Typically about 10-12 sales agents are needed to cover the UK. This will of course vary. Agents tend to work on counties, although the most reliable method for the principal is postcodes. County borders are easy to see, but keep moving. And vice versa with postcodes! Areas cannot normally be set by the principal – it is simply impractical. Sales agents will have their own areas, usually based upon where they can reach – within reason – from their homes. Therefore inevitably you will have areas of overlap, and areas of nil coverage. This is part of the compromise that you will have to accept when dealing with agents. Overlap should ideally be eliminated before setting agents on. Commission only sales agents may tend to grab as big an area as possible, especially if exclusivity and accounts are on offer. Try to establish a sales agent’s true representation in outlying counties and eliminate as much as you can. Don’t be tempted to let agents have all the area they want – just so you can cross off all the areas on your map! A typical 12 agent scenario might look like this:
- The North East (Newcastle etc)
- The North (Yorkshires)
- The North West (Manchester, Liverpool, Cumbria, north Wales, etc)
- The South West (Bristol, south Wales, Devon and Cornwall, etc)
- The South (Portsmouth, Southampton, etc)
- The South East (London and southern home counties)
- The East (northern home counties, e.g. Essex, then East Anglia, etc)
- Southern Midlands (northern home counties, Oxford, etc)
- Northern Midlands (West Mids, East Mids, etc)
- Northern Ireland
- Southern Ireland
Sometimes areas 1&2 are combined, as are 11 & 12.
You can use a ‘multi-layered’ approach where several sales agents cover the same geographic area, but operate in separate markets or market sectors. Under this arrangement there is theoretically almost no limit to the number of sales agents that could be used. Exclusivity can be offered on a combination of area and market sector.
- This can be troublesome unless there is a very clear distinction between market sectors.
- This will multiply your recruitment task and costs!
- The more layers you have, the more it will dilute the opportunity for each layer.
- Some sales agents will refuse to operate with layers
- 2 to 3 layers is probably the maximum, practically speaking