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Holistic, Predictable Revenue Management

SiriusPerspective: the b-to-b revenue engine consists of all 
functions that identify, attract, engage, qualify and close 
prospects and customers.  Those parts must align to optimize 
performance.

SiriusPerspective: Intuition should not be the primary driver 
for a sales forecast.  Accuracy is achieved by a well-designed 
forecast process and funnel analysis.

SiriusPerspective: Buying is a team sport.  More buyers are 
involved in each purchase decision-each moving through the 
buyer journey at their own pace.

SiriusPerspective: B-to-B buying behavior clusters into three 
types of scenarios that must be considered when designing a 
sales process.

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Challenges Blocking Predictable Revenue

The Human Element – Intuition Isn’t Enough

Buyer Interactions are Episodic, Not Linear

Different Types of B-to-B Buying Scenarios

Who does Forecast Accuracy Impact

Sales Reps

Sales Leaders

Others – Marketing, CFO, Production, Customer Success

CEO, Board, Shareholders

Example Sales Management Process

How To Improve Forecast Accuracy & Reduce Sales Effort 

Building Blocks

Advanced Capabilities

Sales Metrics

Technologies

Agenda

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Speakers


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Holistic, Predictable Revenue Management

SiriusPerspective:    The  b-to-b  revenue  engine  consists  of  all  functions  that 
identify, attract, engage, qualify and close prospects and customers and those parts 
must all align to optimize performance.

Holistic predictable revenue is about having visibility to the entire revenue engine.  From demand 
gen to managing qualified opportunities, and all the way through to post sales where worry about 
customer  retention  and  helping  our  customers  maximize  their  return  on  our  product  and 
promoting growth of our solution in their organization.

The  holistic  predictable  revenue  model  covers  the  “Demand  Waterfall”  displayed  above.    It 
includes both the marketing efforts to create demand and generate leads and the “buyer-aligned” 
sales  process.    The  buyer  aligned  sales  process  converts  leads  to  qualified  opportunities  and 
ultimately  closes  the  opportunity  as  either  close-won,  close-loss,  close-no-decision.    Once  the 
opportunity  is  close-won  we  start  the  last  part  of  the  holistic  revenue  cycle  of  “Customer 
Retention/Renewal/Growth.”  

Having visibility to the entire engine is a big challenge.  The two big reasons are:

Siloed structures like internal organizational structures and systems

The technology deployed in the form of an overly complicated sales tech stack  

A  key  indicator  of  your  organization’s  ability  to  deliver  on  the  promise  of  “Holistic  Predictable 
Revenue” is the accuracy of the sales forecast.  In many ways, “forecast accuracy” gives you a 
direct  window  into  how  well  your  company  understands  your  buyers,  and  your  customers.    It  is 
also an indicator of how well you manage the revenue engine in a structured repeatable way. 

 

In summary, Sales Forecast Accuracy is a measure of how well your sales 

process is managed.


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Challenges Blocking Holistic Predictable Revenue

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I

ntuition is fallible for two reasons:

Human  beings  are  innately  bad  for  estimating  results.    Sales  people  by  nature  are 
optimistic and have a tendency to hear positive cues from customers while outlooking the 
negative.

People  align  their  forecast  with  management’s  desired  results  because  we  ask  them  too.  
We roll up their forecast, see the total, it doesn’t match plan and we ask them to come back 
with more acceptable numbers.

  

Challenge 2:  Buyer Interactions are Episodic, Not Linear

SiriusPerspective:    Buying  is  a  team  sport.    More  buyers  are  involved  in  each 
purchase decision-each moving through the buyer journey at their own pace.

Challenge  number  one,  humans  aren’t  very 
good  with  making  predictions.    We  hear 
what  we  want  to  hear.    We  use  partial  data 
sets.    We  miscalculate  our  chances  for 
success. 

There are also issues with forecast accuracy 
because  of  an  over  reliance  on  human 
intuition when preparing forecasts.  

Challenge 1:  The Human Element – Intuition Isn’t Enough

SiriusPerspective:  Intuition should not be the primary driver for a sales forecast.  
Accuracy is achieved by a well-designed forecast process and funnel analysis.

SiriusDecisions  has  been  tracking  this  for  many  years.    The  key  things  that  are  changing  over 
time that we see in subsequent studies are:

There are two types of sales interactions:

“Human” interactions where the seller works with the buyer to help them assess the 
“fit” and understand the product offering

“Non-Human” interactions where they are self guided, as they exploring the vendor 
website and listen to webinars  

There is almost an equal mix of human and non-human interactions that occur through out 
that  buyer’s  journey  but  they  are  episodic.    It  is  not  a  linear  process.    They  happen 
throughout the entire buying cycle.  


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Challenges Blocking Holistic Predictable Revenue

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The above diagram provides a sample of typical buyer/seller interactions across the sales cycle.  
It breaks the interactions down between “Human” and “Non-Human” interactions.  We have a lot 
of interactions with our prospects.  The challenge is to track all of them, correlate them together 
and  create  a  clear  picture  of  the  buying  group  as  they  move  through  the  process  and  then 
understand what the next logical step is.  

Challenge 3:  Different Types of B-to-B Buying Scenarios

SiriusPerspective:    B-to-b  buying  behavior  clusters  into  three  types  of  scenarios 
that must be considered when designing a sales process.

A critical consideration to understand is how your customers buy.  Research from SiriusDecisions 
covering  a  wide  variety  of  purchases  found  that  there  are  3  types  of  purchases:    committee, 
consensus  and  independent.    The  study  found  the  big  difference  between  these  different 
categories of purchase are price range, what is involved in its implementation (how many people 
will  it  touch),  the  time  it  takes  to  make  a  decision,  and  the  number  of  people  involved  in  the 
decision.

The  diagram  on  the  following  page  lists  the  different  types  of  B-to-B  buying  scenarios  from 
SiriusDecisions research.

  

Buying Process Human and Non-Human Interactions

In addition to more Non-Human interactions, there is also a lot more individuals involved in 
the buying process and they don’t go through the same process at the same time or in the 
same sequence.


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The  two  factors  of  more  people  involved,  and    as  the  cost  of  the  decisions  goes  up  really 
complicate the ability to predict when the opportunity is going to close and the ultimate size of the 
opportunity when it does close.

One additional point, not on this diagram, is the higher you go up in the value chain, the earlier 
sales  gets  involved  and  the  more  influence  has  on  the  purchase.    Relationships  are  critical  to 
success when selling high dollar solutions to a committee. 

An accurate sales forecast shows you can manage your business.  You can 

forecast revenue.  You understand your customers and your buyers and you 

can help them make that decision.

Challenges Blocking Holistic Predictable Revenue


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OK, But Who Cares?

The  sales  forecast  is  the  linchpin  of  a  company’s’  future.    If  it  is  right  and  can  be  trusted  the 
company’s  operations  run  smoother  and  it  financial  stability  is  more  secure.    Sales  forecast 
accuracy impacts many people in the company here are a few of the key roles impacted:

From the Sales Rep Perspective  

SiriusDecisions sales activity study shows:

The average sales rep works about 53 hours per week.

That time is categorized as “core” and “non-core” selling activities.

Core selling activities are activities that engage with the customer like preparing for 
a meeting, putting together an account plan, putting together a proposal, delivering 
a proposal.

Non-core  activities  are  administrative  activities  like  entering  data  into  the  crm, 
following  up  on  an  invoice,  internal  travel,  internal  emails.    They  are  things  not 
focused on customer or business development.  

Reps spend 37% or 19 hours per week on non-core sales activities.

There is a direct benefit in getting to an accurate forecast if we can reduce the administrative time 
the sales reps spend creating the forecast.

There  is  also  a  bigger  benefit  across  the  organization  that  may  not  be  readily  apparent.    Sales 
leaders, sales management, can also benefit from spending less time on administrative activities 
and free up time to focus on coaching and deal review.  That is where sales leaders and first line 
sales managers add value to the organization. 

 


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OK, But Who Cares?

There are others across the organization who are focused on impacted by forecast accuracy.  

Marketing organizations need to know the effectiveness of their lead creation, their demand 
creation and their campaign efforts.  They need to understand lead demand to fill the top of 
the funnel while the forecasts empties the bottom of the funnel.

Organization that has a complex delivery process, advanced manufacturing, or consulting 
services,  need  to  know  the  sales  forecast  for  resource  allocation,  ordering  parts, 
scheduling factory resources.

Customer  Success  needs  to  understand  what  is  planned  to  close  that  they  will  need  to 
support.

The CEO, board members and shareholders are all key stakeholders in the sales forecast.  

Ultimately,  an  accurate  sales  forecast  shows  we  can  manage  our  business.    We  can  forecast 
revenue.  We understand our customer and our buyers and we help them make that decision.

If the forecast shows a big miss, the CEO is likely to throttle back the budgeted expenditures.  If 
the forecast is showing a big overage then they sometimes will go to the shareholders and reset 
expectations.

If the forecast is set on unrealistic expectations that sets up an uncomfortable conversation. 

There is a ripple effect from the sales forecast that propagates through 

out many parts of the organization and there are many reasons why it is 

important to have an accurate sales forecast.


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Example:  Sales Management Process

Here is an example of the sales management cadence SiriusDecisions recommends setting up the sales 
management process between first line sales managers and sales reps.

At the bottom of the above table is weekly tactical meetings.  They are typically 30 - 45 minutes in 
length.  It is focused on the forecast and the opportunities which are forecasted to close.  The sales 
manager is also looking for how they can assist with making sure those opportunities are on track 
or how to get them back on track.  This is where sales coaching fits in.

The monthly strategy view takes a little higher view of the pipeline, not just deals that are forecast 
to close, but earlier stage opportunities.  The objective is to understand which opportunities can be 
advanced, which are still active and which should be move in or push it out.

At the end of the quarter a business review needs to be done with the sales rep focused on a little 
bit of learning on what happened last quarter and a focus on what will happen next quarter.  The 
discussions will be around how to adjust the sales, marketing and manufacturing to accelerate the 
sales pipeline.

This is just an example, but a management process cadence needs to be documented and become part of 
the  company’s  DNA.    It  needs  to  be  followed  so  there  is  a  rhythmic  approach  to  managing  the  sales 
pipeline and the sale forecast.

Sales rep coaching and a strong sales management processes are the 

catalysts to create a great sales team.  


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Improving Forecast Accuracy & Reducing Sales Effort

There  is  a  progression  of  activities  to  help  develop  a  structured  approach  to  improving  sales 
forecast accuracy, reducing the sales effort and driving holistic predictable revenue. 

This section reviews the activities to develop along four categories:

Basic Building Blocks

Advanced Capabilities

Sample Metrics

Technologies

Basic Building Blocks

The basic building blocks are a baseline of activities that need to be inplace for the other three categories 
of activities to have an impact.  For basic building blocks we start with:  

Third, is role specific dashboards and reporting.  There is no “one size fits all”.  A sales rep needs 
different  dashboards  focused  on  opportunities  and  their  sales  cycle  metrics.    A  first  line  sales 
manager  is  looking  more  at  key  opportunities  that  will  close  this  quarter  and  sales  cycle  metrics 
across  his  entire  team  as  well  as  peer  to  peer  measurement.    Sales  leaders,  customer  success 
management  and  even  marketing  need  different  dashboards  to  measure  their  part  of  the  sales 
funnel and the sales cycle.  Beyond the content for the role specific dashboards, they also need to 
be:  just  in  time;  context  sensitive;  and  designed  so  business  users  can  make  better  business 
decisions.

The last building block refers back to page 9.  You need a consistent sales management cadence.  
These reviews and coaching sessions are the catalyst for change within the sales organization and 
provide training to enhance sales rep skills.

The  sales  team  needs  to  understand  the 
buyer  and  the  buyer  aligned  sales  process.  
This includes an understanding of:

How  do  buyers  make  purchase 
decisions?

Who  is  typically  involved  on  the 
customer side?

How  do  we  know  where  they  are  in 
their decision?

What  knowledge  do  we  need  to 
convey to them to help guide them to 
the next step.

Understanding how your buyer makes buying 
decisions  is  the  first  step  to  creating  an 
accurate sales forecast.

The  second  bullet  refers  back  to  the  buyer 
scenarios reviewed on page 6.  It is important 
to understand:

What  are  the  various  scenarios  that 
work in your sales process?

What are the opportunity types

How  do  opportunity  types  move 
differently through the sales process?

What are the cycle times involved?


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Improving Forecast Accuracy & Reducing Sales Effort

If  we  refer  back  to  the  first  challenge 
identified  regarding  the  human  factor,  “We 
don’t hire sales reps to for data entry clerks”.  
They  are  not  good  at  it  and  we  don’t  want 
them  to  be  good  at  it.    We  want  them 
spending their time in front of the customer.  

There  are  technologies  available  that  allow 
us  to  capture  sales  activity,  phone  calls, 
emails,  who  opened  the  email,  did  they 
forward  it,  schedule  meetings,  and  meeting 
content.   Advanced  data  capture  techniques 
include  understanding  what  was  said  on  the 
call  or  in  the  email  and  understanding  the 
overall sentiment of the call and quantifying it.  
It  is  important  to  automatically  capture  all  of 
these  interactions  to  create  a  complete 
picture  of  both  the  human  and  non-human 
interactions  that  are  going  on  during  the 
sales process.

Once  we  have  the  complete  picture  the 
opportunity  can  be  scored.    Probability 
analysis

analysis and sophisticated opportunity health scoring can help management understand if there 
is a realistic chance of winning the opportunity.  

If the health score is “glass box” vs “black box” you can also understand what is driving that score and 
take appropriate action to increase it as well as understand the next logical step with the account. There 
is a lot of derivatives from a “glass box” health score.  It may be telling us we are never going to win the 
opportunity because we aren’t engaged with key decision makers or we haven’t had enough interactions 
or  to  much  time  has  lapse  between  the  last  email.    The  sales  team  can  either  address  these  issues 
immediately or disengage.

In addition to AI driven health score, AI and predictive capabilities can be layered on to create a virtuous 
circle that the more we know about our buyers, both human and non-human interactions, the more we 
can predict what is going to happen.  The more we can predict what is likely to happen, the quicker we 
can  take  corrective  action  and  this  becomes  a  virtuous  circle  of  knowledge  informing  activity  which 
creates more knowledge.

Advanced Capabilities

Once  you  have  the  basic  building  blocks  in  place  you  can  begin  to  focus  on  advanced 
capabilities.  This is where technology can start to add value.


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Improving Forecast Accuracy & Reducing Sales Effort

The diagram on the left provides some simple 
metrics  to  consider.    These  represent  a 
baseline to start from.  

Forecast  accuracy  is  a  cornerstone  of  this 
process, but do  you want to measure it from 
the  beginning,  middle  or  end  of  the  quarter.  
Maybe  you  want  to  measure  from  all  three 
but in the short term, focus on mid or end of 
quarter  forecast  and  when  that  becomes 
predictable  move  to  more  the  beginning  of 
the quarter.

Metrics

Before  embarking  on  a  program  to  improve  forecast  accuracy,  it  is  important  to  focus  on  the 
areas  of  expected  improvement  and  define  how  success  is  going  to  be  measured.  focus  on 
what specific areas 

Administrative  time  the  rep  spends  updating  opportunities  and  forecasts  within  the  pipeline  also 
needs to be measured along with data quality.  Increasing data without a baseline of data quality 
will  not  provide  the  desired  accuracy  in  sales  forecasting.    It  will  create  a  “garbage  in,  garbage 
out” situation.

The  quality  of  the  data  can  be  measured  regarding  number  of  contacts  associated  with  an 
opportunity,  number  of  seller-buyer  interactions,  number  of  emails,  number  of  calendar  events, 
etc.  

Lastly sales cycle times need to be measured.  As processes become more consistent you would 
expect to see more consistent cycle times.  Opportunities with longer cycle times/multi-push deals 
that reps are hanging on to also fall off.  With a little more sophistication you can begin to look at 
cycle time by stage and understand at which stage the sales process is getting bogged down.  If 
improvements are driven across these metrics, they will also drive a more accurate forecast.

Technology

The  last  piece  to  of  the  puzzle  to  improve 
sales forecast accuracy and reduce the sales 
effort is technologies.  While everyone has a 
sales force automation tool or CRM tool, their 
is  a  need  for  technology  to  extend  beyond 
that.    Many  companies  have  SFA  or  CRM 
solutions,  but  their  core  systems  for 
managing the forecast are email and Excel.  

The  good  news  is  there  are  some  exciting 
technologies that can be overlayed with sales 
forecast automation and add:

Automatic data capture

Sales Pipeline Management

Sales 

Forecasting

Sales Pipeline Anaytics

Sales Engagement

Sales 

Enablement


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TopOPPS  does  a  lot  to  automatically  capture  data,  including  emails,  calendars,  meetings,  and 
they  interpret  it  through  sentiment  analysis.    The  information  is  also  interpreted  and  infuse  with 
information  from  other  tools:  sales  engagement  tools  like  Outreach.io  and  SalesLoft;  sales 
enablement tools like Brainshark; company contact information from roles that are likely to be part 
of the buying team from ZoomInfo.

TopOPPS  takes  the  data  and  process  it  through  a  machine  learning  engine  to  improve  data 
quality  through  compliance.    Compliance  is  implemented  through  “Alerts  Requiring Action”  that 
flag inconsistencies in the data and ask the sales reps to correct the information.  

Improving Forecast Accuracy & Reducing Sales Effort

AI for Sales Forecasting focuses on three key areas:

Developing Sales Pipeline Management

Improving Forecast Accuracy

Mastering Sales Pipeline Analytics

This can be accomplished with four initiatives:

Increasing real time data visibility with automated data capture

Improve Data Quality with increase sales pipeline visibility systematic data qualification

Develop a consistent processes with sales pipeline coaching and proactive notifications

Create  an  accurate  sales  forecast  by  having  confidence  in  your  sales  pipeline  and  AI 
driven analytics

Injecting automation is important.  The data has to be right and it has to be real-time.  Real-time 
may sound like an overkill in this situation, but what companies are seeing now, best case, is they 
have numbers once a week and then they massage the numbers for things they think are going to 
happen  or  things  that  already  happened  after  the  Excel  extract,  so  they  can  make  appropriate 
decisions. 


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The AI engine also reviews actions to date on the opportunity and suggests next steps via “Next 
Best Action” to the sales reps based on the stage of the opportunity, and buyer-seller interactions 
and  to  support  the  right  kind  of  behaviors  and  guide  a  consistent  sales  process.      These  same 
“Alerts Requiring Action” are used to guide the sales process.  These alerts update the sales rep 
on next best action, highlighting an action that is missed, a missing persona in the buying team, or 
opportunities in this stage can use a piece of content to help move it along.

To help develop a consistent sales process we also offer coaching insights.  This helps to create a 
consistent  coaching  process    across  the  sales  organization.    It  helps  to  insure  everyone  is 
coaching the same way.  

These first three areas:  

Increase visibility through Automated Data Capture

Improve Data Quality by using “Alerts Requiring Action” to validate the pipeline and qualify 
opportunities.

Develop a consistent process via “Alerts Requiring Action” and sales coaching insights with 
proactive notifications

Give  teams  the  confidence  in  their  sales  pipeline,  confidence  in  their  data  and  creates  a  solid 
based for an accurate sales forecast.

Not  only  companies  have  an  accurate  forecast,  they  have  the  answers  when  questions  arise  in 
board  meetings  or  from  their  CEO.    Not  a  “happyears”  story,  or  a  “sandbagger”  story,  but  they 
know why and they know where.

For  more  information  on  how TopOPPS  can  increase  forecast  accuracy,  reduce  the  sales  effort 
and drive predictable revenue, visit our website at 

www.topopps.com

, or complete the contact us 

web page at 

https://info.topopps.com/contactus

 or call our toll free number 877-737-7976.

Improving Forecast Accuracy & Reducing Sales Effort

Expert Webinar:

A Structured Approach to Driving Holistic, Predictable Revenue

Hear from guest speaker Steve Silver, VP, Research Director, Sales Operations Strategies at Forester/SiriusDecisions discuss:

  • Top 3 challenges to deliver an accurate sales forecast
  • An example of a well structured sales management process
  •  Building blocks and advanced capabilities that support an accurate sales forecast

Expert Webinar:

How Sales Success Comes from Customer Success

Here from guest speaker Dana Therrien, Practice Director, Sales Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions discuss:

  • How world-class organizations measure and align the sales process from lead to customer.
  • The SiriusDecisions Sales Intelligence Model which prescribes insights and metrics required to continuously inform sales organizations through planning and execution.

Expert Webinar:

Driving AI-Enabled Sales Productivity

 

Hear from guest speaker Robert Munoz, Research Director, Sales Operations Strategies at Forester/SiriusDecisions to learn how artificial intelligence is taking the pain out of the sales process, not just by predictive forecasts but by improving sales productivity with AI assisted capabilities to help you the data and opportunities up-to-date.