there is not a sense of urgency to fill these positions. A territory left unattended is open to the competition or just a decline in sales due to lack of attention. One of the best and most eye-opening exercises I did as a Sales Manager was to analyze the rate of sales decline in open territories in my region. It was shocking how much sales declined within 30 days. We were in a highly transactional business, but still with contracts. Without the attention from the salesperson, the customer didn’t keep the discipline of using us as their contracted partner. They just went with the easiest choice that day. This was not great for their company since they were overpaying for a service when they had a contracted lower rate with us and it certainly wasn’t good for us.
I was fortunate enough to have a VP who recognized the problem with open territories and made it the first item on the agenda each week. We, as Sales Managers, were extremely accountable to get these positions filled within 30 days.
Hiring is hard work. You have to find good candidates, then carve out the time to coordinate schedules and interview and then figure out salaries, offers, start dates, training schedules and ramp up activities. Sales Managers often procrastinate this overwhelming process.
Here are some ideas for Sales Managers in regards to open territories:
1. First of all, do the same exercise I did. Analyze (or, even better, ask one of your analysts to do it!) the impact on sales in open territories over 30-60-90 days. It may not be that bad in your company or it may be worse than you think. At least you’ll be aware of the time frame you’ll need to operate within.
2. Make interviewing and recruiting part of your regular schedule. I used to make sure I had a meeting with prospective candidates once per month. I was very open if I had nothing for them at the time. I simply wanted to network. No one ever turned down a meeting and when I did have an opening, I had candidates ready to hire or ready to refer great people.
3. Anticipate open territories. If you have an underperforming rep or you get the sense someone may move on (leave or promotion), don’t wait until they are gone to start identifying candidates. Begin the search, analyze who could cover top customers, who could keep sales processes moving forward, etc.
4. If you do find yourself with an open territory, make it top priority to fill. Ask for referrals, get your HR team involved, give yourself a deadline to fill and focus on that deadline.
5. Develop a relationship with a trusted recruiter that you know and can call as needed. The more you work together, the more they will be able to identify candidates that will be successful in your organization. Outsourcing this activity can help you keep hiring a priority without it taking all your valuable time.
6. Have a Gap Plan for open territories. Rally your team to take on responsibilities in the open territory and reward them for it. Someone should be taking care of top clients, someone should continue pursuing open opportunities, someone should follow up with a customer who recently had a customer service issue, etc. Sales Managers should reach out to customers sharing their plan for replacement and their continued commitment to providing service.
Quickly filling open territories was a key to my success as a Sales Manager and something I am so grateful I was taught the discipline to do. Hope this helps you, too.
Become a Meeting to Win Subscriber and get a new sales team meeting topic every week. Also, energize your team as often as you like with a library of 150+ sales team meeting topics always at your fingertips.