6 Strategies to Build a Forecast You Can Believe In

Do you “trust” your forecast?

For many, it’s that time again…..It’s time to forecast for next quarter.  For serious sales leaders, this is no trivial task.

“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 5%.

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 we cover what’s needed to have a forecast you can trust – let’s look at how we create and manage a forecast today.

How “Not” to Forecast

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 conversations between manager and sales reps on the same deals.   This leaves very little time for selling, coaching and strategizing – among other priorities.   If you have a lot of reps or sales managers,  there’s minimal visibility and knowledge about deals in this process.

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 Caused by Your Current Sales Forecasting Process:

Because the current sales forecasting process is such a time suck, you hardly have any time left for:

– Coaching and developing the sales team
– Updating, clarifying, and communicating the sales process to maximize conversions
– Ramping new sales reps
– Understanding the effects of my lead-gen effort and flow through the sales funnel

And by not spending the time you need for these four important sales initiatives listed above, closing business and quota attainment suffers.


The right way to create and manage your forecast – so you can trust it!

Sales Automation for the Sales Forecast

Imagine if you had an assistant 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 and applying it to the sales forecast is a must.  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

AI 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 that alert you to whether you have enough pipeline to hit the number this quarter or next quarter, and what to do about it.

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 based on knowledge of the sales domain.

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 AI, that will enhance the sales forecast as well as provide additional benefits to increase win rates and quota attainment.

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1. 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   

2. 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 the funnel you’ll have accurate information on where deals get stuck and conversion rates – excellent 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.

3. Enforce Pipeline Hygiene

Making sure information is accurate and removing deals that don’t belong, improve analytics immensely.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Analyze how deals flow through the funnel by rep and by time

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 coaching to get the entire team exceeding quota.

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 making for better analytics.  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 spreadsheet!

To see how sales automation and artificial intelligence can be applied to give you a consistent sales process and accurate forecast with TopOPPS, click here.

Coaching and 1-on-1s to Hit the Number

Chris Noordyke is the Chief Revenue Officer at Blue Medora, and a new customer of TopOPPS. He posted this blog on LinkedIn about how his team acheived great results from their 1-on-1s using our technology.

My team likes to win and they know that knowing their metrics is what it takes. Through automation of our policies, systems, and tools we have reduced the amount of time the sales team needs to focus on our CRM system to less than fifteen minutes per day.  My reps appreciate the time we take to review how they’re doing and strategize how to blow their number out. Since implementing these two coaching stategies, we have seen reduced sales cycle times and increased win rates.

The two things that make us successful in increasing quota attainment throughout my team is that I first standardize on just the things that matter to coach my team. The second thing, is that I use automation that gives me the information and prescriptive insights I need and it keeps the data organized so I can trust it and it reduces time my team needs to spend updating our CRM software.

 

Weekly Standardized Sales Coaching for 1-on-1s

I standardize on weekly best practices as a manager to make sure we are doing all the right things in the short term. I also have a monthly set of standard best practices that makes sure we are doing all the things for the long term for the growth and success of my sales team.

We start with the good stuff and I make sure that everything is in order and on track. In general I look at all the deals and do the housekeeping to make sure it has the right hygiene and next steps. I then rank them and fortunately I have software that does that for me automatically. Then I have everything in order to plan successful next steps to get all the deals for the quarter closed. The other thing, I make sure that everyone on my sales team is getting the personal development they need.

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Monthly Standardized Sales Coaching for 1-on-1

During monthly 1:1s, we have had time to move the needle a bit, so we review these two things – how we are tracking in performance and how we can improve in performance.

Tracking Performance

Goal Attainment:

We look at bookings vs quota for the current period and we compare it to previous periods. We also look at when the deals traditionally get booked – smoothly throughout the period or does it come in all at once at the end.

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Sales Funnel Conversions:

We review close rates of leads and opportunities overall and from each stage as deals move through the funnel. We look at how many and when we’ve converted new opportunities created from each month. Also, we look at conversions from stage to stage, and how it compares to other members of the team.

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Key Rep Performance Metrics:

We review win rates of deals that were scheduled to win within the period, and we look at win rates overall. We also look at average selling price over each period and how many of the commits the sales rep won.  Also important are the cycle times, and we review cycle times by our different sales processes, for example enterprise vs mid market vs SMB. I use the report in the first image above.

We make sure that there is consistency and improvement in the number of new opportunities entering the funnel and we review how well the opportunities are managed. An example of that is the number of pushed opportunities and number of opportunities that have been pushed multiple times into future periods.

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Improving Performance

Win/Loss Analysis:

We look at our wins and losses and categorize losses by reason – Not a Fit, Competition and No Decision.  We also look at how long it took us to win an opportunity. We believe disqualification is as important as qualification is. I push our sellers to reduce the amount of time it takes them to close an opportunity, win or loss.

Ideal Customer Profile (ICP):

We look at ICP to make sure we are chasing the right kind of deals. We are constantly monitoring our productivity model, each quarter our sellers take on more quota then the quarter before, it is critical they spend their time on opportunities that have highest potential to close.

How do you manage to predictable sales results in the middle of a turnaround?

Clinton McDaniel, Enterprise Business Development and Channel Sales Leader at GENBAND, posted this article on LinkedIn on January 28th, and gracisouly gave us permission to post it on our blog.

I have recently joined a new company as a part of an effort to transform flat sales into a growth posture. A lot of our strategy involves going to market with our portfolio and solutions, and after about six months, we are seeing strongsuccess with YoY growth in the 200% range, and a pipeline that will support strong growth for the foreseeable future.

Thats a great story in and of itself, but in the middle of this transformation (and as a part of shaking off some of the rust) we encountered two problems: 1) the flat sales trend had produced a lot of slow moving opportunities in the pipeline that were now being intermingled with faster paced growth initiatives and 2) the visibility into the sales process and pipeline from a management perspective was a “manual effort” that gated our ability to scale. We needed to fix this in order to drive growth, and we needed to increase our velocity while improving our visibility. So here is what we did….

Step one involved a tremendous amount of data collection – mostly around mapping the buyers journey and the sales journey for our pipeline. This effort was accomplished through the use of account reviews and pipeline analysis.

Step two involved defining a detailed sales journey for our opportunities – with milestones, critical success factors, and an overall set of data points that would better enable us to assess the progress and health of an opportunity

Step three was the fun one – we had to figure out a way to implement this sales journey tracking within our Sales Force Automation. We use Salesforce.com at my company, and our team is a small group focused on a market that is adjacent to the main focus of the firm – so we couldn’t walk in and change SFDC dramatically – we needed to do things in such a way that we accommodated the needs of the broader sales community. We also wanted to ensure that we maximized the time spent selling with our team, and not dilute our sales investments with a bunch of administrative work. So we ended up looking at three options: 1) figuring out a low impact way to use SFDC to collect data from reps and implement some reporting and analytics, 2) using a some of the collection templates that we used for account reviews as a permanent process that was parallel to SFDC, and 3) third party tools. We found that the SFDC option wasn’t going to work for us, and that the parallel process was too labor intensive to use – so we turned to option 3 and started talking to a firm with which I have had some previous experience – TopOpps.

TopOpps is a SaaS pipeline tool that is basically middleware for SFDC. We were able to build a sales workflow with all of the milestones and critical success factors that TopOpps would then score and present to us as health metrics for deals, coupled with a smooth interface that makes it easy for reps to manage pipeline. TopOpps has an alert engine that makes it easy to flag deals that need attention, and then best of all, the solution has an analytics engine that makes forecasting easy and capturing trends and insights to bring to our attention with a minimum of effort.

Step four involved integrating TopOpps with SFDC and setting it up. Basically, some of the existing fields were brought into TopOpps, and then we created hidden custom fields for the rest. We then set up some scoring algorithms and some alerts. Once this was completed, we were able to arrange our sales journey in the TopOpps interface and give reps easy to use GUI elements – thumb buttons, thumbs up, drop downs, etc to mark the progression of a deal through the pipeline from their desktops or from a mobile app.

We are now operating in a state where we get hygiene, visibility, analytics, and predictability. the best thing about the tool – and this is a benefit for managers AND reps – is that things requiring actions are now brought to our attention and we don’t have to spend a lot of time surfing and digging to find them – so these benefits have come with an even bigger one – we are spending less time administratively on the team across all roles.

When you are trying to grow – you have two choices: you can add sales people, or you can make the ones you have more efficient. This process that we have implemented is giving us the ability to increase our efficiency – as measured by Operating Income per Headcount. This stuff really works, and we are quite happy with what we have done.

Better Rep Performance Starts With Better Sales Process

A sure-fire method to extend the sales cycle, add confusion to the forecast, and lose more deals is to have an informal sales process.  Having a B2B sales process that’s too simplistic leads to inconsistency and confusion. Imagine if a recipe just listed “add ingredients, mix, then heat”. Or a football running play, like the counter, was described as “run, fake, handoff”.  You would not have much success in the outcome of either of those scenarios.  So, don’t expect much sales growth when you have a few general sales stages that leaves a lot to the imagination.  Your reps will be all over the place when they strategize on next steps, report deal status or provide a forecast.  Your sales process has to be well aligned with the activity that goes into a successful sale – that is based on how your customers buy.  It should also help in making decisions on next steps and be consistently understood by the entire sales team (sales rep, sales ops, sales management).

According to CSO Insight’s 2015 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, those companies with “unaligned sales processes” deliver conversion rates as low as 8%.  There is also a significant negative impact on quota attainment. The difference in quota attainment between being unaligned and being mostly or fully aligned is 13%.”

The most successful sales organizations have a process that fits well with the activity required to sell more deals.  The entire sales team should understand the critical sales stages to move a deal through the pipeline and the exit criteria required to move to the next stage.  But what happens when we get new sales people?  Isn’t it hard to keep everyone informed on definitions of the sales process?  When to commit a deal to the forecast?  And considering that customer behaviors change, doesn’t that just exacerbate the problem?

Enter the new modern automation of machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics to simplify alignment and improvement of your best sales activity and give your organization the edge it needs to continue sales growth.  So, before you lose any more deals, waste good leads or opportunities, extend the sales cycle or on-boarding time of a new rep – let’s give your sales process a health check. (Or, download the full Guidebook (plus bonus Workbook) here.)

 

1: Define Rigor for Your Sales Process

  1. Does the entire team (Management, Sales Ops and Reps) know the definition of each stage?  And when to move the deal to the following stage?
  2. How much subjectivity and/or emotion goes into the judgement of what stage a deal belongs?
  3. Does any level of “Happy Ears” or “Sandbagging” occur in your sales process?
  4. How do you communicate these definitions to new sales reps?
  5. How does your management of deals/opportunities affect the sales forecast?  Is it easy to translate this information to help predict the forecast?  How effective is it? We have another blog that goes more in depth on this process here.

2: Sales Process Assessment

  1. Does the sales team know everything that happens in each sales stage?  (Ex. Activity, questions, objections, negative responses)
  2. Do you have pre-emptive responses for negative activity or objections?
  3. How do you rank your opportunities?
  4. Do you use any of the data from what happens to the opportunities to help coach the sales reps?  To get them performing better?
  5. How well does your current process support your sales forecast?  Prevent surprises at the end of the sales process?  Do you rely only on the “happy stories” around a deal to rank it?

3: Sales Stages

Define Stages – but stick with them so analytics can be applied.  Change milestones (exit criteria) within the stages – but don’t change the Stages.

  1. What stages do your leads move through?
  2. When do you promote them to an opportunity?
  3. How do they move through the sales process post opportunity promotion?

4: Exit Criteria (Milestones)

  1. How do you keep management, sales operations and sales reps all aligned on the sales process?
  2. How do you know to advance? Or regress an opportunity?
  3. How do you enforce the same consistent work flow for opportunity management?  Have you tried and failed before?

5: Deal HealthScore

  1. Do you weigh stages?  How do you deal with large opportunities falling out vs. small ones?  How accurate is your % weighing (what is the source)?
  2. How do deals fall out?  Do you put a time limit on how long a deal can stay in a certain stage?  How do you manage that?
  3. What is your ideal customer profile?  Are there certain roles and company characteristics that you track in order to close more deals?

6: Sales Forecasting

  1. How do you apply Forecast categories or commit deals from the opportunities that you’re working to the forecast?
  2. How do you know which deals deserve your time?
  3. How many of your later stage deals fall out?
  4. Do you just apply all later stage deals to the forecast?  Or do you scrutinize them more before you commit them?  If so, what rules do you use?

7: Metric Driven Coaching

  1. How do you coach sales performance so reps can get better?  Or, if you’re a rep, what metrics do you look at and try and beat in order to close more business each sales period?
  2. What metrics drive win rates?
  3. Can you rely on the metrics you look at?
  4. Do you only set bookings goals – or do you look at conversions, how long you hang onto deals and pipeline metrics?

I encourage you to dive deeper using this Guidebook for tips to create, tweak, or overhaul your sales process.  If you’d like to learn how TopOPPS automates rigorous sales processes with guided rep behavior and predictive analytics, reach out to us!

What It Takes to Be a Great Sales Manager

We talk a lot about the metrics and activities that great sales managers focus on but there is more to it than just quota attainment and metrics. The sales blogging world has created a ton of high-value content on what it takes to be a great sales manager and we would like to highlight a few of ourfavorite gems from the SalesHacker blog.


 

Qualities of Great Sales Managers

(From Matthew Bellows, “Top 10 Qualities of Great Sales Managers”)

 

Confident

Sales managers don’t get to where they are solely on luck. It takes continuously proven results to be granted the privilege of being in charge of a sales team. A great sales manager is confident in their deservingness to be in the position that they’re in and to solve the challenges that come with being a manager.

 

Consistent

Consistency is one of the most important traits that a sales manager can be. Being consistent means sticking to agendas during meetings, being on time with starting and ending one-on-one’s or sales huddles, and being fair across the board when it comes to dealing with sales reps that consistently don’t want to abide by the team’s sales strategy. A great sales manager is also consistently loyal to their team when they face sales challenges.

 

Loyal

As the old saying goes, “a good captain never abandons a sinking ship”. The same applies to a sales manager and their sales team. When things look grim and results aren’t as good as they could be, great sales managers don’t throw their team under the bus. A sales manager stands with their team and works with each member to help increase the team’s performance as a whole. A great manager must take accountability for the team’s performance because, at the end of the day, the way a team performs has a lot to do with how you manage.

 

Activities of a Great Sales Manager

(From Gabriel Luna-Osteseski’s “12 Tips for Managing a High-Performing Sales Team“)

 

Set the Bar High – Andrew Riesenfeld

Great sales managers don’t settle for average performance. They strive to make their team accomplish more than they believe is possible. This gives them a sense of purpose and challenges them to constantly improve their selling skills.

 

Training Matters – David Baga

With great expectations comes the requirement to have a great sales team. Unfortunately, sales superstars usually aren’t born that way and most of your sales team will need consistent coaching in order to excel. A great manager knows how important it is to create and abide by a formal sales coaching strategy. They also know how important it is to have coaching be a consistent occurrence and not just when sales reps show signs of struggling.

 

Design a Transparent Organization – David Baga

A great sales manager knows how to make everyone on the team feel like that have a personal stake in the success of the team, that means everything must be transparent. A surprise to you should be a surprise to everyone on your sales team. If you know something about the forecast, quota, or the general sales organization and you’re holding that back from the team then you’re being a poor leader. Sometimes you may not know what your team doesn’t know, at the very least it is important that you, as a sales manager, have enabled your sales team to know where to go in order to get the answers they need.


Being a sales manager can be a tough job, but there are so many things in your control that you can do to make it easier. Sometimes you will miss numbers, sometimes you’ll have high-performing sales reps that are poor team players, and sometimes you will just have an all around awesome sales team. No matter what happens, just know that you’re there to support the team and help each rep be the best they can be.

Finding the Right Sales Forecasting Tool

The rise to prominence of sales technology has created a bittersweet market for sales management to work with. The upside is that there are now many different vendors that aim to take data-driven approaches to solving practically anyproblem that sales organizations face. From lead generation to social selling to performance management to sales forecasting, if you have a sales problem there is probably a sales automation tool available for you to implement. However, the downside is that a bountiful market also comes with a lot of noise and shiny objects to distract you from just trying to find the best tool for your team. When you are being demoed the many features that modern sales analytics provides, you should make sure that you can confidently check off these 4 boxes.


 

Sales Process Analogous

Whether you developed your sales process from a prominent sales book or through the services of an expensive consultancy, your process is unique and valuable. Your process likely took a significant amount of time to develop and is what your reps are trained on and what your management team uses to forecast. No sales forecasting tool should force you to have to change how you sell or forecast in order to use it. In fact, this is proven through the Aberdeen Group’s research that found that best-in-class companies are 33% more likely to adopt sales analytics solutions specifically designed to support forecasting.

 

Easy Install

The entrance of Saas and other cloud-based technologies has resulted in broader target markets and lowered the amount of resources needed to perform successful customer installs. Installation projects are becoming antiquated practices because of how much time, money, and human capital that is being removed from promoting the customer’s core business functions. With the increased speed of sales and the shift towards a buyer-controlled process, Sales Operations professionals don’t have time to be implementing tools. Sales forecast tools are no different. The best installs should be done in a day without any on-site services needed. While it may take some more time to ramp up and to fully customize your instance, the technology should be usable almost immediately.

 

Quick and Clear ROI

As a sales manager, you probably already have laid out metrics that your sales team will use to determine success. The best sales forecasting tools will have very direct examples or case studies to set expectations for ROI before you even install their solution. If they can’t provide you with a customer testimonial, white paper, or results of a proof of concept then you may want to further consider if their capabilities will really be able to help you with your sales goals.

 

Easy Data Entry

Research conducted by AGC Partner revealed that 71% of sales reps already believe that they spend too much time entering data into their CRM. This is highly problematic for sales operationalists or sales managers because data integrity is a crucial component of developing an accurate forecast. No matter what projections, graphs, dashboards, or prescriptive analytics that a solution claims that can offer you, they can’t be very useful unless they improve the sales teams overall ability to capture data about their selling behaviors.


 

The sales technology world is a toy store for sales managers with solutions of all varieties. It is in sales management’s best interest to invest heavily in improving their sales process with sales technology but to not get distracted by features and capabilities that look great but, ultimately, don’t matter. Check these 4 boxes off during your vetting process and you will have a tool that will definitely work for you.

The Modern Sales Meeting

As the modern world begins to incorporate technology into most of our routine activities, the sales world is beginning to embrace that reality. Many sales organizations are keen to embrace this advantages of new technology, but some are still hesitant because they don’t see how technology and analytics seamlessly fit into their current processes. In reality, some things will change with the addition of sales technology, but the changes usually just decrease the time it takes to complete these everyday activities. To go into detail, we can view how sales technology improves the standard sales meeting.


Pre-Meeting

Before the sales meetings, managers are typically finalizing the agenda for the meeting and compiling metrics that they want to discuss with the sales team. For a manager, in order to compile the data that represent how the sales team is performing, they have to first make sure the data is up-to-date and then build a report that clearly lays out the weaknesses and strengths. Great sales technology updates in real-time and keeps a sales manager informed of deals without updates information or parts of the sales process that reps struggle with while they are still small problems. The functionalities that help with sales management include intelligent alerts, sales rep profiles, and sales process analytics. Managers use the alerts to request updates from their reps on deals with missing next steps, check the sales rep profiles to see how individual reps perform through every stage of the process and against certain prospects or competitors, and are able to analyze how well their sales process is being followed by the entire sales team.

Reps are usually going through their deals and getting ready to discuss which deals they believe will close and which need a good amount of work. This involves digging through the CRM and being able to quickly sift through a decipher notes from all the sales meetings that they’ve had with their prospects. Once they identify their best and lagging deals, they need to make sure the information is up-to-date so that when the manager drills them about their deals, they’re ready. In order to help reps with this, sales technology often offers opportunity scoring and the ability to do mobile updates. That way all they have to do is sort the best and worst scores, check which deals are trending downwards, respond to any alerts for missing information, and be ready to go for the meeting.

Meeting

In the meeting, everything is running against the clock. CSO Insights postulates that sales reps currently only spend 33% of their time actively selling. As a sales manager, you want to make sure that you stick to the agenda and that your agenda includes the concerns that your sales team has brought to your attention. During the meaning, with sales analytics, the team can spend less time explaining their deals and more time talking through ways to address the weak points in their sales process.

Post-Meeting

Now that the meeting is over and the deals in each rep’s pipeline have been discussed, reps can now return to selling and implementing the adjustments made during the sales meeting. Sales managers can now look at the forecast with more confidence in knowing what’s realistic when it comes to hitting the forecasted number for their sales period. With sales technology, they don’t need to continuously check in on the reps to see if their deals are progressing as they should. Most high-end sales technologies can accurately predict the probability that deals in a rep’s pipeline will hit the forecast without having a manager constantly asking for updates.


Sales technology just lessens the amount of time it takes to identify and solve challenges. The best sales technology gives you analytics, increased the ability to gather and utilize data, and a better way to be informed of issues that occur with everyday selling. Sales tools aren’t meant to replace your current way of selling, they are meant to help make problem-solving faster and more easily monitored. The modern sales meeting should give your sales team a significant amount of more time to sell.

The Issue with Using Current Sales Forecasting Methods

Sales forecasting is one of the most frustrating and also important responsibilities of being a sales manager. In many, if not most, organizations, forecasting rolls up to the top executives in the company and goes into the projections for a company’s worth and the impact that it will have on the shareholders. This knowledge tends to add extra stress on managers as they try to nail down what their sales reps will actually close in their pipelines. The real issue with modern sales forecasting is that all the stress is completely avoidable and sales forecasting could be much simpler.


 

In the Harvard Business School’s (HBR) review of sales forecasting methods, they found what most sales managers already know about deciding on a sales forecasting method, “The selection of a method depends on many factors—the context of the forecast, the relevance and availability of historical data, the degree of accuracy desirable, the time period to be forecast, the cost/ benefit (or value) of the forecast to the company, and the time available for making the analysis.” When deciding on a sales forecasting method, there is a premium placed on the amount of historical data you have and the confidence that sales managers have in that data. In fact, research done by the Aberdeen Group found that 42% of all sales organizations cite inaccurate or insufficient data as a primary barrier to achieving analytics-driven forecasting.

The biggest issue with modern sales forecasting is the lack of faith in the data that they are using to develop the forecast. Roll that uncertainty up every level that the forecast hierarchy and you are left with a forecast that nobody really feels confident about. Even when companies decide to invoke the help of moderns sales technologies, a big pitfall that they stumble upon is a lack of confidence and understanding into how the solution comes up automated forecast number. That’s why the best tools not only alert you when the data you’re working with has some potential issues, but also tell you how they came up with the forecast number that you can use and take to your manager. In addition to giving the run down on the final forecast number, the best sales forecasting tools also help with pipeline management so that sales managers are up-to-date on the happenings with sales reps top deals and sales executives can always check the tool to gain confidence in the numbers that they are given.


At the very least, sales organizations deserve the ability to trust that the data they use to build their forecast is trustworthy. As a sales manager, if you forecast with the ‘gut guess’ or use technology that forces you to trust in the forecast that it provides you, maybe it’s time to look into better options.