Planning to Enter a New Territory: Set Realistic Timetables

By Colleen Francis

How NOT to talk about the competition

In this series about entering new sales territory, so far we’ve talked about the importance of choosing your prospects and understanding the ground in that new space you’re thinking about occupying.

Let’s talk about the third and final step: exercising disciplined thinking and sensible timelines for achieving measurable goals.

First, being able to make good decisions quickly hinges on disciplined thinking based on facts. That means being methodical and deliberate in exercising choices based on facts—not assumptions.

For example, a Sales VP of a fast-growing company whom I was coaching told me how his team was pressuring him to expand into a new territory because the “demand from customers was high, and presence of the competition was low”.

I asked: “Specifically, how much evidence do you have of this?”

He went looking, and the results were surprising. Quarter after quarter, less than 2% of new leads came from this new market, and the competition was entrenched with over 60% market share. These facts made penetrating the market arduous, contributing negatively to my client’s growth goals.

Next, let’s talk about timelines.

Salespeople are impatient by nature—myself included. Yes, it pays to be bullish with your time when you’ve spotted a great opportunity. However, even after you’ve discerned the best opportunities, be realistic with the time it takes to meet your sales objectives.

Each new sales territory you consider entering deserves to be treated as a unique decision: each with its own goals and circumstances. Remember, you’re not operating with the same level of market intelligence as with well-established territories. For example:

  • The speed with which you’ve been able to move staff in the past from California to Texas (for example), is not entirely transferrable if the choice in front of you involves moving resources from Switzerland to Brazil.  
  • The closing ratios you experience in an existing market will be at least double in a new market, and at the same time you must count on taking twice as long to fill the funnel and close deals.

So, definitely act quickly on the right opportunity, but do your homework first to set the right expectations with your team

That takes us to the third point: setting the right goals. Smart goals are detailed, time specific and achievable. However, new sales territories each come with an added challenge: you need to know what to monitor and measure at a much more granular level.

Building on the great decisions you’ve made based on facts and data, a new sales territory requires that you check and re-check your success in real time. Set reasonable sales goals here by setting leading indicator Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will help you to determine when sales will start being closed.

  • Inbound lead flow
  • Sales appointments?
  • Networking events
  • Pipeline development

The intensity of your measuring here is different from your well-established markets. Let’s say you’ve been accustomed to measuring KPIs monthly. A new territory could instead deserve weekly or even daily attention. Why? Because you have fewer data points of reference in a new territory. Regular, fresh information helps make up for that. That’s how you gain insight about what’s not working as planned, or is working better than planned. Just as important, it gives you the confidence to make a course correction quickly, or to jump on an emerging opportunity.

The three-step exercise we’ve covered teaches you that assumptions are your enemy when you enter a new sales territory.

The worst thing you can do is make decisions based on what you feel is true and then reinforce that choice with facts.

One of the best things you can do with this exercise—other than accelerate your sales with smart choices—is use it to prove your assumptions were wrong, saving you from a disastrous sales decision.

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Nonstop Sales Boom by Colleen Francis Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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