Ability vs Territory


How can we successfully evaluate a sales person’s ability vs. their territory? Why is one rep more productive vs. another, is it their accounts, their patch of dirt, or their abilities? As leaders we can measure our rep’s success by viewing them through a different lens. We can use the same technique to evaluate ourself as an individual contributor.

We have all been there – we have reps who are over-performing. Great news, right? Yes, but what if part of their great performance has more to do with location than their abilities? What if what you really have is an underperforming geography or account list due to your coverage model? How could you start to gain insights? I remember leading a team and one new business rep was outperforming all others. She was consistently kicking butt. However, she was often into the office late and leaving early. All the while, her peers were putting in more time and effort. My inclination was to believe the geography she was covering was more fertile than others, but without real data it was difficult to assess. Dating myself here – this was way, way back. Think, lists in a zip code of companies, pre-data mining. That being said, how could we determine if it was her ability or her territory?

One way is to evaluate the rep from the buyer’s perspective. Let’s not look at it from our perspective, but based on how the buyer/prospect would view them. Once we have a prism through which we can evaluate the rep from the buyer’s perspective, we can use it as a basis to compare one rep to another on our team. Which is exactly what I did in this case.

Imagine looking in on multiple opportunities and determining if they are consistently good at connecting to the buyer. Doing this can allow you to draw some conclusions on one’s ability vs. another.

How can we look at it from the buyer’s perspective? First, let’s consider how a buyer makes a decision to move forward with us. In general, we say they look at six key factors, they must answers these questions in order to make a purchase decision.

  1. Can you help me with my #1 or #2 top priorities? (Business Issue)
  2. Can you help me resolve the challenges which hinder my ability to achieve or resolve my #1 above? (Problems)
  3. Can you articulate, and show me, how I can solve these problems by choosing you and your solution? (Solution)
  4. Can you provide me assistance in quantifying the value to justify the spend? (Business Value)
  5. Can you ensure that we will get to all the key players and gain their buy in? (Power)
  6. Can you mitigate the risk, show me that you can deliver, and help me achieve the results? (Plan)

Now, if you look through the lens of these six items on deals your rep is driving, can he/she consistently secure answers to these questions in the prospect’s words? Can the rep lead the conversation? Or do they, for example, consistently come up weak or missing in one of the six? If they always miss Business Value in their deals, then your assistance may be needed to help them quantify the business value of your solutions; they may not understand how to do this. But, if they’re still closing deals, wouldn’t this mean that the prospect is figuring this out for them? And may also mean we have risk in those deals where it is missing. If this rep is performing well, it may be based on the abundance of opportunities or their sheer work load. If we help improve this area, their performance would increase.

Now compare this to a rep who consistently has all of the six in all of their deals, however, they’re still not getting the numbers they require. Many times, it might mean they have a less fertile set of accounts or patch. The key is making sure we are using the same prism to evaluate each rep, from the buyer’s perspective, as well as comparing how consistently each is able to get those questions answered.

Here is what I’ve discovered – my star rep was never able to quantify the value and because of it, she was losing deals we would have otherwise won. While another rep on my team was good at validating and confirming all of the six above. Their outcome? I split the zip and got a 1/3rd increase in production out of the geography quarter on quarter. Not bad, getting a 30% jump. Yes, I also helped the “star” rep become even better at quantifying the value, which only increased her consistency and production.

In the end, use a consistent prism, evaluate, assess, and then help your reps become better in all skill areas in order to increase production for them, and you.

As Founder and CEO of Visualize, Scott spearheads the company’s overall strategic direction, planning and execution. Scott has over 25 years of experience in sales and sales leadership, building profitable companies.