Anyone in sales ops knows that territory planning is tough. Traditionally, there’s been few set rules and even fewer best practices.
I know because I live it. I’m a sales ops analyst for Adaptive Insights, but a more accurate title might as well be “data wrangler.” And a big part of the rodeo is helping to identify, define, and maximize sales territories.
This last round of territory planning here at Adaptive Insights pushed me—and the technology I used—to the limit. And it made me realize, more than ever, that new solutions such as Adaptive Insights for Sales offer a far more promising future.
It’s a future that in my view can’t come fast enough.
A daunting challenge
To understand why, let me take you through my sometimes-harrowing tale of the last round of territory planning.
In recent years, we’ve experienced solid growth—and that’s a great thing. It means more customers, more leads, and more opportunities; but from a data perspective, it means that solving for territories becomes vastly more complex. Data volume spirals, and naturally, modeling more granular territories alongside that volume becomes a real issue.
Simply put, business growth is a catalyst for multiplicative data growth, and I had to somehow distill a massive mountain of data into clear and concise recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year—all while under a tight deadline.
I decided to just dive in and try to solve the problem. I had to. But as I continued to organize and scrub the data, it became apparent that the volume and complexity were causing serious issues with my homegrown model. And the tools at my disposal, largely Excel and manual spreadsheets, were being pushed to their limits.
The two-computer shuffle
I knew I had to use some old-fashioned ingenuity.
For instance, I learned—largely out of desperation—that Excel for PC and Excel for Mac handle both copy/paste and formula calculations quite differently. At least for my setup of similarly spec’d systems, Excel for PC experienced fewer crashes while calculating complex formulas, while Excel for Mac experienced fewer crashes while copying and pasting plain data. I accepted this strange behavior and found myself toggling between machines just to get the data into a usable state.
Even then, my computer often couldn’t handle what I was throwing at it. One time, it was calculating a formula for a full 45 minutes and then inexplicably crashed, forcing me to start from scratch. Pro tip: Turn off Excel AutoSave, at least when you are in calculation-intense sheets. I experienced many times where Excel attempted to AutoSave, only for it to cause another time-sucking crash of my Excel instance.
Things got so bad that I ended up getting a new computer—pretty much a fully spec’d workstation—just to handle the huge files.
Survival game plan
All of these challenges forced me to create a plan for myself. For starters, I made certain I was in steady contact with the leadership team to establish a clear understanding of what I aimed to deliver.
From there, I broke the process down into phases:
- Creating parameters around what data was the most useful, and discarding outdated and irrelevant information
- Building efficient formulas to carve out patches in meaningful and relevant units to facilitate actionable analysis/changes
- Summarizing my findings in ways that could be most useful to the executive team when making final decisions around the composition of territories
Ultimately, I think I did about as best as I could with the limitations and challenges I faced. I’m confident that the data and insights I delivered were sound and accurate. And we hit our deadline, so the executive team was able to stay on track with the overarching planning process.
A better future
Still, I never want to go through a territory planning process with the full brunt of Excel hell like that again. And the great news is, I won’t have to. As Adaptive Insights Vice President of Sales and Services Operations Laura Adint recently highlighted, Adaptive Insights for Sales will bring time-saving automation and powerful analytics capabilities to the process.
That’s going to mean cleaner, easier-to-update data that lives outside of an Excel environment. Most importantly, it’s going to allow for data wranglers like me to do what we all strive to do—take deeper, more strategic dives into data so we can deliver more insightful analysis and what-if scenarios that can make a bigger impact on the business.
I went through territory planning with Excel this year and lived to tell about it. For the next round I aim to thrive through it. And if all goes well, only use one computer.
That’s a big win for me. And our business.