In my last post, I talked about my Principles of Sales Leadership  – foundation concepts that define my philosophy about how to be an effective sales leader. When Funnel Metrics works with leadership teams, we assess the dynamics of the team to determine if these principles are being followed. When they are not, we often see that there are underlying issues that prevent the team from being successful.

In this post, I am going to discuss the second Principle of Sales Leadership, Territory Ownership. To me, territory ownership means more than just accepting a quota assignment as a sales professional.  It has always been my belief that salespeople must take responsibility for all aspects of managing their territory.  Of course, hitting revenue goals is very important, but staying in touch with your clients and continually educating yourself about the dynamics of your business, industry and competitive landscape is all part of the job.

Sales people and management must be open to continually learning new selling techniques and tactics.  And as sales professionals, we must take ownership of any issues that stand in the way of closing business.  I realize there are issues which can impact sales performance that are outside of the sales organization’s span of control.  However, when salespeople find themselves in those situations, management must step up and take on whatever internal or external challenges that are impacting the sales team’s ability to effectively sell.

True territory ownership should be like running your own business.  If you have a problem or need support, it is ultimately the sales person’s responsibility to find a solution.  If you can’t find a solution, then you better be communicating with your sales manager for help.

When we take ownership for a quota as sales professionals, there is always accountability and consequences for our performance.  As sales professionals, we are responsible for our portion of the assigned revenue.   Many people in the organization are counting on the sales team to hit their numbers.  In my own sales leadership roles, it was incredibly important that everyone knew I took 100% ownership for the organization’s revenue goals. Once the budget was set and approved by the CEO, there was no looking back or making excuses.  I was accountable to the CEO, Board of Directors, shareholders and to the entire sales team.

Quota performance is typically the metric of choice when judging a salesperson or sales team’s success or failure.  The positive consequences for achieving or exceeding goals as a rep should always be the ability to earn commissions which are within the top 10% of your industry/marketplace.  Nothing should make a sales manager happier than when a rep is earning more than him or her.  Show me a management team that doesn’t want their reps to make a lot of money, and I’ll show you an organization that becomes a training ground for competitors to steal your best salespeople.  (More to come on compensation plans in future posts.)

Now, as we all know, the consequences for consistently missing revenue goals is a declining personal income and the real possibility of termination.  All sales professionals know this is part of the game.  So, it’s important to always stay focused on hitting revenue targets on a consistent basis.  Everyone will miss on occasion, but just don’t make it a habit.

As you can see, there are both tangible and intangible aspects to sales leadership that go into managing an effective high-performance sales team. While there are certainly many tangible aspects to territory management (the mechanics of determining a territory, the discipline of enforcing territory rules and guidelines, how sales people are required to manage and be accountable for their territory), many of the most important elements are intangible.

You can observe in conversations with sales people if they take ownership of their territory and treat it as if it were their own business. You can see it in conversations both with salespeople and managers about the responsibility they feel to the rest of the company about their quota and how they communicate about it. You can see it in executives when they brag about how much more their salespeople make because they are the best sales people, instead of asking how they can limit a top performing rep’s compensation when they crush their numbers.

It is these intangibles that add up to an attitude the organization has about Territory ownership and what it means to the business. How do you assess these intangibles in your business? How do you encourage your team to take ownership of their territories?

If you are interested in learning more about how we assess sales leaders and help them to optimize their team, please contact us for more information.