The keys to territory & time management

May 1, 2001
Vince Peters

Pharmaceutical Representative

Good territory and time management is the foundation of all successful selling, and successful territory and time management involves thorough knowledge of your territory.

Good territory and time management is the foundationof all successful selling, and successful territory and time management involves thorough knowledge of your territory. In order to cultivate your territory effectively, you must target and select customers, make use of itineraries, examine business potential, allocate resources and establish priorities. These five steps are the keys to good territory and time management.

Customer targeting and selection

There are many theories about customer targeting and selection. Probably the most common is the 80/20 rule. If it is true that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers, we have a good starting point.

There are many ways to verify your customers' potential. The IMS data report "Exponent" provides great information on doctor prescribing profiles and product preferences. You should also measure the potential of payers in your territory and how much reimbursement they will provide. Classify your accounts (customers, doctors, clinics and managed care organizations) according to their potential. I like the A, B, C method: A = high potential, B = medium potential, and C = low potential. Once you have classified all of the accounts in your territory, you should target them, starting with the A's first, then the B's and C's. After you have classified and targeted your accounts, you are ready to start routing.

Use of routing

The combination of routing with an itinerary is a powerful tool in working your territory. Routing is a sequence of places visited within the territory, connected by the specific roads and highways used to get to each place. An itinerary is a series of times and dates when these places are visited. The following is a three-step routing technique.

Get as detailed a map as possible, showing cities and towns, roads and highways, distances and topography. The map should also be as up-to-date as possible. Cover the map with clear plastic so that trial routes can be marked, erased and modified at will.

Use a certain color of water-based marker to highlight all cities and towns with doctors and customers who belong to category A (high potential). Then mark with a different color all the places with doctors and customers belonging to category "B" (medium potential).

Study all the roads and highways that connect these places in order to find the most efficient way of covering them all. The object is to minimize distance, travel time and nights spent away from home, as well as to visit the highest-potential physicians and customers early in the cycle.

This technique often requires compromise. A longer route might be chosen over a shorter route because the road is better. A city with high-potential physicians and customers might be scheduled toward the end of the cycle to save days and miles of travel.

Routes may be configured in three different shapes: wedge, circular and combination. In the wedge or cloverleaf configuration, the rep starts out at the center (home base) and works up the side of one of the wedges or cloverleafs and back down the other side until returning to the center. This configuration is especially convenient if a segment can be covered in one day, allowing the rep to return home for the night.

In the circular configuration, the sales rep works an area around home base in a circular fashion, then heads straight to another base, staying at a hotel and working around the second base in a circular fashion as well. Then the rep moves to a third base and repeats the process.

In a combination configuration, the sales rep might work several wedges within easy access from home base, and then stay for a few days in the center of a more remote area, which would be worked in a circular fashion. Any number of combinations of these configurations could be best for different territories, depending on the locations of physicians and accounts, transportation facilities, distances, geography and accommodations. Existing routes should also be reviewed and updated regularly to accommodate changes in territorial conditions. The most frequent changes are shifts in population, physician and pharmacy relocations, economic growth or decline in different areas, and changes in the best way to travel from one place to another.

Use of itineraries

There is a natural interdependence between routes and itineraries. The best route for traveling to certain towns and cities affects the dates and times when they are visited. On the other hand, a route could be determined by the fact that certain key doctors and clients can only be visited on certain days and times. When establishing itineraries within the routes, consider the following:

•Â The total time it takes to see all the physicians and customers in each place along the route.

•Â The need to avoid local holidays.

•Â The days and times when leading physicians and customers are generally available, and the appointments that can be made.

In following your routes and itineraries, be punctual and manage your time efficiently. This will help to maximize company sales and profits, and most of all, your earnings.

Potential, opportunities, trends

In your role as a sales representative, you have to constantly evaluate the business situation in your territory. The market data you receive from your company are an excellent source of information, but there is also a real need to look at your present doctor lists and compare them with the actual field situation.

America is a very mobile society, and you may find doctors and clinics that are not on your present lists. You need to evaluate the potential of these doctors and customers, and judge whether they should be added to your lists or not. You should also evaluate people presently on your lists and, in some cases, reclassify or even delete them.

How do you evaluate the potential of new doctors and customers in order to classify them properly? This process involves making calls on the new customers and evaluating their business potential. How many of their patients have a need for your product? What are they currently using? What percentage of their business can you get?

You will need a lot of third-party assistance in making these evaluations. In hospitals or institutions, the pharmacist can be of great help. Other paramedical personnel - nurses, lab technicians, dietitians - can also be great sources of information. Now it's time to do some basic math: How many patients do you currently have on your product in the territory? How many patients can you expect to get on your product next year? What is the cost of therapy per patient? How much will the third-party payers allow? You can do the calculations and make your own forecast. Look for growth opportunities and trends. Over the years, we have seen a decline in urban populations, but some urban populations comprise large groups of senior citizens who may need your product.

By the same token, the suburbs are growing like crazy, and new housing developments with large homes usually mean a lot of young children. The presence of many young children in an area represents growth opportunities for pediatric products. Be observant when you drive around. Where are those growth segments in your territory? There is always potential to do business, but you have to go out and look for it. By using good routing and planning, and combining them with a good measurement of business potential, you can increase the business in your territory considerably.

Time management

It's not only the resources that count, but where and how you use them. You have only 24 hours in a day, no more. How you use your time can determine your level of success. Here are a few cardinal rules of time management:

Understand your job responsibilities. No matter whether you are a new or experienced rep, it is important to periodically review your job description and all of the activities that you carry out during your workday. If you fully understand these, you can plan better and use your time more effectively. This will ensure that all of your activities and responsibilities can be handled adequately.

Know how you are spending your time. Unfortunately, very few people know how they are currently spending their time. To measure and allocate time effectively, you cannot deal with job responsibilities alone – this category is too broad. Time is used in terms of activities performed, and often many activities are necessary to carry out one responsibility.

Look back at your activities for the previous week, month or cycle to see how you have used your time. Monitor your time usage and make adjustments as needed.

Establish priorities for each cycle in advance. As a sales rep, you must accomplish many varying activities and responsibilities over a period of time. If you don't understand these priorities at the beginning of the period, you will not have a method to measure how effectively they are being carried out.

Determine ideal time allocations for each responsibility. Allocate the appropriate time for performing your important functions and activities. At least 70% of your time will be spent making sales calls in the field, your most important, time-consuming activity. Most of this time will be spent calling on physicians, giving presentations, making follow-up service calls and prospecting for new business. Administrative work - reports, expense accounts - also requires a considerable amount of time.

Manage each day as a separate unit. This is critical! You must not only consider long-range time allocation, but also focus on immediate priorities, which are constantly changing. You should recognize and control "time wasters" - interruptions, delays, poor work habits and unforeseen problems. Time wasters get in the way of effective time management. If you can eliminate or at least minimize them, you will use your time more productively. Another good tool to use when planning your day is a to-do list. Just take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. On the left-hand side, list the projects and tasks that you will be addressing. They can be divided into high (A), medium (B), and low (C) priorities. Estimate the amount of time required to accomplish each item, so you can see how it fits into your day. Finally, write all of the activities that you plan for the day in half-hour intervals in the right-hand column. It would be best to first fill this out in pencil, so changes can be made as required throughout the day. At the end of the day, you will have a record of how you spent your time, and will be able to compare your accomplishments with the time used. This form will help you to become a better planner because you can see where you spent too much time and devise shortcuts.

Don't become frustrated if you look at the list and find that you only accomplished a certain number of activities. As long as you have accomplished the high-priority activities, you have used your time well, because you have spent your time on the items of most importance.

Conserve promotional materials and samples. We do not have an unlimited supply of promotional materials and samples, although it may seem that way when we receive our allotment. The proper and best use of these materials is a constant challenge for all sales reps. I like to recommend the old philosophy of, "Use them where they will do the most good." Use those precious materials with the doctors who offer the highest potential first, and then with the next tier of doctors. The question becomes, "Should I use my best samples and promotional materials with a doctor who is currently not prescribing my product?" If the doctor is a high-potential customer who uses a competitive product, the answer is yes.

The reason I say yes is that no matter how satisfied physicians are with a product, there is always some little area that they are not completely satisfied with, and that is your opportunity. Find out what that area is, and promote the feature of your product that has an advantage over it. Use your samples and promotional materials judiciously; a lot of time, effort and money went into their development. Proper management of your resources can provide you with the competitive advantage that you need to succeed in today's marketplace. PR

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