Territory Managers: A Look at Their Role, Skills, and Compensation

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Jay Fuchs
Jay Fuchs


This might not be all that mind-blowing to point out, but not all sales orgs are comfortably confined to their companies' corporate headquarters — operating under a group of managers that can come together to share stories over lunch every day.

Many businesses have too broad a reach for that. They can't thrive without branching out and putting boots on the ground beyond the cities their main offices are located in.

They have to have a presence in various regions, and the managers tasked with making sure the sales efforts in those locations are carried out effectively are known as territory managers.

Here, we'll take a closer look at what a territory manager does, the skills they're expected to have, how they're compensated, and the emerging practice of online territory management.

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Generally speaking, a territory sales manager is expected to at least have a bachelor's degree in Business Administration, Business Management, Marketing, or another related field. They also tend to have management experience under their belt, top-notch communication skills, customer service acumen, and a knack for problem-solving.

The extent of a territory sales manager's influence leans heavily on the nature of their business, size of their teams, and structure of their sales orgs. There's no definitive standard for what a territory should look like or how much ground it should cover.

The term can refer to an area as small as a city or as large as a few states. That often means territory sales managers are expected to do their fair share of traveling to check in with reps and other managers working across the regions they cover.

What does a territory sales manager do?

Territory managers often have to wear a lot of hats and assume a wide range of responsibilities, here are some of the more prominent ones.

They train reps across their territory.

Territory sales managers are often tasked with people management. They're generally expected to take some degree of ownership over their entire region — that means assuming responsibility for their reps' preparedness and performance, so naturally, many territory managers have a hand in training the reps in their respective areas.

They assume responsibility for teams within their territory to hit quota.

As I mentioned, territory managers are expected to take ownership of their region, so how that region performs is one of the most frank reflections of their personal performance. It's on them to remain involved and keep careful tabs on how the org's they oversee are holding up against goals.

They develop sales strategies tailored to their territory.

Different regions typically have unique economic, social, industrial, demographic, and geographic circumstances — so a strategy that works in one territory might not be as effective in another.

Territory managers are often tasked with conducting research, understanding their region, and taking the lead on shaping successful sales strategies that will allow a company to get the most out of its local sales efforts.

They attend trade shows to promote their business.

In some cases, territory managers are expected to either coordinate or participate in promotional activities at trade shows, seminars, or other conferences.

Remember, they act as a liaison for HQ, and that doesn't always exclusively apply to their orgs and offices. Sometimes, they need to either provide some face time at or delegate representatives to attend regional industry events for brand exposure and networking purposes.

What makes a good territory sales manager?

If you're considering pursuing a career as a territory sales manager, you should make sure you have the following qualities.

Leadership Skills

This one kind of goes without saying. It's not exactly revolutionary to point out that any sales manager needs to have a knack for managing. But this point is particularly pertinent when it comes to territory sales managers — their offices operate as satellites, somewhat separate from HQ. That means they're afforded considerable autonomy and held to a higher standard than most.

Territory sales managers obviously have to answer to their company's central leadership, but it's on them to handle their own siloed, regional sales org. That's why any aspiring territory sales manager needs to have faith in their ability to hand run a tight ship and get the most out of the reps they oversee.

The Awareness and Analytical Skills to Determine Whether Sales Strategies Are Working

As I mentioned earlier, territory sales managers are often tasked with shaping local sales strategies. If you assume that kind of responsibility, you need the judgment to pin down whether the tactics you employ are effective and viable in the long run.

That takes considerable awareness, experience, analytical skills, and — in many cases — a solid grip on some sales analysis tools. Ultimately, any successful sales strategy requires a lot of thought and observation, and that goes double when you're expected to take ownership of it.

Extensive Industry Knowledge and Research Skills

The first component of any effective regional sales strategy is a thorough understanding of your industry. You need to know how prospects generally engage with your competitors. You also have to have a good picture of your market, where you stand within it, and your ideal buyer personas.

Once you have that industry-specific insight, you can look to mold location-appropriate strategies, in keeping with the needs and interests of prospects in the territory you're based in.

And doing that effectively rests on your ability to conduct thorough, thoughtful, often painstaking research on your region, its economic circumstances, its demographics, and the nature of the businesses within it.

A Knack for Communicating With Customers

Being a territory sales manager often entails having some degree of contact with the customers in your area. If customers in your territory are particularly vocal about issues with your solution or running into trouble with it more than their counterparts in other areas, you need to be able to communicate effectively with them, allay their concerns, and pin down what might be going wrong.

Territory Sales Manager Salary

According to Salary.com, the typical territory sales manager salary generally falls between $79,085 and $122,764 per year.

Online Territory Manager

An online territory manager is exactly what it sounds like — the virtual answer to a conventional territory sales manager. These salespeople serve customers and sell solutions in specific territories via mediums like email, social media, and phone.

Like their "boots on the ground" counterparts, online territory managers are expected to shape sales strategies for specific regions, train and oversee (usually online) sales teams, stay on top of emerging industry trends and relevant sales tactics, and maintain positive relationships with customers. The difference is that online territory managers do all of that remotely.

Being a territory sales manager isn't easy, and not every sales rep is cut out for it. Still, if you think you might be interested in that career trajectory, are comfortable with the responsibilities it entails, and are confident you have the requisite skill set to thrive in it, you should definitely consider pursuing it.

It can be an extremely gratifying, engaging option for anyone looking to move up the sales food chain.

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