Sales & Distribution Management – Territory

A sales territory consists of a group of consumers or a geographical area assigned to a particular salesperson. The area allocated to the salesperson contains the present and the potential consumers of the organization.

After the allocation of sales territory, the sales manager can be in a position to contest between sales efforts and sales opportunities. It would be very difficult for the sales manager to monitor the total market as it is too large and unmanageable by one person. Hence it is divided as per territories to manage effectively and efficiently and control the sales force.

The salesperson does not only pay attention to the area but also the consumer prospects. Thus, a sales territory can be known as the grouping of customers and prospects, which is assigned to an individual salesperson.

Sales territory is for the big companies having huge market share. Small and medium scale companies do not use geographically defined territories. The market share is not so high to divide into territories.

Reasons for Establishing Territories

The main motive of establishing sales territories is to simplify the planning and controlling of the selling function.

Following are some reasons for establishing sales territories −

To obtain thorough coverage of the market

According to the division of sales territory, the activities are assigned to salesperson. This helps in market coverage, rather than the salesperson selling the product according to his ambition. It helps the sales manager to monitor and take updates accordingly from different sales managers.

To establish the salesperson’s job and responsibilities

It’s very important to establish jobs and responsibilities for salespersons. Sales territories help in doing so because the task is assigned to the salesperson and he is responsible and answerable for the same.

Once the task is assigned, frequent checks are done to monitor the calls; it helps to determine the work of each salesperson. If the sales manager finds the workload for a particular person is more, the work is divided and reassigned equally. This creates motivation and interest to work.

To evaluate sales performance

In an organization, the sales territory is compared from the previous years to current to find out the difference, i.e., the increase or decrease in sales volumes. It helps to work on the difference accordingly. This is done with the help of sales territory as the activities are assigned in a proper manner and gathering of data and evaluation becomes easy.

The comparison to evaluate sales performance is done on the following basis −

●      Individual to District

●      District to Regional

●      Regional to Entire Sales Force

By this comparison, we can evaluate and determine where the sales force is contributing for high volume of sales.

To improve customer relations

As we know, salespersons have to spend most of their time on road to sell the products but if the sales territory is designed in a proper way, the salesperson can spend more time with the customers (present and potential). This helps in building rapport and understanding the needs better.

Sales of a company can increase when a customer receives regular calls and the salesman has to visit the customers on the basis of calls. The salesman and the customer get time to understand each other and resolve their issues regarding demand and supply. This also helps in increasing the brand value of the company.

To reduce sales expenses

Once the geographical areas are decided, the company gets a proper picture as to the areas that can be assigned to the salespersons. He/she needs to cover that area so that there is no duplication of work by sending two salespersons in the same area.

The selling cost of the company gets reduced and leads to increase in profits. There is also an advantage to the salesperson for few travels and overnight trips.

To improve control of the sales force

The performance of a salesperson can be measured on the basis of calls made to customers, the routes taken and the schedules. In this case, the salesperson cannot deny if the results are not positive.

The salesperson has to work on the same routes, schedule and everything is predetermined. This results in better control of the sales force.

To coordinate selling with other marketing functions

If the sales territory is designed properly, it helps the management to perform other marketing functions as well. It is easy to perform an analysis on the basis territory as compared to the entire market.

The research done by the management on marketing on territory basis can be used to set sales quotas, expenses and budgets. The results can be satisfactory if the salesperson helps in advertising, distribution and promotion when the work is assigned on territory basis instead of the market as a whole.

Procedure for Designing

At the time of designing the territory, the manager has to keep in mind the size of the territory that is going to be assigned to the salesperson. It should be neither too small nor too large. If the territory is geographically too small, the salesperson would keep calling the same customers repeatedly. In contrast, in a too large geographical area, the salesperson will not be able reach the scattered customers as most of his time will be utilized in travelling. Hence the territory should not be too large or too small; it should be such that all potential customers can be visited as per the requirement.

The procedure of designing sales territories is the same for all companies, whether setting the territories for the first time or revising the existing territories.

Select Control Point

As the name suggests, the management has to select a geographical control point. The control points can be classified on the basis of district, pin codes, areas, states and cities.

At the time of selecting the control unit, the management should aim to select as small a control unit as possible.

The following are the reasons behind selecting small control units.

Reason 1

If the control unit is too large, the areas with low sales potential will be hidden by the areas with high sales potential. The areas with high sales will be concealed if the areas with low sales potential will be included.

Reason 2

In case of any changes required in future, they can be done smoothly. Example − A company wants to allot some territory to Mr. A. This part of territory had earlier been assigned to Mr. B. It can be done easily, as the unit is small.

If the sales potential for the company is located in urban areas, the city can be used as a control point. But there are some disadvantage also, as the adjacent areas to cities also possess sales but they are covered by paying additional cost to the salesperson.

The control point can also be set up according to the trading areas. It is a sensible decision to set up the control point according to the trading area. It is based on the flow of goods and services rather than economic boundaries. Example − The wholesaler or retailer use trading area as the control point.

Trading area can be considered as the geographical region that consists of a city and the surrounding areas; this region works as the main retail or wholesale center of the region. Generally, the customers from one trading area do not go outside the boundaries to buy goods.

Even an outsider customer will not enter the trading area to purchase a product. The main advantage of the trading area is that the salesperson is aware of the buying habits of the customers and the pattern of trade. It also helps the management in planning and control.

The control point can be decided on the basis of states. A state may be a capable control unit when the organization has small sales force that is covering the market selectively. Example− A company sells its products in the country in all states; in this case, the territory boundaries could be based on states.

It is less expensive and convenient to gather data and make evaluation.

Making an Account Analysis

The next step after selection of geographical control unit is to plan an audit of each geographical unit. The reason for performing this audit is to analyze the customer prospects and find out the sales volumes for each account.

Accounts can be recognized by names; in recent times, there are many sources to pull out the data, for example, the yellow pages. We can also collect the data through the past sales of the company. After collecting the data, the next step is to estimate the sales for each geographical unit. The sales manager estimates the sales volume that the company is expected to get in the following years.

There are many factors to contribute such as competition, advantage of the company in that geographical area, etc. Now there are many software available for calculation and the final result. This can be done much quickly as compared to when it is done by the sales manager manually.

After the sales potential estimates have been taken, the system divides into three types, which is done through ABC analysis. This is one of the most common analyses used by companies. Where the sales potential is greater than expected, it is classified as “A Category”. Average potential is classified as “B Category” and the sales potential below average is classified as “C Category”.

Developing a Salesperson Workload Analysis

The salesperson workload analysis is done on the basis of the time and effort taken by a salesperson to cover a geographical unit.

The following are a few points needed to estimate workload −

●      Frequency of calls

●      Duration of calls

●      Travel time

The estimates workload is calculated by considering these factors.

The most important factor is the duration of calls. These depend on the customers and issues. If the problem is severe, it may take time to resolve and tackle the question from customers.

Another important factor is the travel time; this differs from one area to another depending on the factors transportation, condition of roads, weather condition etc. The sales manager tries and plans accordingly to reduce the travel time taken by the salesperson and utilizes the time to call more number of accounts/clients.

Combining Geographical Control Units into Sales Territories

In the first three steps, the sales manager works on the geographical control units; now he has to combine the control units into territories.

Initially the sales manager used to manually develop a list of territories by combining the control units. It was a time consuming procedure and also the result was not accurate, as it was done manually. Now computers handle this activity and complete it in a much shorter period of time with accurate results. The operational error is reduced here.

All the salespersons cannot be considered equal and competitive; it depends on the basis of experience and skills. The salespersons are assigned territories by the sales manager depending on the basis of sales. The geographical areas with high sales are assigned to the salesperson with experience, who can handle the workload. The new or less effective sales people are assigned the areas with less sales potential.

Territory Shape

The sales manager has to decide the shape of the territory. The territory shapes affects the selling expenses and also helps for sales coverage. There are four types of shapes, which are used widely.

●      The wedge

●      The circle

●      Hopscotch

●      The cloverleaf

Let us discuss these types one by one.

Territory Shapes

The Wedge

This shape is suitable for the territories, which contain both the urban and non-urban areas. The radius starts from the most populated urban center. Wedges can be divided into many sizes and the travel time can be maintained by balancing between the calls of urban and non-urban areas.

The Circle

When the clients are distributed evenly throughout an area, the sales manager chooses the circle shape. The salesperson starts from the office, moves in a circle of stops until he reaches the office again. This helps the salesperson to come near to the customer as compared to the wedge.


In this shape, the salesperson begins from the last point from office and reach out the customers while coming back to the office. While going, the salesperson does not stop anywhere and attends calls in one direction while coming back to the office.

The Cloverleaf

When the accounts or client are located randomly in a geographical area, the cloverleaf shape is used. This type of shape is more often found in industrial markets than in consumer markets.

Assigning Sales Personnel to Territories

Once the sales territory has been designed, the last step is to assign sales personnel to the territories. All the salespersons are not equal in terms of ability, initiative, etc.; the workload of one salesperson may be overload to another and may cause frustration.

The sales manager must rank the salespersons accordingly before assignment of territories. The ranking should be done on the basis of ability, knowledge, communication, etc. The other points, which the sales manager should look at, are the cultural characteristics of the salespersons and how they match with the territory.

Example − If a salesperson is born and brought up in rural area, he would be able to do more effective sales in that particular area as compared to urban area.

We can now conclude that the goal of a sales manager is to assign the geographical area to the salesperson who would maximize the territory sales and where the customers are comfortable with the salesperson.

Establishing the sales territory helps in planning and controlling the sales operations. A well designed sales territory helps to increase sales volume and market coverage and provide better services to customers. Once the sales territory is allocated to the salesperson, he is responsible for making things happen.

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