The answer, of course, is to move to a latitude and longitude coordinate system for territories. This is made easier by Web services that will translate addresses into lat/long (and back again) and further supplemented by marketing automation systems that estimate lat/long and even guess a company's name from the IP address of your website visitors and registrants. Things get even juicier if you integrate location-based services for the people who are using smartphones to call you or mobile apps to interact with your support and service organization.
As you move to a lat/long grid, you'll find it simplest for all CRM systems if your territories are rectilinear--that is, defined as a series of rectangular shapes.
Know Where Customers Are, Not Just Who They Are
As I discussed in the CRM Identity Crisis, a key CRM success factor is quickly figuring out exactly who is the prospect or customer. That problem has only gotten worse with the profusion of email and social network identities that high-value targets have.
Once you've figured out who these folks are, though, you need to figure out where they are. Getting that location right, assigning the prospect to the right territory and keeping that information consistent and coherent across all systems so that you can respond in the way that's effective for their current location all remains a challenge for most CRM implementations deployed today.
While they shouldn't be regarded as the be-all and end-all, country codes and latitude/longitude coordinates offer a good start. Use them in tandem with a sound knowledge management strategy and you should be getting somewhere.
David Taber is the author of the new Prentice Hall book, "Salesforce.com Secrets of Success" and is the CEO of SalesLogistix, a certified Salesforce.com consultancy focused on business process improvement through use of CRM systems. SalesLogistix clients are in North America, Europe, Israel and India. Taber has more than 25 years of experience in high tech, including 10 years at the VP level or above.