6 Strategies to
How to build a sales forecast you can
believe in… and have your
stakeholders believe in you.
Courtesy of TopOPPS
“You missed the number? Hey, no problem, you’ll get it next quarter!” said no CEO
or board member ever!!!
Credibility in hitting the number is absolutely the most important thing for a sales
leader. And these leaders that hit their number regularly, don’t have it easy. It’s
usually a grind with a mad scramble at the end of the quarter to hit plus or minus
It doesn’t have to be such a painful process. If you can trust what you see in the
pipeline and that your pipeline is filling at the appropriate rate with qualified leads
and opportunities that fit your ideal customer profile, you can have confidence that
you’ll hit your number. (Here’s a simple
guide for analyzing the pipeline)
Before I tell you what’s needed to have a sales forecast you can trust – let’s look at how
we create and manage a forecast today.
For many, it’s that time again…..It’s time for
next quarter’s sales forecast. For serious sales
leaders, this is no trivial task.
By Jim Eberlin
If you’re like most execs in sales or sales ops, you’re armed only with a couple of
reports from your CRM and a spreadsheet. You list and manage the opportunities
by sales rep and by stage – then you spend a lot of time in conversations with your
sales team. Eventually you contact them daily for status updates. Conversations
are great with the sales team – especially on strategy to close deals, but it’s such a
waste of valuable time to do daily status calls between manager and sales rep on
the same deals. You still end up with minimal visibility and knowledge about
deals. And this leaves very little time for selling, coaching and strategizing -
among other priorities.
When you print out the pipeline for the team – it shows 3x to 4x the number.
Questions you should ask yourself. Can I rely on that 3x to 4x pipeline number?
How do I find out how good that pipeline really is? Can I rely on my weighted
average number? Is there an easier way to get visibility into deals? What do I have
to do to get this forecast to where I can trust it?
Additional side effects that your current sales forecasting process causes:
Because the current sales forecasting process is such a time suck, you hardly have
any time left for:
Coaching and developing the sales team
Work on maximizing conversions throughout each stage
Ramping new sales reps
Understanding the effects of my lead-gen effort
And by not spending enough time on these four things, closing business and quota
How “Not” to Forecast
Sales Automation for the Sales Forecast
Imagine if you had an expert coach that knew your sales process and prompted
you on a logical next step on a deal that was still active but you were starting to
neglect? Or if all of your deals magically went to the appropriate stage and
milestone and gave you an accurate forecast. These are examples of what
automation can provide. Automation is valuable because it saves a ton of time,
and it organizes and applies discipline and rigor without the manual effort. With
process, workflow, and pipeline hygiene automation, an entire sales team will have
a lot more time for selling and more value-added activity. These efforts are
normally manual, time consuming and error prone.
The Use of Artificial Intelligence
A.I. provides an order of magnitude of valuable information and insights for sales
forecasting. By applying the disciplines of sales automation for sales forecasting,
data can be analyzed and insights derived. For example, insights can alert you to
whether you have enough pipeline to hit the number this quarter or next quarter,
and it can tell you what to do about it, such as how much to increase Average
Selling Price, or increase lead gen efforts or conversion rates.
Do not use BI tools for sales analysis!
Leave the Business Intelligence tools for accounting, HR or other departments
where the data is more manageable. Using BI against untamed data in the CRM is
almost as bad as using the spreadsheet. BI tools in the sales department usually
end up as great looking graphs displaying insufficient and inaccurate data
regurgitated from the CRM. These tools lack the automation of a sales forecasting
application and the artificial intelligence to keep the pipeline with clean hygiene,
realistic deals and accuracy.
How to Create & Manage Your Sales Forecast
…So You Can Trust It
So, how do you apply sales automation and AI to your sales forecast?
The following are 6 strategies that can be utilized through automation and A.I., that
will enhance the sales forecast as well as provide additional benefits to increase win
rates and quota attainment.
Prescribe rules for the sales process
Create rules for advancing and regressing leads and opportunities as well as
when and why to close them as a loss. Keep everyone from management to
the sales rep on the same page about process rules. Discipline around when
to move a deal, why, and where it belongs will keep things well organized and
consistent. Here is a great resource on how to build, tweak or overhaul your
sales process -
How to Build a Winning Sales Process Guidebook
Sales Process Evaluation Guidebook
Enforce the sales process
CSO Insights research shows a 23% increase in quota attainment occurs when
a rigorous sales process is used. By understanding how a deal flows through
6 Tenets of an Accurate Sales Forecast
the funnel you’ll have accurate information on where deals
get stuck and conversion rates. This is important
data-driven coaching information. And it’s not enough to
just have a process. Many do, but it’s just written down
somewhere or a powerpoint print out is pinned up on a
cubical wall and therefore loosely adhered to. There
needs to be reminders to the sales reps on the next step
that follows the appropriate sales process. These steps
have a time limit if done effectively. Automation serves
sales reps in this way – increasing the likelihood of a sale.
Enforce pipeline hygiene
Making sure information is accurate, up to date and
removing deals that don’t belong, improve analytics
Make it easy to update the CRM
Sales reps need to provide their point of view on deals.
These status updates need to be in the CRM as soon as
possible after any meeting or communication with
prospects and customers.
Capture “the right” signals for Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence can provide great insights, but false
signals could distort prescribed insights for decisions.
Quality signals such as emails from prospects and
meetings from the sales teams’ calendars are helpful to
determine opportunity quality.
Analyze how deals flow through the funnel by rep and by
Now that you have 1 through 5 of the strategies in order,
managers and sales reps have sufficient and accurate data
amplifying their ability to get real insights. This guidebook
explains how to
analyze performance and customize
to get the entire team exceeding quota.
To see how sales automation and artificial intelligence
can be applied to give you a consistent sales process
and accurate forecast with TopOPPS
request a demo
By applying automation and AI in this way, you’ll be able
to trust your sales forecast, while developing and
making your sales team better. No longer will you
wonder if the 3x or 4x pipeline coverage are really
comprised of good deals. Conversations that you are
having with the sales reps will make their way into the
CRM for better analysis and decisions. Ramp time of
sales reps will be quicker, providing faster times to
quota attainment. And you’ll have time along with
data-driven analytics to better coach the team. And
thank goodness – you can finally get rid of that