Why Salespeople Can’t Win By Doing Too Much “Firefighting”

Why Salespeople Can’t Win By Doing Too Much “Firefighting”

Salespeople Are Doing Too Much “Firefighting”

Territory management is when salespeople target customers based on defined attributes like size, geography, or industry.
The main goal is to segment and maximize productivity by reaching out and making calls.

For example, salesperson A could qualify accounts in industry A, while salesperson B could do the same for industry B.
Different customer segments have distinct interests and buying behavior. So salespeople create personalized engagement patterns for each segment.

Here are some sample metrics for a standard pattern:

  • Number of Face-to-Face Visits per Year
  • Coverage Level
  • % of Contact with New Buyers

To help you visualize, here’s an example of a call pattern:

In the example above, the company has allocated more sales reps to larger accounts.
Prioritizing these accounts will be more profitable and beneficial for the organization in the long term. Meanwhile, only a few sellers were allocated to smaller accounts.

The primary role of the salesperson is to increase productivity among the accounts. However, since they communicate with end-users, they also receive the brunt of the complaints.

How will you handle these problems? In this article, we’ll discuss common pitfalls in territory management.

Issues with Territory Management

Creating call patterns for different customer segments involves significant time and effort, but this isn’t a real problem. Some issues crop up when salespeople contact their end-users.

Issue #1: Firefighting Problems

In Jason Jordan’s book titledCracking the Sales Management Code” he mentioned firefighting as one of the major distractions during call pattern execution.
A call may be designed for upsell purposes of a current product. However, accounts can treat salespeople as troubleshooters who will help them solve a problem.

For example, salesperson A could communicate a new product to customer B.
It turns out that customer B was experiencing some problems with their previous purchase. Instead of upselling the new product, salesperson A is left to handle customer service issues. This can take a significant chunk of their time and make them less likely to reach their sales goals.

How to solve this? Jordan recommends self-restraint for salespeople and their managers. Customer service issues are an inevitable part of the selling role but they don’t have to be the main priority.

If the end-user has problems with the product, they will likely complain about their past experiences when contemplating the purchase. You then have to convince them that your business is worth it in spite of their previous experiences.

This inevitable firefighting process can take a lot of time so Jordan recommends allocating the bare minimum for customer service and only during high-priority issues. Some call patterns don’t have to be addressed to end users, instead contact prospects in operations, finance, and other corporate positions.

You can also redirect frustrated prospects to customer service representatives who can address their complaints.

Issue #2: Deviation from the common goal

It’s no secret that salespeople are pressured to complete their sales targets.
When their sales are lower than expected, they may deviate from the original strategy. No one wants to receive a bad performance review and lose their job.

Territory management also relies on increasing market coverage, conversions, and results. They have to reach the most number of customers to be deemed successful.

When sales executives create a strategy, it’s unacceptable for individual salespeople to deviate from the plan. Even if salespeople sell products, they are taking risks by not following direct orders.

Sales managers and executives create plans to help the business accomplish its objectives so no one should strike out on their own.

That said, if you believe territory management is the key to more sales, then give your sales team the right resources. Provide them with the tools, training, and metrics that they need to reach their sales targets. Let them know your strategy and expectations.

When they’re failing to meet expectations, communicate with them. Schedule a meeting to understand the problem and help them think of solutions. This will help you perfect your sales strategy.

Fight firefighting instincts

A salesperson’s firefighting instincts can take up a huge chunk of their time.

They have to attend meetings, create call patterns, communicate with customers -- and they can’t act as customer representatives either. The main job is to make sales calls and not function as problem solvers.

When sales managers use a chunk of their time managing customer concerns, they’re not going to reach their sales targets. So keeping customers happy shouldn’t be a part of their daily schedule. Instead, they should target finance representatives and corporations.

Another tip is to ensure salespeople are focused on executing their sales strategy. If they have to upsell product X and use a specific call pattern, they should follow these orders.

When a sales strategy won’t be effective based on the context and situation on the ground, managers and executives need to know. For this reason, they must communicate with their team and consistently revise their sales strategy.

The ideas from this blog post were inspired by the book “Cracking the Sales Management Code” by Jason Jordan. We understand that sales managers and executives have a busy schedule so we’ve summarized his main in our mini ebook.

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By Frie Pétré

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