This Steve W. Martin Sales Research Article Originally Appeared in the Harvard Business Review
Does your location influence your sales success? And, which area of the country enjoys the most success? In this article, we examine the impact geographic location has on sales success. We’ll review the research results from over two hundred and fifty business-to-business field salespeople who completed an extensive forty-three-part sales persona survey including sales quota performance history.
This study group was segmented into four geographic regions resembling a typical sales organization as shown below.
- West region: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming
- Midwest region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin
- South region: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia
- Northeast region: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont
Previous Year Quota Attainment
In which region of the country were salespeople most successful last year? At 112 percent of annual average quota attainment, the West region was 20 percent higher than the next closest region. The average for the South region was 92 percent, the Northeast region was 91 percent, and the Midwest region was 86 percent.
Sixty-one percent of salespeople in the West region met or exceeded their quota compared to 52 percent for the South region, 45 percent for the Northeast region, and 44 percent for the Midwest region. There were also far more top performers in the West region as well. Thirty-two percent of salespeople in the West region exceeded 124 percent of quota compared to 24 percent for the Northeast region, 16 percent for the South region, and 14 percent for the Midwest region.
Career Average Quota Attainment
Over the course of a career, does selling in one region have an advantage over selling in the others? The average number of years in sales for study participants in the West, South, and Midwest regions was sixteen. The Northeast region average was seventeen years. There was a 15 percent difference in career average quota attainment between the best performing and worst performing regions. The career average was 81 percent for the Northeast region, 79 percent for the West region, 76 percent for the South region, and 66 percent for the Midwest region.
Career Advancement Rating
Study participants were asked to rank their career advancement for last year on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high). In other words, did they feel they successfully moved their career forward to the next level last year? West region salespeople reported the highest average at 7.5, while South and Northeast regions both ranked their year at 6. The Midwest region had the lowest average at 5.5.
Based purely on the metrics presented in this report, one would be hard pressed not to name the West region as the best location for a salesperson to find success, with the South a distant second, followed closely by the Northeast and Midwest right behind. Since more Americans are moving West and South according to the most recent census estimate, this migration might be creating more selling opportunities in the top two regions.
However, each region is a vast territory that consists of big- and small-business cities along with areas of diverse industry specialization. For example, there’s Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the auto industry, the oil industry, and the entertainment capital in Hollywood, to name a few. The reality is that salespeople can find success throughout the United States.
Perhaps the final answer about the best place to sell should come from the salespeople themselves and how they answered the last survey question: “On a grade of A to F, how would you rate your overall career?” In this regard, the West and Northeast would be tied for first with 59 percent versus 58 percent grading their career as an A, 33 percent as a B, and 8 percent versus 9 percent as a C or below. The South would be next with 38 percent A grades, 58 percent B grades, and only 4 percent C grades or below. Finally, the Midwest ranks at the bottom with 45 percent grading their careers as an A, 36 percent as a B, and an unfortunate 19 percent as a C or below.